The Diabetes Bully

Managing diabetes in school can mean battling bullies.

Karen Hargrave discusses diabetes at schoolBy Karen Hargrave-Nykaza

Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!

February 2009 — If there is one thing I can't stand it is a bully. And if there is anything worse than a plain old bully, it is a diabetes bully.

My son's former school nurse was a diabetes bully. She uses the uncertainty that dominates the time when your child is first diagnosed to manipulate you with her misinformation about how you NEED to manage diabetes in school. She is a control freak who thinks the best way to handle diabetes in school is to deprive the person with diabetes of all sugar and keep them in a bubble so that nothing can happen to them. She wasn't concerned at all with what these actions would do to my son's social development to treat him differently from all his peers by insisting that he couldn't have the snacks that the rest of the class was having. And she certainly wasn't concerned with what it was doing to my life to have her call me up to five times a day with every little insignificant thing she felt she needed to report back to me.

She was against anyone at school but her doing anything for Joel, whether it was medical or otherwise. She felt I had to go on every field trip, objected when we wanted Joel to test his blood in the classroom instead of in her office and she pitched an absolute fit at my suggestion that someone in addition to herself be trained to use glucagon in my son's school.

The changes we made within my son's school and district regarding students with diabetes and school have been significant. Whether you would be a proponent of those changes or not, there is no debate on this: the only reason those changes were made was because of our insistence on how we felt things had to be done not only to keep our son safe, but also to keep him "normal" among his peers socially. Any diabetes caregiver would consider the steps that we have taken for our son to be positive. The height of this nurse's bullying has been that all of the progress that we made for students with diabetes while our son was in that school has since been undone for the remaining and future students because this nurse is among the minority of those who don't see the changes we put in place as progress.

This should not be her decision to make. It saddens us to see that those parents who maybe don't have as much fight, time, knowledge, or energy in them as we did will not be able to benefit from the time we spent making these important changes. The changes we made in our school system were meant to help more than just our son. We helped to implement them so the next family wouldn't have to fight for what their child needed the way we did. We worked to make those changes so the next newly-diagnosed family would find an environment of cooperation, not control and manipulation; where the goal was the good of the child, not what made the school nurse's job easier or enabled her to feel needed.

So what can you do when someone is trying to undo all the good you have done? There is only one way to combat a bully and that is to stand up to them. Maybe the mistake our former nurse has made is in thinking that I am unable to still have an effect on her now that my son has moved on to another school. Maybe I need to take my role as diabetes advocate even more seriously than usual for awhile by talking to the superintendent of our school district. The only way to stop a bully, any bully, is to confront them.

Read more of Karen Hargrave's columns here.

dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.


Last Modified Date: June 26, 2013

All content on is created and reviewed in compliance with our editorial policy.

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