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January 26, 2002

School and Daycare

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Question from New Jersey, USA:

My son, diagnosed at age 19 months with type 1 diabetes, is now entering public kindergarten, and his teachers have convinced themselves that they cannot remember to give him his snack on time unless they use an outside alarm device so they have been using a kitchen timer bell in the classroom. We have protested the use of this bell since day one of school in writing and verbally, and six weeks into the school year we found out they are still using it. We wanted them to incorporate our son’s snack into their routine, but they insist their routine is varied. We offered to buy them a watch device for a more subtle reminder, but this request was ignored. We asked that the bell, if used, be used to signal the class as a whole to prepare for snack (to not single him out), were told this is not possible, again due to their varied schedule, and they did not want to change anything to accommodate one child. We matched the time of his snack to the schedule given to us on back-to-school night, but were told by the teacher that “a schedule for kindergarten is ridiculous, it is only a guide for substitutes”.

In a nutshell, we think they are simply telling us they cannot do their job without this bias bell business, and we do not want out son to be treated like a Pavlov dog. They missed one of his snacks last week (didn’t use the bell — either forgot or chose not to). They seem to be incapable of remembering to do their job without the use of a something that will discriminate. They have a full time teacher and full time aide in a class of 26 students. We are considering asking for another aide in the class since these busy bees seem incapable of doing their job. Wish I was making this up.

Answer:

I think you need to request with the school personnel and perhaps a member of your son’s diabetes team to discuss this issue. It appears that your request is not unreasonable, and there must be a way to compromise. As you know, schools are required to make reasonable accommodations.

Another approach might be to enlist the aid of other students’ parents in having the teacher set a standard snack time for all of the children. This kind of parental pressure could hardly be ignored.

Under the law, you could request an aide specifically for son. However, my concern is that this approach would be singling him out even more.

SS