11-Year-Old Forced to Learn at Home When School Bans Her Service Dog

Say What!? 47

diabetic 11-year-old service dogA 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?



Image via WHEC

back to school, special needs, kid health


To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Coles... Coles_mom

My son is terrified of dogs. I mean off-the-rail terrified. He wouldn't be able to be around this kid and her dog. I got a call from school at the end of last year from the principal asking me to come to the school and help with my son. Apparently a dog has wandered up while they were at recess and he was still hysterical an hour later. They had even called animal control to get the dog.

Austi... Austinsmommy12

I know plenty of type one diabetics and none have to have a dog. My best friend has an insulin pump, and has had 0% function of her pancreas since age 6. It is totally possible to live without the help of a service dog at age 11. She's plenty old enough to be responsible for her food intake and insulin. If she were 5 or 6, it might be a different story. It's a comfort thing for her and her parents, but not a necessity.

nonmember avatar myop

It's a tough situation. She has a legitimate service dog so I don't see how the school can get away with banning it. But also I agree with other side. It's tough to define right but she is 1 person the dog could be affecting multiple peoples rights so I guess that is one way to look at it. The whole situation is unfortunate though.


Based on the title, I was outraged.  After reading the article, it is understandable.  IMO, it was a good call.

danie... danielleapril

This is in my area, the main reason the dog was denied was because the girls own dr said the dog wasnt needed. The parents knew months ago that the dog couldnt come, butf they showed up with the dog anyways on the first day of school and when denied they of courae went right to the media....its just ridiculous.

keelh... keelhaulrose

This is a different case than most service dogs. My opinion would change drastically if the dog was a seeing eye dog or one that detected seizures. Schools need to have a plan to accommodate dogs and kids with allergies because, at some point, there will be both in school, and a blind student or a student with epilepsy should not be asked to learn from home because the school doesn't want to find a solution for the dog.

Taisie Taisie

I am a type 1 diabetic, and I have a service dog for the same reason this little girl does. I do bring my dog with me most places I go, but I don't take her everywhere as I feel some places are just inappropriate to bring a dog to, no matter the reason. However, my service dog is a 7lb Chihuahua (a Chihuahua makes a good diabetes alert dog because they are small and can be held close to your body to better smell the chemical changes). I doubt highly that my dog is scaring anyone, but I do still practice discretion.

I have my dog because I do not sense my "lows" and my glucose level can, and has, suddenly dropped to such a low level that I cannot physically get up, and have passed out. My dog alerts me before it gets that low, that way I can take action before I am on the floor, or passed out, unable to help myself.

Now, this all being said, I am home alone for a good 12 hours a day, which is why I have my dog. Idon't really feel that it is necessary to have her dog at school with her where there are plenty of responsible adults around to provide her assistance, ie: remind her to check her glucose levels at regular intervals, watch her for any signs of her glucose level being out of hand, and to call for EMS if needed.


Taisie Taisie

Just because you have the right to bring your service dog with you everywhere you go, doesn't mean you should. People need to use good judgment (in this case her parents) when deciding when and where to bring their service animal out in public.

nonmember avatar Mel

Taisie, I agree. My daughter was diagnosed type 1 when she was 12. She is on an insulin pump and has a cgm (continuous glucose monitor) to alert her of the dangerous lows. The staff and nurse at her school are aware of her situation. A service dog is not necessary at school and my daughter feels like it would draw unwanted attention. She wants to fit in and not be treated differently because she's diabetic. However, I do agree service dogs are beneficial in certain circumstances.

nonmember avatar Jenn

Really? There's NO possible ay foe the school to separate a child with allergies from a child wit a need for a service animal? REALLY?

1-10 of 47 comments 12345 Last