Taking Diabetes to School

Know your childs rights for a safe and healthy school year.

By Nicole Johnson, MA, MPH

I love school! Maybe that is why I am still working on my second Master’s degree. Seriously, I have always found comfort and security in the routine of the school year.

But not everyone finds similar comfort. For the parents of the more than 151,000 kids with diabetes, school can be a beast that seems untamable.

So let’s tame the beast. The first step: Be well-informed. Without information, we are like an army without weapons. There are plenty of tools and weapons available, from Rufus the Teddy Bear and his book on taking diabetes to school, to free information from the National Diabetes Education Program, the ADA (American Diabetes Association) and JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation). A great school-related publication is Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel. All of these resources not only guide school staff members, they offer hope to nervous students and their parents.

Even with all the information available to families, there are still many misunderstandings about students with diabetes and their rights. The bottom line is all staff with responsibility for the child with diabetes should be trained to have a basic understanding of diabetes, including the student’s needs and how to identify an emergency. A small group of school personnel should be trained by a health care professional to treat and manage any diabetes emergency, including basic medical procedures such as glucose testing and insulin delivery.

We must remember that parents of children with diabetes are within their rights to require proper treatment in the school setting or while under school care. If you live in a state that does not have statutory requirements for treatment of children with diabetes at school (which is most of us), you can require a 504 plan under the Americans with Disabilities Act (a 504 plan does not mean the child will be in special education classes). This plan requires the child with diabetes to be cared for in a specific way that is agreed upon by the parents, doctors, and the school. This is sometimes difficult to get, but it is possible and can be worth it.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 says in order to qualify, a child must have a record of medical need. Because of this, schools can lose federal funding if they do not attend to the child appropriately. A school cannot refuse to allow a child with diabetes the same opportunities as other children nor penalize the child because of diabetes.

Regarding standardized tests, high school students with diabetes can get special accommodations during standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT. These typically include "stop the clock" breaks for glucose testing, bathroom visits, or glucose treatments.

Remember, the parents and the school should together prepare a plan that outlines how the student’s needs will be met, including emergency strategies. These plans should be revised annually as the student with diabetes grows and matures.

Not long ago there was a case involving a girl in Florida who went through an insulin pump nightmare at school. An administrator confronted her and demanded that she remove her cell phone from her hip. The young woman tried to explain that it wasn’t a cell phone but the administrator became irate and grabbed the “cell phone.” The action ripped the pump infusion set right out of her skin. The young girl was violated, her health jeopardized, and her rights ignored.

This story is horrifying and all too common. The problem is a simple lack of adequate information and education. We must do what we can to protect the rights and privileges of people living with medical challenges. Diabetes can be taken to school – it is your right to require consideration for the condition.

For more information visit: http://www.childrenwithdiabetes.com/. The site will walk you through the school process, as well as provide sample 504 plans for your reference.

Nicole sig

Each month, Nicole shares her life and experiences as a person with diabetes and gives the dLife community information they too can use to live a healthy life.

Read Nicole's bio here.

Read more of Nicole Johnson's columns.

NOTE: The information is not intended to be a replacement or substitute for consultation with a qualified medical professional or for professional medical advice related to diabetes or another medical condition. Please contact your physician or medical professional with any questions and concerns about your medical condition.

Last Modified Date: November 28, 2012

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

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