Family says Broward school district keeping 9-year-old with rare form of epilepsy out of school

(WSVN) - Federal law says every child is entitled to a public school education. But one South Florida family says the Broward County Public Schools district is keeping a 9-year-old out of school because of the medicine she needs. 7’s Brian Entin investigates.

Nine-year-old Jillianna Geller is about the sweetest little girl you’ll ever meet.

She loves playing outside, she loves watching videos on her iPad, and she even helps out around the house.

Her favorite chore is cleaning the swimming pool.

Marcie Ivanik, Jillianna’s aunt: “She wants to be around people, animals, anything that she can be around. She doesn’t like being alone. She’s just like a normal kid.”

Jillianna went to a private school, but her family wants to enroll her in a public school in Broward. They said there are more opportunities there for children with disabilities.

Jillianna has a severe form of epilepsy known as Dravet syndrome.

It causes seizures, and the medicine called Diastat is her lifesaver.

When a seizure starts, she needs a dose of the medicine, and in the rare event the seizure does not stop, her doctor said she needs a second dose.

But BCPS will not allow a school nurse to give Jillianna the second dose, so the little girl cannot be enrolled.

Marcie Ivanik: “It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart. She hasn’t been in school for about three months.”

In an email to Jillianna’s family, the district wrote, “Schools are not equipped to provide a second dose of Diastat as it impacts respiration. Should respiratory issues arise from the second administration, the nurse would not be equipped to meet the medical needs of the student.”

But Jillianna’s doctor said the dose is pre-measured and not risky.

Dr. Ian Miller, pediatric neurologist: “I am totally unable to understand the policy. To my medical eyes, it seems like they’re failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a child who needs a medical accommodation, which is against the law.”

Dr. Ian Miller is Jillianna’s neurologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital.

He said other school districts don’t have a problem administering a second dose.

Dr. Ian Miller: “Just completely refusing to administer the medication that she needs. It’s stunning, and it’s a shocking lack of humanity to me.”

Dr. Miller thought they could work things out with BCPS, but the district is not budging, so Jillianna’s family hired an attorney who focuses on helping special needs kids.

Allison Hertog, attorney: “It’s really despicable that Broward County School district would go to these ends to try to keep a girl out probably for financial reasons.”

They’re taking BCPS to court, questioning whether the district is trying to save money by not hiring more nurses.

Marcie Ivanik: “From the bottom of my heart, I know for a fact if this child was any of their children, they would never ever turn their backs to Jillian, ever.”

The school district could not talk to us about the situation because of student privacy laws.

Jillianna’s family says the district’s recommendation has been that Jillianna stay home and have a teacher visit her.

A Florida Department of Education judge will make a final ruling in April.

If you would like to help Jillianna’s family with their legal battle, they have set up a GoFundMe page. To donate, click here.

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