Friday, 10 August 2007

Landmark agreement in California for students with diabetes

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Most school cafeterias and vending programs feed our kids junk, but even worse, students with diabetes are not provided legally required care to manage the disease during school hours. Children with insulin dependent diabetes are heading to school without the assurance of regular blood glucose testing, the administration of insulin or other diabetes care tasks.

In 2005, four California families and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) filed a suit in San Francisco, alleging some California school districts were not providing adequate diabetes care. In some cases, parents were called to give aid before summoning a school nurse. Michelle Ferry was one such parent. When her son was in first grade, this widowed mother of four had to hire a babysitter so she could head to school to give her son an insulin shot. Risky business for her son, let alone expensive for the Ferry family. What if she could not secure a babysitter and her son ran high blood sugars? This is outrageous and unacceptable. This is just one example, many schools across the country are not adequately serving students with diabetes.

The lawsuit has been settled, and per the agreement, the California Department of Education will now require districts to ensure all children with diabetes have access to proper diabetes care during the school day. What took so long? Students with type 1 diabetes have been in public schools for years! Now a volunter school employee can be trained to assist a student with diabetes. San Ramon Valley school district claimed they wanted this ability, but they were following state regulations that care be provided by a health practitioner. State law outlines seven different categories of caregivers -- which includes a self-administering student, a school nurse or other health professional and family/friends. Now the agreement states if a licensed health professional is unavailable, a trained, unlicensed school employee may provide insulin shots per individual physician order. Hallelujah -- may California trigger a domino effect nationwide.

Jack O'Donnell, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, explained a lack of resources, uncertainty of how to best deliver services, and lack of clarity about state and federal requirements combined to cause hardship to some parents of children with diabetes. He said no parent should have to risk their job to care for their child. What his statement truly lacks is concern for the student with diabetes -- O'Donnell misses the point when he disregards the cumulative, tragic complications of poor blood glucose control.

A big legal team contributed to this win. Hats off to the ADA, attorneys with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund and the generous law firm of Reed Smith LLP (donor of $2.6 million in pro bono legal services). Here is the announcement of this landmark agreement and a story from Inside Bay Area.

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