High school sophomore Dennasia Cordova doesn’t like to miss school, but she recently had no choice when the 15-year-old’s class went on a field trip and administrators banned her — because she has diabetes.
“The feeling is more heartbreaking than anything,” Dennasia’s mom Connie Chavez tells Yahoo Parenting.
The mother also told KRQE News 13 on Wednesday, “She should have every right, like every other child. She shouldn’t be treated any differently because of diabetes.” Yet the Mora, New Mexico teen (who has type 1 diabetes) was prohibited from the science class outing to view beaver dams in nearby Watrous two weeks ago because, according to Chavez, administrators explained in a letter that they wouldn’t be able to follow her medical plan and had concerns about being out of cell-phone range if the teen experienced a problem. Without an alternative assignment prepared, Chavez added that her daughter had to stay home and that the day was marked as an unexcused absence.
Dennasia Cordova’s class trip was to to a dam in Watrous, New Mexico (Photo: KRQE)
Chavez tells Yahoo Parenting that administrators informed her that the trip was possible if she attended with her (but Chavez was unable to go). “My daughter has been let down on several occasions. I have been asked to keep my child home numerous times in the past years and, not knowing the laws, I would keep her home.” (The Mora School District did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment).
Dennasia takes her own insulin and checks her own blood sugar, the mom explains, but still needs “constant supervision” because the teen’s blood sugars significantly fluctuate due to the fact that she also has ADHD and chronic insomnia. “I asked for [permission that she attend field trips] in writing several times in the past and took it to the Superintendent…[but] it went nowhere,” Chavez says. “Every time I see my child disappointed makes me want to blast them more and more.”
As she should, The American Diabetes Association (ADA)’s Crystal Jackson tells Yahoo Parenting. “This is a prime example of discrimination by a school against a student because of her diabetes which is prohibited by federal anti-discrimination laws,” explains Jackson, director of the ADA’s Safe at School program. “Under federal law, schools must provide accommodations to students with disabilities during the school day and at all school-sponsored activities in accordance with the child’s care plan. This means, it is the school’s legal obligation to provide either a school nurse or another school staff member who has been trained to provide needed care to the student with diabetes in accordance with their provider’s physician’s order or care plan. Parents or guardians cannot be required to attend field trips, extracurricular activities or other school-sponsored events as a requirement of their child’s participation in the activity.”
Dennasia Cordova at home doing homework (Photo: KRQE)
A mother of a child with type 1 diabetes herself, Jackson says she’s all too familiar with the challenges facing diabetics at school. “Unfortunately, many schools do not provide appropriate care to students with diabetes and treat these students unfairly,” she says. “But having diabetes in no way limits a student’s ability to participate in activities. Because of the advances in technology and improved therapies, we have the enhanced ability to keep blood glucose levels in control to stave off serious short- and long-term complications.”
Chavez’s outrage over the whole episode and demands of the administration are “spot on,” says Jackson. “The school should have worked with the family ahead of time to identify and train a school staff member to accompany [Dennasia] on this field trip and provide the same care as what is provided during the regular school day.” And though the saga has been an emotional one for mother and daughter alike, Chavez refuses to sit back and cry about it. She’s in the process of looking for a lawyer and declared Wednesday on Facebook: “I will be my daughters voice till the day I die.”
(Top photo: KRQE)