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SPLC suit: Florida pre-kindergarten program discriminates against girl with diabetes

The SPLC seeks relief for a 3-year-old Florida girl with diabetes whose pre-kindergarten program violated federal law by refusing to provide the services she needs.

Because she has diabetes, 3-year-old “S.G.” has a glucose sensor and insulin pump attached to  her body to manage her sugar level.

By federal law, her pre-kindergarten program in the Miami suburb of Doral is supposed to accommodate her special needs. That means providing assistance in monitoring her glucose levels. But school officials have refused, prompting a lawsuit filed today by the SPLC.

Reflecting a statewide problem faced by many children with diabetes, the lawsuit describes how The Doral Academy’s refusal to accommodate S.G.’s needs violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Last year, the SPLC filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the American Diabetes Association alleging that many Florida children in voluntary pre-kindergarten programs are facing similar discrimination.

Title III of the ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability by private entities open to the public, including nurseries, child care facilities and other places of education.

“Private preschools are open to the public and therefore must be open to all children – including children with disabilities – on equal terms,” said Tania Galloni, managing attorney for the SPLC’s Miami office. “Children with diabetes should not be deprived of the opportunity to safely attend a preschool program simply because they have special needs.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, Miami Division.

S.G. has type 1 diabetes, a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow glucose to enter cells to produce energy. The equipment attached to her body measures her sugar levels and administers insulin as needed.

As a result of Doral Academy’s refusal to accommodate her needs, S.G.’s glucose levels have been unnecessarily and consistently high during school hours, placing her at unreasonable risk of harm.

“Young children with diabetes rely on parents and child care providers to provide access to the care they need throughout the day,” said Kathy Butler, chair of the Legal Advocacy Subcommittee of the American Diabetes Association. “Because these children are too young to care for themselves, child care providers can and must train staff to meet the needs of children with diabetes.”