April 17, 2012 | last updated June 1, 2012 1:56 pm

Simsbury is feds' poster child on summer-camp care

Using Simsbury as an example, federal anti-discrimination authorities declared to U.S. communities and others preparing to host summer camp programs that kids with disabilities or other special needs must be accommodated.

In the case of Simsbury, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reached a settlement that would allow diabetic children to get treatment from a staff nurse while attending the town's summer camp program, authorities say.

HHS' Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in Washington D.C. said it reached a voluntary resolution with the Simsbury recreation department on establishing a diabetes management program for camp participants.

"As we enter summer camp season, parents and guardians should know that providers of public programs, services and activities cannot screen out or exclude children because of disabilities, including diabetes," OCR Director Leon Rodriguez said in a statement. "State and local governments may have to modify their policies and provide certain services to ensure that children with diabetes can fully access programs."

Simsbury agreed to do just that, revising in writing its policy to provide, case by case, "reasonable modifications'' to accommodate diabetic kids, Simsbury First Selectman Mary Glassman said Tuesday.

Glassman said that never has any other child with special needs been banned from participating in the camp.

The settlement stemmed from a 2008 complaint from the father of a then-eight-year-old girl whom he claimed the town discriminated against her and her illness by refusing to allow camp staff to test her blood sugar, and, if necessary, administer her diabetes treatment.

The Americans with Disabilities Act generally bans such bias.

The father, who was not identified, insisted that the Simsbury rec department's teenage counselors tend to his daughter, Glassman said. However, the town felt that would be inappropriate, she said.

"It was an isolated incident. It has never been a problem,'' she said.

Still, Simsbury will make a staff nurse available during camp hours to tend to children with special healthcare needs, the first selectman said.

"This will cost the town more money because we'll now have to have the nurse full time,'' Glassman said.

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