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5-Year-Old Preschooler Kiley Eliason Reportedly Kicked Out of School After It Wouldn't Accommodate Her Diabetes

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On March 8, Emma Garvey shared a Facebook post alleging that her 5-year-old daughter, Kiley Eliason, had been kicked out of the private academy she was attending because they could not accommodate her daughter’s type 1 diabetes.

“As soon as questions were being raised and extra responsibility was being asked of the higher ups they decided she wasn’t worth having around anymore,” Garvey wrote. “As soon as she broke out of the ‘normal’ student mold – one who doesn’t need extra help – they decided they didn’t want her.”

*****UPDATE BELOW****I’ve thought long and hard on whether or not I should post this..I’ve written and deleted this…

Posted by Emma Rachel on Friday, March 8, 2019

Eliason had been attending preschool at New Life Academy in Woodbury, Minnesota since she was 3 years old, and was diagnosed with diabetes just two weeks after beginning school there.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Those with T1D must regularly monitor their blood glucose and take insulin to maintain normal levels. Eliason uses an insulin pump, which Garvey said must be changed every 72 hours.

According to Garvey, Eliason’s first two years at NLA went smoothly, and her teachers were always very helpful and accommodating of her diabetes. “They loved her so much and genuinely cared about her well being,” Garvey wrote. “She thrived making new friends and learned what it meant to be in school even after being diagnosed with something that brought her to the nurse multiple times a day.”

When Eliason began her third year at the academy, she had a new set of teachers as well as a new school nurse, whom Garvey said was “beyond amazing.” However, the nurse was the only individual at the school trained to help with Eliason’s diabetic needs, and she is reportedly the only nurse for the 700+ students who attend the academy. In her Facebook post, Garvey wrote that the nurse requested assistance in helping accommodate Eliason’s needs — whether that meant training other faculty members or hiring another nurse — in case she was busy with another student when Eliason needed help.

According to Garvey’s post, New Life Academy ignored the requests, which prompted some questions. Garvey wrote:

Why was every other school in the Washington county district employing more than one health aid/ nurse yet NLA, a very wealthy private school only empoying one? For over 700 students, they were only employing based off budget, not off student need. At the very least we were requesting someone else be trained to handle hypo/hyperglycemia. You’re telling me that a school that charges $10,000-$12,000 a year per student x 788 students you couldn’t spend ANY of that money to train even ONE extra person on how to care for her in case of an emergency in order to keep her?

Garvey said after she began asking questions she was called into a meeting with the principal and the head of the school, where she was told Eliason was no longer a good “fit” for New Life Academy. She said the school gave her two weeks (or until spring break) to find a new school for Eliason.

“They wanted her out, now. They didn’t want the responsibility of her diabetes. They didn’t want the hassle of dealing with her for three more months. They didn’t want us asking questions or digging deeper into the safety of their students,” Garvey wrote. “Watching my little girl cry her eyes out in the back of my car over this situation breaks me as a mom. I can do nothing to fix it.”

Though New Life Academy is a private school, it is still required to comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination in public accommodations. “Public accommodations” includes private schools, which means private schools are required to make reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures.

In a statement given to The Mighty, New Life Academy said it provides care and support for children’s health and learning needs when it has the ability. When the school does not have this ability, the child is referred to schools that can provide the services needed. NLA is not authorized to comment on Eliason’s specific case because it cannot do so without a parent’s permission. “On March 12, we asked the student’s parent to sign a release, which would have allowed us to discuss her child’s situation in detail. As of March 16 at 12:30 pm CST, the mother has not signed the release,” the statement read.

Garvey explained to The Mighty that she initially had not signed the waiver because she was busy with work and taking care of her two children. She then decided not to sign the waiver until getting legal counsel. “I will not sign anything due to the fact they blatantly lied THREE times in the statement they made on the news. Three lies, one after another and so I do NOT trust them,” she said.

Though most public schools in the area were full and not accepting transfer students at this point in the year, Garvey was finally able to find one that admitted Eliason. In her post, she wrote, “I wish I could do something to take away her pain and her fear or starting a new school. But I cant. All I can do is spread the word so that hopefully no kid someday ever has to endure what we are enduring.”

Garvey hopes that sharing her family’s experience inspires other parents and people who live with chronic illness to advocate for themselves and make their voices heard.

“You can stand up for your self,” she explained. “Even in settings like a private school where you feel like your voice can’t be heard. I was terrified to stand up to them. I mean, come on I’m one person against this big school. But it’s not about me. At all. It’s about my daughter and being able to give her the voice she can’t.”

Garvey said she does not plan on sending Eliason back to New Life after the way they were treated. Still, she hopes that speaking up will inspire change, at NLA as well as any other schools that discriminate against students with illnesses or disabilities.

“If this inspires change on a big level, great!” she said. “That would be amazing. I have received a ton of messages from other diabetics who have been kicked out or not allowed in this that or the other thing because of their disease. I hope that institutions can start seeing children with chronic health needs as a person rather than a burden.”

Originally published: March 18, 2019
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