Keeping Your Child Safe At School

Safe at schoolby Jill Weissberg-Benchell, Ph.D., CDE

To help keep your child safe at school and to secure your own peace of mind, be aware of the laws that exist to protect your child. If you know what to expect from the school staff, you can make sure everyone is operating on the same page.

There are three federal laws that address the school's responsibilities to help students with diabetes:

•    Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
•    Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
•    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504)

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone who has a physical or mental disability in a variety of areas, including while your child is attending either public or some private schools. 

To be protected by the ADA, one must have a disability. A person with a disability is defined by the ADA as someone who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; a person who has a history or record of such an impairment; or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment. Diabetes is one of these conditions.

The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) requires public schools to be sure that all eligible children with disabilities have a free and appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs. IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) for each child. The specific special education and related services outlined in each IEP reflect the individualized needs of each student.

IDEA also requires that specific procedures be followed in the development of the IEP. Each student's IEP must be developed by a team of people who know your child. It has to be reviewed once per year. The team usually includes the child's teacher, the school nurse, someone from the school administration, and sometimes the child is also included.

The IEP often includes a specific educational program designed to meet the unique needs of a child. Information about a child's current school functioning, annual goals, special education or related services, accommodations, participation in standardized testing, and ways to measure progress is often included in an IEP.

If parents disagree with the proposed IEP, they can request a due process hearing and a review from the State educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the State agency's decision to State or Federal court.

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies; in programs receiving Federal financial assistance; in Federal employment; and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. Section 504 of the rehabilitation act states that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service. For children with diabetes, a 504 plan is a document that makes sure that your child will be treated fairly at school. Some examples of things children with diabetes may need in their 504 plan include: being able to check blood sugars before a test, being able to treat a low in the classroom, and being able to go the bathroom when needed.

IEP's and 504 plans are different. A 504 plan modifies a student's regular education program in a regular classroom setting. Often children with IEP's receive different educational services that include special educational settings. Students with IEP's are entitled to additional protections and services offered by 504 plans.
The safe at schools section of the American Diabetes Association website ( has terrific examples of 504 plans for children with diabetes. Similarly, there are great examples of 504 plans on the website:

For information, contact:
U.S. Department of Justice?Civil Rights Division?950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.?Disability Rights Section - NYAV?Washington, D.C. 20530

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services?U.S. Department of Education?400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.?Washington, D.C. 20202-7100

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Last Modified Date: July 22, 2014

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by Brenda Bell
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