Target: Rush-Henrietta Central School District’s Roth Middle School, Principal Denise Zeh
Goal: Reverse decision barring diabetes service dog from school
Madyson Siragusa, an eleven year old at Rush Middle School who happens to have Type 1 diabetes, recently was turned away from her school because she was accompanied by her companion, Duke: a yellow Labrador retriever and Madyson’s diabetes service dog. The National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs (NIDAD) is a nine-year-old company that trains dogs like Duke to sense fluctuations in blood glucose for the individual they are paired with, by teaching them to recognize the difference in the scent of the person’s saliva at high and low blood sugar levels. The Siragusas managed to marshal some of the $20,000 to buy Duke through online fundraisers and bracelet sales after meeting with Rush-Henrietta Central School District officials before school ended for the summer, and securing what the family perceived as the go-ahead.
The Associated Press reports, however, that just before the return to school this fall, the district wrote a letter to the Siragusas ‘barring the dog because of concerns it would be a distraction, scare other children and aggravate allergies.’ Apparently, they were prompted to do this by the school nurse, who is ‘supported by a district nurse practitioner.’ According to a statement provided by the district to the AP, Duke does not represent a medical necessity, and the ‘presence of a service animal trained to monitor these levels is redundant.’ Lily Grace, founder and CEO of NIDAD, disagrees; Duke is able to provide an immediate alert to changes in Madyson’s blood glucose throughout the day and between visits to the nurse, an important part of his companionship considering the problems with rapid blood sugar fluctuation faced by many with Type 1 diabetes. Therefore, Duke should be allowed with Madyson in school and given the same permissions as any other service animal.
By signing this petition, you are urging Rush-Henrietta Central School District and Roth Middle School to return to their original stance on Duke and permit him to accompany Madyson throughout the school day. As a service animal, he is trained to respond only to situations in which Madyson might need his help, therefore cutting down the chance that he would distract other students. Duke could also represent an educational tool rather than a distraction by teaching children from a young age about service dogs and how to respond appropriately. In addition, Duke provides the Siragusas the peace of mind that their daughter’s disease will not go untreated at school, which any parent would stretch their means to seek.
Dear Rush-Henrietta Central School District and Roth Middle School’s Principal Denise Zeh,
I am extremely disappointed by your recent refusal to allow Madyson Siragusa’s diabetes alert dog Duke to accompany her throughout her school day. As Madyson’s Type 1 diabetes subjects her to severe fluctuations in blood glucose, it is important that she have access to all the tools at her disposal to ensure that she does not have a life-threatening episode. Duke represents only one of those tools, as you have pointed out that the school nurse exists to serve children’s medical needs. However, as one individual serving many primary school students, the nurse will not always be able to devote immediate attention to Madyson’s needs, and does not accompany her throughout the day to monitor her blood sugar levels. Duke is another safeguard against a blood glucose emergency in Madyson’s life, and her parents invested much time and money into his training specifically for her.
I am urging you to reconsider your barring of Duke from school grounds, as he is not a “redundant” part of Madyson’s medical treatment, being trained to sense any fluctuation in her blood glucose and therefore to allow her to receive immediate treatment, preventing an emergency that would leave your school district culpable. I am encouraging you to reopen your doors to Duke and other service dogs, who provide the necessary companionship for individuals suffering from disabilities or medical conditions like Madyson’s diabetes.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Crjs452 via Wikimedia Commons