WHEC News 10 reports that Madyson Siragusa's family paid over $20,000 for the yellow Labrador, reaching deep into their savings and raising money in the community for the service dog. Duke, as he is called, has been specially trained to accompany Madyson everywhere and sniff out blood sugar spikes. The Siragusas say that it’s completely unfair for the school district to deny Duke access to the school, and that he’s no different than a seeing eye dog for a blind student.
Regarding the district’s move to bar Duke access, mom Keri Siragusa says, “We have no idea what changed their mind.” According to her, school officials were completely supportive of the idea until the start of the school year. They sent a letter to the family’s home, citing allergies and that the dog would be a distraction to other students. When Madyson showed up at Roth Middle School for the new school year with Duke, she was turned away.
Administrators for the school say they were told by medical consultants that the dog wasn’t strictly necessary for Madyson, who has Type 1 diabetes. In a statement provided to the Associated Press, the school district said, "(School medical staff) 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."
Other medical experts disagree, saying the rapid changes in blood sugar can’t be detected by school staff, and that the service dog can fill that gap. According to Lily Grace, the founder and chief executive of the National Institute for Diabetic Alert Dogs, who has placed over 400 trained dogs with families in it’s nine years of operation, "Within a 10-minute window, this child can go from having a good number to a dangerous number."
The family is meeting with medical experts in order to gather evidence to change the minds of school officials, and has plans to meet with the district. Madyson, meanwhile, is not attending school but has been provided with 10 hours of in-home tutoring. The school district has declined to comment further until the matter is resolved.