11-Year-Old Forced to Learn at Home When School Bans Her Service Dog
by Jeanne Sager
A school district has denied an 11-year-old girl with diabetes from bringing her service dog to school. Crazy violation of her rights? Not so fast.
Service dogs are an amazing innovation for hundreds of thousands of people out there with special needs -- everything from blindness to PTSD to diabetes. Who doesn't love a service dog?
Well, a kid with an allergy to dogs, for one.
That's why the Rush Henrietta Central School District has told Madyson Siragusa her dog will have to stay home, even though it cost her family $20,000, and even though the specially trained yellow Labrador retriever can sense the rapid fluctuations in her blood sugar level. The district sent the Siragusa family a letter explaining that Duke would potentially be a distraction, scare other children, and aggravate allergies.
Can you blame them?
They've essentially been asked to pit one kid's rights against another's.
And there is no easy answer.
It's not that I don't feel bad for Madyson here. Living with Type 1 diabetes is no easy feat. She's just 11. She just wants to be a normal kid!
But I've seen pet allergies firsthand. My daughter has a friend who cannot come into my house without her eyes puffing up, without sneezing. We've tried it with medicine, but the longer the little girl spends in my house with my dogs and cats, the more miserable she gets. Her allergies are on the low end. For some folks, it's worse. They have asthma attacks. Hives build up on their chests. Their throats swell up.
Imagine that daily, in your classroom? How do you learn?
And sure, that kid could stay home, but why? They're going to school, not a place where dogs generally are accepted. It's not like you're telling someone with a nut allergy not to eat nuts here. It's not an "obvious" solution.
So here we are: one kid needs the dog. One kid needs the dog to be gone.
What is a school district to do? They've told Madyson she's welcome at school, where the school nurse will be charged with helping her handle her diabetes under the direction of a district nurse practitioner. The family is (understandably) worried, so they've opted instead for their daughter to learn at home with a district-provided tutor ... and her dog at her side.
There's the potential the Siragusas will sue. It's their right. But I hope they don't.
I hope, instead, they use this moment to teach their daughter that sometimes there has to be give and take in life, that we often have to make concessions for one another.
It's an unfortunate truth, but at some point our kids need to learn that sometimes one person's "right" supersedes another. Sometimes one person's "right" puts another person in danger.
Take, for example, the parents who pitch a hissy because their kids have a "right" to bring their favorite peanut butter and jelly sandwich to school. What about the right of the little boy who will die if he's in the same room as a PB&J? Whose "right" is more important? Whose "right" takes precedence?
It's not easy to parse out who is right in most situations, and this one is no exception. Who wants to put an 11-year-old in this situation?
But this is LIFE. Our kids are going to be faced with situations like this dozens, no hundreds, of times in the years to come. We need to teach them how to handle that.
What do you think the school should do?