5-year-old Kiley Eliason has been attending New Life Academy in Woodbury, Minnesota, for nearly three years. She and her mom love the school and the teachers, but this year, Kiley won’t be finishing the term along with her classmates. Instead, she and her mom, Emma Garvey, have been given just two weeks to find her another school after she was asked to leave because of her diabetes.
Kiley was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes way back when she first started at the academy in a preschool preparatory program. She was barely three at the time, and her teachers, according to Garvey, did a great job helping her cope with and manage the disease. But a few months ago, the school’s nurse began to express a need for extra help managing Kiley’s diabetes.
Shortly after that, the academy claimed they were not a good fit for Kiley and asked her mother to find her a new school. Because the school is privately owned, Garvey claims, they “play by their own rules” and are allowed to kick Kiley out, as discriminatory as it is.
“We asked if she could stay until the end of the year, but they said no,” Garvey said.
Garvey took the situation to Facebook to warn other parents that children with special needs are not properly protected in private schools like New Life Academy. Her lengthy post contained a message sure to tug at the heartstrings of other parents.
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“She KNOWS she is an outcast. She KNOWS she is different. She already cries over being different than the rest of the kids in her class. This is just adding salt to the wound.”
The school released a statement but originally refused to comment on Kiley’s specific case without parental consent.
“We are blessed to provide a Christ-centered learning environment for our students—ours is a community of caring,” the statement said. “New Life Academy provides services to students with various special health and learning needs. When we have the ability to provide the level of care and support that is needed for each child’s situation, we do so. When we do not have this ability, we refer them to schools that can provide the services needed.”
A spokesperson did follow up with more information, however: “We were able to accommodate this child’s needs for more than 2 years. A few months ago, the child’s needs increased and became more serious. At that time, the school raised concerns with the family about the needs exceeding the resources available. Since that time, the school has continued discussions with the family to help find a solution that would meet the child’s needs.”
Garvey says she never received any assistance from the academy and was simply told that she’d need to find a new place within two weeks. Luckily, Oakdale Elementary School, which is a 15-minute drive from New Life, agreed to take Kiley, despite the fact that they had met their capacity, to allow her to finish out the school year.
On top of managing her diabetes, Kiley is now dealing with something else no 5-year-old child should have to endure; she’s facing discrimination, being forced to leave her beloved friends and teachers, and worrying that she’ll be forced out of other places too. “What if I get kicked out of basketball?” she asked her mom.
Thousands of people have reacted to, commented on, and shared Garvey’s original Facebook post, many of them reaching out directly to her to share their stories of diabetes-related discrimination and encourage her to get the American Diabetes Association involved in the case. Garvey, however, says her post is about raising awareness and that she does not want to cause problems for the amazing teachers at New Life Academy who had nothing to do with the discrimination against Kiley.
Check out the video below to learn more.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?