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N.Y. school boots service animal

| Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2013, 6:48 p.m.

HENRIETTA, N.Y. — A diabetic 11-year-old whose family paid $20,000 for a dog trained to sniff out blood sugar swings at school is being tutored at home after the school district refused to allow the service animal in class.

Madyson Siragusa's parents said her dog, Duke, is no different than the seeing eye dogs allowed inside public buildings and are pressing the Rush Henrietta Central School District to reconsider.

“We have no idea what changed their mind,” Keri Siragusa said of district officials who seemed receptive to the idea when she proposed it before the summer recess. The family sold bracelets, raised funds online and dipped deep into their finances to pay for the yellow Labrador retriever.

But shortly before the start of the new school year, Siragusa said, the suburban Rochester district sent a letter barring the dog because of concerns it would be a distraction, scare other children and aggravate allergies.

Duke arrived with Madyson at Roth Middle School on Friday, only to be turned away.

Administrators said medical consultants advised them the dog wasn't medically necessary. They cited guidance from the New York State Association of School Attorneys, which said districts should decide on a case-by-case basis whether a student can receive “a free appropriate public education” without a dog.

“Our schools are staffed by a school nurse and supported by a district nurse practitioner,” a district statement said. “They use long-established, well-tested protocols — including the prudent monitoring of blood glucose levels — to safeguard the health and well-being of students.

“The presence of a service animal trained to monitor these levels is redundant,” the statement said.

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