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Duke the service dog not allowed at Roth Middle School

Updated: 09/06/2013 7:20 PM
Created: 09/06/2013 8:07 AM WHEC.com

The Rush-Henrietta School District did what it said it was going to do and did not allow a student's service dog into her school. News10NBC was outside Roth Middle School in Henrietta as the 11-year- old student tried to go to school with her diabetic alert dog. 
 
Madyson is a Type 1 diabetic. Duke is trained to detect when her blood sugar levels are high or low. The family paid $20,000 for the dog. 
 
Does a student with an illness and his or her parents have the right to do whatever they need to protect the student when at school? Like with a dog? Does the school have the right to protect every other student who might be afraid of a dog or allergic to it?
 
The issue came driving down East Henrietta Road Friday morning in a white SUV. Inside was a diabetic student, her new diabetic alert dog and her parents. After meeting with the principal for more than an hour, the SUV left the school with the student and her dog. 
 
Madyson is a Type 1 diabetic and her parents say her blood sugar levels fluctuate rapidly. Duke is trained to detect a problem early. Madyson swabs her fingers with a substance that mimics a high blood sugar level. When she comes back into the room, Duke smells it and reacts by pushing into Madyson and jumping on her. 
 
Madyson's family bought the dog thinking that the law allowed Madyson to take Duke to school. 
But last week, a letter came from the Rush-Henrietta School District saying there is no medical support or doctor who says the dog is necessary. The letter also said the dog will be a distraction and problem for allergies. So Madyson's parents knew what to expect Friday.
 
Anthony Siragusa, Madyson's father, said, “However, I was hoping that they would be a little more lenient or willing to at least try it.”
 
For now, Madyson will stay home with Duke and a personal tutor, a tutor that the school will provide and pay for.
 
The district sent us a statement explaining its position. The Rush-Henrietta released a statement saying, “The Rush-Henrietta Central School District makes every effort to remove barriers so students can participate fully in our educational programs. In a case where a service animal is deemed necessary for a student to attend school, accommodations would be made.
 
The New York State Association of School Attorneys instructs school districts to examine on a case-by-case basis whether a student will receive a free appropriate public education if a service dog is not allowed at school. After this specific request was made, the district consulted with medical professionals who advised us the service animal is not medically necessary. The district denied a request for a dog trained to monitor blood glucose levels.
 
The New York State Association of School Attorneys also tells districts to “consider the effects that the service animals will have on others, as well as the effects on the school environment as a whole.” We know some students who are fond of animals will find the dog to be an attractive distraction. For others, the dog may trigger anxiety, distress, or allergies. The district has determined that the family’s wish to have a dog accompany their student does not justify the inevitable disruption to the school environment.
 
We are confident our student will continue to receive a free appropriate public education without the aid of a dog, and we know she will be well cared for by our staff. Our schools are staffed by a school nurse and supported by a district nurse practitioner. They use long-established, well-tested protocols – including the prudent monitoring of blood glucose levels – to safeguard the health and well being of students. The presence of a service animal trained to monitor these levels is redundant.
 
Because the family has indicated it intends to litigate this issue, the district can have no further comment.” 
 
Madyson's family is trying to find a doctor who will say the dog is medically necessary. In the meantime, Madyson will get at least 10 hours of tutoring a week. 


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