Wake County

YMCA of the Triangle settles ADA discrimination claim brought by family with diabetic child

The YMCA of the Triangle reached an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to settle allegations that the agency violated the American with Disabilities Act after denying a child with diabetes an opportunity to take part in an after-school program.

Bruce Hatcher, whose son was a kindergartner at Underwood GT Magnet Elementary School in September 2013 when Hatcher filed the complaint with the Justice Department, alleged that YMCA officials told him they would not administer glucagon shots if his son’s blood sugar dropped too low.

Hatcher, whose son has Type 1 diabetes, tried initially to work through the YMCA and Wake County public school system to bring about change. He contended that not having someone on hand who could administer a shot in an emergency ran afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the act, private camps and childcare programs generally must make reasonable attempts to provide equal access to a child with a disability. In a release sent out by the Justice Department on Thursday, officials stated that when a parent and a child’s physician determine that it is appropriate for a trained layperson to assist a child with diabetes care, a camp or childcare program must provide that as “a reasonable modification under the ADA, unless doing so would fundamentally alter the program.”

YMCA of the Triangle, which serves Wake, Durham, Lee, Johnston, Orange, Chatham and Pamlico counties, has after-school programs at 53 sites for nearly 5,000 children. The organization also has three overnight camps.

Under the agreement announced Thursday, the YMCA must adopt a non-discrimination policy, train its staff in diabetes management and have a compliance officer who reviews requests for modifications and ensures that the ADA is being followed. The YMCA also must pay $5,000 to Hatcher, as well as report annually to the Justice Department on its compliance.

“After-school and camp programs enable children to learn from their peers and socialize with their friends,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Parents must be able to trust that their kids will receive the care and support they need, and providers who run these programs must fully comply with the ADA. The Justice Department will continue to aggressively fight all forms of discrimination that deny children with disabilities the protections the law requires and the opportunities they deserve.”

In a statement released Thursday, YMCA officials said they did not wait for the case to be settled to amend their policies. A spokesman said the safety of children in Y programs and providing quality care is a priority.

“The YMCA of the Triangle signed the agreement with the Department of Justice this week. However, immediately after Mr. Hatcher’s complaint in 2013, the YMCA consulted with legal and medical professionals regarding possible modifications to the policy,” YMCA spokeswoman Jennifer Nelson said in a statement. “Shortly after the complaint was filed in September 2013, we modified the YMCA’s medical treatment policy to have trained personnel onsite who are qualified to administer injections in urgent, non-routine situations.”

Hatcher, who was thrilled with the announcement Thursday, questioned whether the YMCA had moved as quickly as officials said. “I’ve been at work at this for three years,” he said, recalling the day he broke down in tears when his son asked why he could not join his friends in the after-school program.

Hatcher vowed to do something about it, but hired a nanny in the interim to take care of his diabetic child after school. He did not plan to immediately enroll his son, now a rising third grader, in the Y after-school program.

“I think this is a big day,” Hatcher said. “It’s a big day for me. I think it’s a big day for everybody, a big day for the Y.”

Anne Blythe: 919-836-4948, @AnneBlythe1