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Diabetic girl returning to school

Zoey Perea, with her mother Tenesha, is all smiles after learning she was headed back to school. (Rick Nathanson/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Zoey Perea was smiling from ear to ear Friday afternoon after learning that she will return to kindergarten at San Antonito Elementary School on Monday.

Zoey, 6, was kept out of school for more than a month by her parents, Tenesha and Bryan Perea, who were concerned because the school, they said, declined to follow the directives of Zoey’s doctor regarding the care of the child’s diabetes.

APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta declined to comment on the situation, citing federal privacy laws and district privacy policies.

About a year ago, Zoey was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, also called juvenile diabetes. “Zoey has to have her blood sugar checked 12-15 times a day and has to get 6-8 daily injections of insulin,” said Tenesha.

Managing her disease means that Zoey must bring to school her blood sugar meter, insulin pen, sterile alcohol wipes, cotton balls, snacks with fast-acting sugar, and an emergency glucagon pen to be administered if her blood sugar becomes dangerously low, which could cause her to have a seizure or go into a coma, explained her mom.

She keeps these life-saving supplies in what the family calls Zoey’s “go-pack,” essentially a small lunch box, which, according to her doctor’s orders, must accompany Zoey at all times.

Tenesha said that while Zoey is in school the go-pack stays with the school nurse or remains in the classroom under the control of the teacher. Where Tenesha and Bryan got crosswise with the school was when administrators refused to designate a staff member or employee to carry the go-pack outside for Zoey during recess.

‘The only reason I was given by the principal was that she didn’t feel a teacher or staff person should be responsible for Zoey’s pack, but, of course, they are responsible for her while she’s at school, so it just didn’t make sense,” said Tenesha.

“Diabetes is a disease you can’t see, and it makes it hard for people to understand that Type 1 diabetics must have their supplies at all times. It would be unsafe for Zoey to not have immediate access to her medical supplies on the playground in the case of an emergency.”

Tenesha said that she and her husband had been going back and forth with the school over this issue since the beginning of the school year and finally felt they had no choice but to remove their daughter from the school.

On Friday, however, during a meeting at the Albuquerque Public Schools district headquarters attended by San Antonito administrators, an assistant APS superintendent and other APS officials, an agreement was reached to accommodate Zoey during recess.

Sharon Guerra, director of APS nursing services, without mentioning the names of any children, told the Journal that she will be at San Antonito on Monday to evaluate how best to accommodate children with special medical needs.

“As long as they follow Zoey’s doctor’s orders and the verbal agreement they gave us to ensure Zoey’s safety at school at all times and in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, then we shouldn’t have any further issues with the school district,” said Tenesha.

And Zoey can continue smiling from ear to ear.

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