Midtown Raleigh News

Feds investigating Wake schools for denying student’s medical transfer

Federal civil-rights investigators are probing both the Wake County school system and the YMCA of the Triangle over a Raleigh family who did not gain access to an after-school program that would provide emergency injections to diabetic children.

The U.S. Department of Justice launched an investigation in October into allegations that the YMCA, the largest provider of after-school care for the Wake school system, violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act by not offering the emergency injections.

A second investigation was opened last week by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The new probe is looking into whether the school system violated the ADA when it rejected the family’s request for a medical transfer to a school whose after-care program would provide the injections.

“We were denied six times for a medical transfer,” Bruce Hatcher, whose 5-year-old son has Type I diabetes, said Monday. “They kept balking and balking. They have the responsibility to make sure the YMCA was in compliance, and they failed to do so.”

The school system released a statement Monday saying it has received the complaint.

“We will provide a detailed response to the Office for Civil Rights that explains our compliance with federal and state laws and our effort to assist the parent who raised the concern in this matter,” according to the district’s statement.

Jennifer Nelson, a spokeswoman for the YMCA, said the organization is working directly with the Department of Justice regarding the complaint.

“We are confident our response will satisfy any DOJ concerns,” Nelson said in a written statement.

It’s a case that could have major implications in Wake. Hatcher hopes that his complaints will result in the school system’s forcing the YMCA to begin offering the injections to diabetic children.

The YMCA contracts with the school system to operate after-school programs at 45 Wake County schools, according to Nelson. She said the YMCA also serves 51 other Wake County schools through after-school programs at YMCA branches.

Statewide, there were 4,803 public school children with diabetes in the 2011-12 school year. Schools are required under state law to have someone on staff capable of giving injections to diabetic students.

Hatcher’s son had been going to a child care program run by Highland United Methodist Church that is trained in providing emergency insulin or glucagon injections. With his son scheduled to begin kindergarten in August, Hatcher requested a transfer for him to attend Lacy Elementary School, which partners with its close neighbor Highland for after-school care.

Medical reasons are one of the criteria by which school officials say transfer requests may be approved.

But school administrators and the school board rejected the transfer request, citing crowding at Lacy. The Raleigh school is under an enrollment cap, meaning students who weren’t previously living in the school’s attendance area can’t attend.

School officials offered Hatcher the choice of attending Stough or Underwood elementary schools, which both have on-site after-school programs run by the YMCA. But the only shot that YMCA staff will provide are EpiPen injections for children going through anaphylactic shock.

As a result of the complaints, YMCA is reviewing how it meets the emergency medical issues of children with Type 1 diabetes. Nelson said the YMCA continues to work with families on an individual basis to accommodate their child’s medical care needs.

Hatcher said the school officials ultimately offered to provide a bus ride after school to Highland. But he rejected the offer because his son would ride the bus for 30 minutes without an attendant.

“What they offered was not safe or reasonable,” Hatcher said.

Hatcher said he has hired and trained a person to watch his son after school until he and his wife get home. But he said he’s fighting for all the diabetic students.

“They could have done it a lot easier and a lot more quicker and cost effectively for a lot of people,” he said.