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N.Y. School Not Too Sweet on Girl's Diabetes 'Service Dog'

By Brett Snider, Esq. on September 11, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In a world where some adults have abused the service dog system to absurdity, a New York school district has denied a diabetic girl her "service dog" that is trained to alert her to blood sugar swings.

Eleven-year-old Madyson Siragusa has Type I diabetes, and her family scraped together $20,000 to pay for Duke, a diabetic alert dog that the Rush Henrietta Central School District will not allow in class, reports The Associated Press.

Why is the district being so sour to the girl who can't have sweets?

Is Diabetic Dog Medically Necessary?

While Madyson's service dog might serve a legitimate purpose, the Siragusas reside in a state where the fraudulent use of "service dogs" or "therapy dogs" is not uncommon. So it's not too surprising that the district claims Madyson's dog isn't "medically necessary," as the AP reports.

Not every animal can be a bona fide service animal under the law, but Duke's special training to alert Madyson to crucial blood sugar shifts related to her diabetes seems to place him in a special category.

Not "medically necessary" may actually mean redundant, as the district also explained that a school nurse is available at every school trained in "the prudent monitoring of blood glucose levels," reports the AP.

Reasonable Accommodations for Diabetes

This is not the first time that school nurses have come out against other methods of accommodating diabetic students.

Nurses in California lobbied against teachers and other school staffers administering insulin shots to children with diabetes, despite the fact that more than 25 percent of schools lacked a full time school nurse.

Diabetic children who risk seizures or coma from unchecked blood sugar should qualify for reasonable accommodation by public schools under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but the district may have felt that Duke's distracting presence in the classroom was unreasonable.

Lily Grace, founder of the institute which trained Duke to sense blood sugar levels by sensing odors in saliva, claims that having a nurse might be sufficient to protect children like Madyson. But, Grace told the AP, "the more tools the better."

The Siragusas are currently considering legal action over whether Duke's blood-sugar-sniffing abilities are up to snuff to be in school. Meantime, their daughter is receiving district-provided tutoring at home.

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