School denies program enrollment to child with diabetes in Albertville, Minn.

The St. Michael-Albertville school district denied enrollment to a 9-year-old kid who just wanted to be part of a fun summer program, and their reason is that he has diabetes and they aren't able to care for him.

The district’s superintendent said he couldn't talk specifically about this case due to privacy issues, but he said there is no nurse at the after school program.  And the boy's mother claims that's why they won't take her son.

On the field, Grant Nieman looks like your typical 9-year-old, except he has an unusual pre-game ritual.  Type 1 diabetes requires the soon-to-be fourth grade student to check his blood sugar periodically throughout the day, and to inject insulin when needed.

"Every time before I go to recess, when I eat lunch, I have to go to the nurse’s office and I give myself a shot,” Grant said.

But when his mom Katrina DeAntoni enrolled him in the school district's summer program, she was shocked to find out that the needs associated with his diabetes prompted the district to deny him.

"He's pretty self-sufficient but he's nine and it just requires at his age, oversight by someone else to ensure that he isn't giving himself too much insulin and result in an emergency situation,” Katrina said.

In a letter, the superintendent of St. Michael-Albertville schools says asking non-medical staff to monitor insulin injections and possibly administer a more serious glucagon shot was not a "reasonable accommodation."

"I think it's pretty clear cut, he was denied because he has type 1 diabetes and that is discriminatory,” DeAntoni said.

Attorney Andrea Jepsen specializes in the rights of students and families and believes the school district is in clear violation of the law.

“It sounds like this is a school district that has dug in and doesn't know how to get itself out of what I think is ultimately an inappropriate and unlawful position,” Jepsen said.

Jepsen said the district is obligated to make the necessary accommodations, yet they continue to fight it. All this happening as Grant is stuck in the middle, hoping the district has a change of heart.

"It's hard for me to understand how a district can argue that it's not in a position to hire a trained person or a nurse when the district pays an attorney,” Jepsen said.

In 2005, a family in the Anoka-Hennepin school district sued for almost the exact same reason.  The family ended up winning that case three years later.  But Grant's mom is hoping they can resolve this issue without having to take it to court.


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