Children with diabetes do not get a break from managing their health during school hours. Unfortunately, for some children this means that they are excluded from certain opportunities and activities. On occasion, this exclusion may actually be discriminatory and thus, unlawful.
Every state has its own specific guidelines regarding the administration of diabetes treatment for children while at school or school sponsored activities. While some states only permit the school nurse or other licensed healthcare professionals to administer insulin and glucogan, other states allow designated individuals with proper training to perform the same duties.
Diabetes Treatment in Schools
It’s important to note—even in the states that do not allow unlicensed healthcare professionals to administer these treatments, federal law may override state law when a school nurse is unavailable. This is to protect the child’s health, but also to provide an inclusive environment; if only licensed professionals can provide the treatment and no licensed professionals are on staff, this could lead to the forced exclusion of a child with diabetes.
According to John H. Hickey of Hickey Law Firm, P.A. in Miami, in the case of a medical emergency, there is no doubt that the school has a duty to act reasonably by administering basic first aid and calling emergency responders if appropriate. If the child is injured due to lack of supervision, “the school can be liable for the damages,” said Hickey. “Public schools in Florida have sovereign immunity and are liable only up to $200,000 per incident. The Florida legislature has made Charter Schools protected by sovereign immunity as well even though they clearly are not the government or the sovereign.”
Do School Nurses Have to Undergo Any Training for Diabetes?
As the third most common chronic health problem in the United States, diabetes impacts school children in every state across the nation. In fact, about one out of every 433 children suffers from diabetes. As the most appropriate school professional to manage the health needs of these students, the school nurse should be the diabetic student’s primary care provider while at school. As such, school nurses should remain competent and knowledgeable in the administration of such care.
All that being said, school nurses are not required by federal law to undergo diabetes training, and some schools do not even have a school nurse on staff. This is why it is so important for schools to have at least one person on staff who is trained in diabetes management, even if that person is not a nurse, and even if state law does not require it.
Do the Schools Have to Carry an Insulin Supply or Do You Have to Provide It as a Parent?
Although schools are required to make accommodations for students with disabilities, they are not required to carry insulin and other diabetes-related supplies. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), schools are required to provide health services to these students, but not medical services. Since the administration of insulin falls under the category of medical services, schools are not required to carry it.
Can a School Prevent a Student From Attending Because of Diabetes?
Any student with disabilities must be provided with an equal opportunity to participate in school and school-related activities. In fact, the ADA prohibits institutions that receive federal funding from engaging in disability-based discrimination. As such, students absolutely cannot be prevented from attending public school because of diabetes.
Schools should train staff to administer diabetes care during school hours, and should allow students to self-manage their diabetes if they are able. However, what schools should do and what they are required to do by law doesn’t always match up. Requirements vary from state to state, and an attorney experienced in discrimination and injury law can help you determine how to proceed if your child is being excluded from school activities due to diabetes or any other disability.
Federal Law vs. State Law
If your state’s laws on diabetic rights for school students are ambiguous or do not serve you well, federal laws may provide added protections.
According to the Office for Civil Rights, when school staff can be trained in diabetes care, a licensed school nurse is not required. “Neither the ADA nor the Section 504 regulation requires that the District employ or assign a full-time nurse or aide to diabetic students, as long as the District maintains a sufficient number of trained staff persons to provide the related aids and services to students with diabetes.”
Contact an Experienced Attorney Today
If your child is being discriminated against because of diabetes or another disability, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney experienced in school discrimination. Similarly, if your diabetic child was injured at school because of improperly trained staff, you have rights. Contact a personal injury lawyer today.