Islets of Hope information for students with diabetes

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Article disclaimer:  This article was written by Lahle Wolfe, founder a IOH, who is not a legal professional.

U.S. Dept. of Labor
Wright's Law
American Diabetes Ass'n.

Federal & State Laws

Public Schools
Private Schools
Daycare Centers
Colleges & Universities

Diabetes Discrimination & Legal Resources

Education Laws - Many states have acceptable diabetes care standards for public schools. If your school is not providing the level of care your child with diabetes requires, start by knowing your own state's laws.

   Phyllis Barrier
Type 2 Diabetes For Beginners:
This book is the “take-you-by-the-hand” guide that will become a trusted friend and adviser for the millions of people who find themselves in the growing ranks of people with diabetes. It can be a lonely and scary place to be, whether one has had diabetes for a day or for 20 years.

From our Tips page:

Save your expired Glucagon kits. You can use them for practice or when training other family members or school staff on how to give life-saving glucagon injections.

Islets of Hope Editorial

The American Federation of Teachers seeks to stop all non-medical personnel from providing diabetes care in school.

Live in Alaska? Need an advocacy group for children with disabilities? Parents, Inc., is a partnership of Alaska families providing support, training, resources, and advocacy in AK.

Children with Diabetes Sues CA School Districts for Denial of Glucose Monitoring and Insulin Administration At Schools

"The complaint alleges that the state and the local districts violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applicable federal regulations in their failure to ensure the health and safety of public school students with diabetes in Kindergarten through 12th Grade by providing insulin administration, blood glucose monitoring, proper care in emergency situations, and other appropriate diabetes care.”

outsmarting diabetes   Richard S. Beaser
Outsmarting Diabetes:
This  aggressive approach to keeping blood sugar readings  at a more constant level is easier to accomplish with the aid of an insulin pump.  If you are up to the (rewarding) challenge of tight control this is a decent book to start with.  

The benefits of tight control are not contested, but sadly, 85% of all those diagnosed with diabetes do not adequately control their diabetes.

Recent Headlines

Unanimous Support Give the Senate Bill 8 - Legislators back a bill that allows school personnel to give glucagon. 02/11/06

Family Sues When After-School Care Refuses To Give Boy Diabetes
 Including giving him a lifesaving glucagon shot in case of an emergency. The McDavid Family says they don't want to fight this battle alone. ... 02/09/06

Bill Would Keep Diabetic Children Safe At School. 02/09/06

diabetes and education public schools and home school                                                         

Education Information and Resources
Right to an Education for Your Child with Diabetes

Taking Diabetes to School    Gosselin/Freidman
Taking Diabetes to School:  
This color illustrated book for elementary age children contains an instructive story of a grade- schooler with diabetes who tells his classmates about the disease and how  he manages it. The story offers sensitive insight into the day-to-day "school life" of a child with a chronic illness.

Your child has a right to an education.

Federal (and many state) laws require that certain accommodations be made for your child with diabetes.  Sadly, there are also many states that limit those rights.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 laws apply to any educational facility receiving federal funds, as well as to private schools and child care centers, but do not apply to schools owned by religious organizations.  

Unfortunately, these laws are often ignored by individual school districts and children with diabetes are either turned away, discouraged from attending, or the care provided is so substandard that the child's safety is compromised.  This type of discrimination is a civil rights issue and you may need legal representation.  

Recently, parents of children with diabetes that were discriminated against in northern California school districts filed a class action suit against the state (see sidebar on the right), and many parents are filing individual law suits in other parts of the country.

diabetic childrens rights at school   Education Laws

Three federal laws provide opportunity and protection to persons with disabilities:

Section 504

Section 504 of the 1978 Rehabilitation Act is a civil rights law that prohibits schools and child care facilities (as well as many other institutions and businesses) the receive federal funds from discriminating against people on the basis of disability, and this does include private schools.

According to Wright's Law:  

    Section 504 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities. Section 504 ensures that the child with a disability has equal access to an education. The child may receive accommodations and modifications.

    Unlike the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 does not require the school to provide an individualized educational program (IEP) that is designed to meet the child's unique needs and provides the child with educational benefit. Fewer procedural safeguards are available for disabled children and their parents under Section 504 than under IDEA.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans With Disabilities Act is also a civil rights law that protects students with disabilities, including those with diabetes.  This law protects students in both public and private school settings --  unless the school is run by a religious entity." Courts have found that children with diabetes are covered by BOTH the ADA and Section 504 laws.

Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The IDEA is the federal law that funds special education services for children with disabilities.  According to Francine Ratner Kaufman, MD, head of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at Children's Hospital in Los Angeles, in order to qualify under the IDEA, "a student's diabetes must impair his or her ability to learn so that the student requires special education." Children with diabetes may suffer cognitive problems when blood glucose levels are either too high or too low. They may benefit from simple accommodations like not having to take tests when glucose levels are abnormal, or being permitted to have a snack during long exams.

While these three federal laws make reasonable provision for children with (disabilities) diabetes individual states may have laws that undermine the effectiveness federal laws.  State laws may restrict who can provide care to a diabetic child, which can make it impossible for a child to attend school safely.  As as example, in California no one but a licensed nurse can administer insulin via an insulin pump yet more than 70% of all California schools do not have a nurse on site.  Parents either provide care for their child by coming to school to give insulin, or rely on the child to do the administration of their own insulin pump boluses.  More than one parent has even resorted to programming an extended bolus throughout the school day in advance, to attempt to cover lunch time; a dangerous, and unfair position to put any working parent or child with diabetes in.

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has made it their goal to see that even more states follow the practice of using only registered nurses for administering diabetes care but offer no remedy for how to employ more nurses in schools.  Some states have adopted better laws for our children (below) and more states may follow soon.  Much of these positive changes are due, in part, to the tremendous effort by organizations like Children With Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association (ADA).  Still, even when laws exist they often are not adhered to and it is left up to individual parents to fight schools and seek enforcement of protection law.

Public schools are required to accept children with diabetes, but they can make the experience so difficult and even dangerous that parents often have little choice but to home school or find other alternatives.  (IOH is concerned about the safety of diabetic children in school and would like to hear about your own negative experiences – as well as positive ones.  We contact schools in non-compliance, and report them by name on our website.)

The American Diabetes Association is working in several states to pass laws to make sure that there are trained school personnel available to provide assistance to students with diabetes and that laws and rules are applied consistently throughout the state.  To help to the ADA see our Donations page.

For more information about Section 504, ADA, and IDEA visit our Legal Section.

Is your school discriminating against your child with diabetes?  

According to Cynthia Halvorsen, RN (June 1999 , Diabetes Health Magazine ) you should make a fuss if your child's school:

1. Limits trips to the bathroom or water fountain.
2. Forces your child to go to the office to treat hypoglycemic reactions.
3. Sends your child home alone because of low blood sugar.
4. Schedules lunch at 10:20 a.m., when school starts at 8 a.m..
5. Forces your child to go to the office to test blood sugars.
6. Insists that gym class has to be immediately before lunch.
7. Insists that hypoglycemia will not negatively impact cognitive function.
8. Denies the child's right to keep a glucose meter in the classroom.
9. Denies permission to carry glucose tablets, labeling them as contraband, either as medicine or as candy.
10. Insists that the only intervention for a diabetic medical emergency allowed is calling 911

More information about education rights for children who are being discriminated against:

Islets of Hope Discrimination Resources
American Diabetes Association (ADA)
Children With Diabetes (CWD)
Diabetes Spectrum
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF)
Kid's Health For Parents

For Medical Professionals:  What to do if you think your patient is being discriminated against.  




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Page Updated 03/05/2006