Parents: Store policy discriminates against diabetics (video)

Chris Preite, 39, is the father to a teenage diabetic.
  • FAST FACTS

  • • 25.8 million children and adults in the U.S. have diabetes.

    • About one in every 400 children and adolescents has diabetes.

    • Diagnosed diabetes cost $245 billion in 2012 in the U.S.

    Source: American Diabetes Association

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The clerk picked Trenton Preite, a shy and lanky 15-year-old, out from the group of boys.

"You'll have to leave your bag at the front of the store," Trenton remembered the clerk instructing.

"I told him I was diabetic. 'OK, but still you need to put your bag at the front of the store,'" Trenton recalled.

The bag - containing a snack, blood sugar meter, log book, insulin pen and needles - isn't something you leave lying around, said Trenton's step-mom, Michelle Preite.

Michelle and her husband, Chris Preite, both 39 and Ganado residents, consider the strict "no backpack" policy at Hastings discriminatory.

"They're basically telling me that diabetics are not allowed in the store," Michelle Preite said.

Diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 3, Trenton's blood sugar is unpredictable. With physical activity, mood, stress levels and hormones effecting his blood sugar, he can be fine one minute and 15 minutes later need medication or a snack, she said.

"Diabetes is a real tricky thing, especially with children," Preite said. "This kid can't help it. He's literally cried that he wishes there were a cure."

Title III of the American Disabilities Act specifies that public and commercial facilities, which includes stores such as Hastings, must make "reasonable modifications in policies, practices and procedures" to comply with the law.

John Griffin, a Victoria attorney who specializes in disability issues, said that manager's actions were not only unlawful but also defy common sense.

"It's a public store, and it needs to cooperate and make accommodations for people with disabilities," Griffin said. "It is absolutely a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act to try to take medical supplies away from people when they go into a public store."

This isn't the first issue in the Crossroads.

For a time, a Shiner business did not allow guide dogs, Griffin said. That case ended up in federal court.

Another business revised its policy to stop harassing people who needed medical supplies at concert venues, Griffin said. "Hastings is no different."

"Here in Victoria, we may have 15 or 20 percent of our population who has diabetes, and we want them to take their supplies with them everywhere they go so they can check their blood sugar when it's appropriate," Griffin said.

Delilah Cruz, a manager at Hastings, said purses are fine by store policy, but backpacks, diaper bags, drawstring athletic bags and even mesh-see-through bags are banned.

"It's to prevent theft," she said.

She was not working the day the Preite family came in but said she would have been OK letting the teen carry the bag.

"If I had been working, I would understand," she said. "You use your better judgment."

Douglass Anderson, a Victoria attorney who does not represent the Preite family, said "diabetes can be considered, depending on its severity, a disability."

"It sounds like there was an overzealous manager," he said.

That day at the entertainment store, Trenton, his older brother Jonathan Shreckengost, his mom and a friend were in town running errands.

They stopped by the entertainment store to shop for movies and the next book in a series Jonathan was reading.

When it comes to girls, Trenton is bashful. Like most teens his age, he likes drawing, skateboarding, playing video games.

He knows he is not responsible enough for his diabetes, but he is learning to count carbs and calculate his insulin.

If he can prove he can do it, his parents would allow him to get an insulin pump. So far, he doesn't know anyone his age with diabetes.

Preite said she showed the manager who was working that day the contents of the bag and offered to let them check again before she and her son left but was turned down.

She worried that if they left the bag at the door, it would be tampered with or stolen and that leaving it in the hot car would ruin the insulin.

She rolled the bag up and stuffed it into her purse, but was told again to leave the bag at the door or in her car.

"I cannot leave this lying around for any thug or hoodlum in Victoria to get their hands on it - it's got needles in it," she said.

She filed a formal complaint against Hastings but has not heard back from the business.

"My 15-year-old was damn near crying when it was all said and done," Preite said. "He's picked on as it is. Here he is, he can't even go to a store and hang out with his brother and his friends without getting singled out."

No bag policies are not new to Victoria.

Janie Reyes, a clerk at La Michoacana Meat Market on North Laurent Street, said the grocery store has had a similar policy for at least the past five years to help stop shoplifting.

Debbie Kaspar, who manages Green Brothers Jewelers a few blocks north of Hastings, said she is familiar with the concept from seminars aimed at curbing theft.

Hastings "has a lot of blind spots," she said. "It's a red flag when somebody walks in with a big bag."

Preite said she wants an apology from Hastings.

"Don't single them out and make them feel any worse than they already do," she said. "They didn't chose this, and they don't want it."