Feds: NISRA discriminated against girls with seizures

A federal lawsuit alleges that a McHenry County agency catering to special-needs residents discriminated against at least two of them by refusing to administer an anti-seizure medication if needed.

The lawsuit filed Monday by the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that the decision by the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association restricted two girls’ access to its programs and therefore violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is asking the court to require NISRA to administer the anti-seizure medication Diastat to clients who may need it.

Association Executive Director Brian Shahinian declined to comment late Monday because neither he nor NISRA’s attorney had been served with the complaint.

The association is a tax-exempt organization made up of 13 area governments that provides year-round recreational activities for children and adults with developmental, physical and mental disabilities. Its staff, the lawsuit states, can dispense medication if a participant’s parent or guardian requests it.

The girls, ages 17 and 9, are identified only by their initials in the complaint. Both have a history of grand mal seizures.

In both cases, their doctors prescribed them Diastat to deal with them. The medication, which was developed to be administered by people without training, stops major seizures before they can cause brain damage or death.

In the case of the older girl, “M.M.,” the lawsuit alleges that NISRA agreed in 2007 and 2008 to administer the drug if needed, but the family was told after the 2008 summer camp that it would no longer do so. Instead, the lawsuit alleges, NISRA offered that the family could hire a caretaker or send a family member to accompany the girl.

The girl as a result did not attend any NISRA programs in 2009 and 2010, but her parents last year enrolled her in summer camp because she had not experienced a grand mal seizure in five years. She attended without incident, but since then has had additional major seizures.

The younger girl, “N.R.,” registered to participate in the Crystal Lake Park District’s 2011 summer camp, but NISRA allegedly refused the family’s request to administer Diastat in an emergency, the lawsuit states. She, too, participated without incident, but the lawsuit states that both families are concerned about what will happen if their children need Diastat and cannot get it.

Area governments including Barrington, Cary, Crystal Lake, Huntley and Marengo park districts and the municipal governments of Harvard, Lake in the Hills, McHenry and Woodstock make up the NISRA cooperative and support its activities.

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