Father fights for son's rights after YMCA refuses to administer - WRBL

Father fights for son's rights after YMCA refuses to administer diabetes treatment

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Bruce Hatcher, the father of a boy with diabetes, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Department of Education about the YMCA of the Triangle. Bruce Hatcher, the father of a boy with diabetes, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Department of Education about the YMCA of the Triangle.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A 5-year-old boy in Raleigh has battled Type 1 Diabetes for two years, and now his father is battling for his rights.

Bruce Hatcher, the boy's father, filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Department of Education about the YMCA of the Triangle. The Y will not provide treatment, which includes monitoring and insulin injections, for the boy at his school's afterschool care program.

"I was shocked. I was quite shocked because obviously I did my homework and they're not exempt from the Americans with Disabilities Act," Hatcher said.

The ADA requires child care providers make "reasonable" policy changes to make sure all kids can participate.

"This doesn't take a doctor. It doesn't take a nurse," Hatcher said.

Hatcher has been fighting the YMCA of the Triangle on the issue for more than two months.

The YMCA's position

The Y's message to WNCN has changed slightly over the last few weeks.

On Aug. 30, Jennifer Nelson, public relations director for the YMCA of the Triangle, sent the following statement on behalf of the YMCA:

"In light that a formal complaint has been filed, the YMCA of the Triangle will not speak directly to the specifics of this situation. This is not a simple legal issue with ample guidance readily available. In fact, there is very limited legal authority that speaks to circumstances similar to this situation.

"We do strongly deny that we are in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and we take this situation very seriously. ...

"In making decisions with respect to our after school programs (including those in which the ADA might be implicated), our YMCA seeks expert guidance from outside sources in a good-faith effort to consider all factors."

On Sept. 5, Nelson sent an updated statement:

"For a number of years, the YMCA has regularly consulted medical experts to ensure that we take all appropriate steps to satisfy the current standards of care required to meet the needs of children in our programs.

"We realize the appropriate medical approaches and protocols in certain areas, such as Type 1 diabetes, are ever evolving and must be periodically revisited.

"For the past several years, our protocol for dealing with Type 1 diabetes emergencies has been to administer cake icing by mouth and to call 911 for emergency assistance.

"Currently, we are reviewing other ways we may safely and effectively address the emergency medical issues of children with Type 1 diabetes. Specifically, we are reviewing issues pertaining to injections, staff training, legal and logistical requirements.

"Yesterday, we initiated attempts to meet with Mr. Bruce Hatcher. We hope we can resolve his son's situation amicably."

Then on Thursday, Nelson issued another statement for the YMCA:

"We cannot discuss the specifics of this particular case due to a formal legal complaint.

"We can tell you our YMCA is reviewing our current practices and procedures to effectively address the emergency medical issues for children with Type 1 diabetes. We are consulting internal and external experts to make sure we are in compliance with ADA requirements."

The role of Wake Schools

The YMCA operates after school programs at 45 Wake County Public Schools and serves 51 other Wake schools at YMCA branches.

Hatcher said he thinks Wake Schools have a responsibility as the Y's landlord.

"It's a business deal. But there are laws that apply to that," he said.

WNCN examined the Y's contract with Wake County Public Schools and found the school system can terminate the agreement if the Y does not follow laws.

Estella Shelton, interim chief communications officer for Wake County Public School System, sent the following statement:

"The Y operates through a contract with the school system's Community Services Department, which coordinates various organizations renting school facilities for their programs. School system staff members are currently reviewing these processes."

Hatcher said, "They should be able to step up and go, 'If you're not going to be compliant with the laws, you're not going to be able to do after school programs in our schools.'"

While the school system has provided the care and treatment his son needs, Hatcher has another concern with Wake Schools.

His son was denied a medical transfer from his school.

Hatcher wanted his son to attend a school in which he would have gone to an afterschool care program run by a church preschool that previously provided his son care.

WNCN reached out to Wake County Public Schools for comment. Renee McCoy, director of public relations, said the school system would not provide an interview for the story, citing federal privacy laws.

Hatcher said having his son transfer would have meant the YMCA wouldn't have been an issue, but in retrospect he's glad, in some ways, that did not happen.

"I think it's a blessing in disguise. I think if we can make this right the way it should be, then we'll help a lot of people and that's the way it should be," he said.

What's next

Because their son can't get the care from the afterschool program, Hatcher and his wife hired someone to pick up him up from school.

A Charlotte attorney who volunteers as an advocate for the American Diabetes Association is helping the family with their efforts.

The family hopes to get their son an insulin pump within the next year.

"I don't think the pump's going to be the answer to all the other issues," Hatcher said.

Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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