Ready for a Field Trip?

They seem to be everywhere in Washington, DC this time of year: Groups of students. They shuffle through the museums, spend time in the parks, and flock around national monuments. This can only mean one thing: it’s field trip season! It’s a time for students to explore matters beyond the classroom and hopefully have some fun while they’re out and about. Recently, however, I learned that field trips are often an area of concern and even a source of tension between some schools and families of children with diabetes.

When it comes to diabetes and schools, there is no better expert to talk to than Crystal Jackson, Associate Director, Legal Advocacy. Having fought for the rights of her own child with type 1 diabetes to have her needs met by her school in Virginia, Crystal has led the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School campaign. Today Crystal continues to train volunteer advocates, attorneys and health care professionals across the country to ensure that the legal rights of children with diabetes are protected.


When it comes to school field trips, what happens to students with diabetes?

What should happen is that they should go on the field trip and enjoy themselves, just like their classmates. What should happen is that a school nurse will work with the parents/guardians of the student and the student’s health care team to make sure that the student’s diabetes care requirements are met on the field trip. What should happen is that someone assisting with the field trip and accompanying the students should be trained in the diabetes care requirements of that student.

But that doesn’t always happen. Instead, we often hear of schools telling parents that their child with diabetes cannot attend a school field trip because of his or her diabetes needs – or that a parent or guardian of the child must go on the field trip as well (and if you know kids, you probably know that as they get older, they probably don’t want their parents with them on a field trip!). Parental attendance of field trips should be a choice – not a requirement.

Wait a minute. Isn’t that illegal?

Exactly right. Not allowing a student to attend a field trip based on his or her diabetes is discrimination, and parents/guardians can’t be required to accompany their child on a field trip as a prerequisite for attendance. It is the school’s responsibility to provide safe care for the student with diabetes, even in the school nurse can’t go on the field trip. There are three federal laws that protect the rights of students in public schools and many states have additional laws to ensure schools are providing health care services as individually needed.

What can parents do?

Parents should educate themselves about what state laws and regulations (in addition to federal laws) will help them to advocate for proper care for their child with school administrators and school nurses and trip sponsors. That’s the first step. After that, they should work together to develop and implement the student’s written plans such as the Diabetes Medical Management Plan, Section 504 Plan, or Individualized Education Program (IEP) and make sure the written plan includes a provision that addresses school field trips. The school nurse should work with the principal and parent to identify and train the school staff member who will provide care needed by the student on the field trip – if the school nurse cannot go., Of course, if the parents wants to join the fun, that’s okay too – it just can’t be a requirement and should be clearly set out by the students written plans.

What does training usually include?

A number of major components:  an overview of diabetes and the balance of insulin, physical activity and nutrition (these aspects are especially important on field trips which vary from the daily routine), blood glucose monitoring (when to check, how to check), insulin administration (how much depending on the glucose levels), low blood glucose (the student’s individual symptoms and how to treat them including glucagon administration), high blood glucose (what actions to take if the student has high blood glucose including insulin administration), food consumption (when, what and how much to eat), and access to diabetes supplies (such as fast-acting carbohydrate, a blood glucose meter and test strips, insulin via pump, vial, pens and back-up supplies and – of course – contact information in case of an emergency).

What successes have you in these school field trip situations?

The first thing that comes to mind is a personal example: in the school district where my daughter was enrolled, it was the bus driver who was trained to administer glucagon if she needed it. That might not be a viable plan in every school district, but it did help put my mind at ease a little during school field trips. It also lessened the school district’s responsibility of needing to bring another school staff member along who had been trained in glucagon administration. It was a win-win all the way around!

Given all the work you do with the Safe at School campaign, I know we’ll have you back on the blog again. But since it’s your first time here, I have to ask you this: If you could tell the world one thing about diabetes, what would it be?

While we all are working hard to find a cure, we need to remember  that the maintenance of quality of life and personal happiness are key factors in keeping our loved ones with diabetes healthy until that day.


Thanks to Crystal for sharing this information with us and for her dedicated work to protect the rights of children with diabetes in public schools. To learn more about the Safe at School program, you can visit the American Diabetes Association’s website.

We’re wishing everyone happy and safe field trips!

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10 Responses to Ready for a Field Trip?

  1. Anne says:

    My daughter went on a 2 week exchange trip to Japan as a HS sophomore. The chaperones were her principal and native-speaking Japanese language instructor. We packed a separate cooler bag of backup supplies that one of the chaperones kept with him. No problems from anyone, including her Japanese host family. She had a delightful time!

  2. Myra King says:

    I was just diagnosed this year and I got excepted to an honors chior this year and I really want to go but its a three day thing and I dont know what I should do

  3. Tedi says:

    Hi I am a school nurse and our district is having an issue with this situation. I am totally here for my diabetics and would never deny any child of attending a field trip, but our parents have always worked with us and usually attend field trips. We have one parent now who is insisting that a nurse go with her child on field trip. We do not have a nurse at every school most nurses cover 2-3 schools sometimes 4. If a nurse goes with this child on a field trip then that leaves the school without a nurse and also it leaves other special needs children who need a nurse throughout the day without a nurse.

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Hi Tedi, thank you for sharing! Please call us at 1-800-DIABETES if you would like to talk through the situation with our Legal Advocates and Safe at School experts.

    • Alisa says:

      Tedi,

      I was wondering what you found out about being required to send a nurse. I have a similar situation at my High School.

      Thank you

  4. Suzy says:

    What is a child has an overnight out of town field trip, such as a 4 day trip to Washington D.C. and the school cannot find a trained person to go along? If the school then asks the parent because the school cannot find someone else to provide care, can the parent expect to have his/her expenses paid by the school since it is the school’s responsibility to provide care and is unable to? What if the parent just can’t afford to go and is the only option for care/supervision? What about missed time at work?

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Hi Suzy, it is the school’s responsibility to provide diabetes care on field trips and at any school-sponsored event where the student is a participant (as opposed to a spectator) – whether it be a trained teacher or the school nurse. If you would like help with your child’s issue, please call 1-800-DIABETES and you’ll be put in touch with our Legal Advocates.

  5. Catie says:

    We are dealing with a situation at our private school and I wanted to seek your guidance. We do not have a school nurse. My sons class has their 8th grade retreat Oct. 6-8. They go to a camp in Southern Illinois similar to Camp John Warvel. They hike, canoe, horseback ride, etc.. all day and then sleep in cabins at night. I am going to camp as a chaperon. Because of the risk of a low at night with excessive activity, the camp wants him to sleep in the medical cabin on the other side of the camp with me. My son really doesn’t want to feel isolated from his friends since one of the things they look forward to is staying in cabins. I proposed to the school, I would give him his lantus at 9 pm. He will recheck his BS at 10 pm and they will radio me. If his blood sugar is even questionable, I will bring him to sleep with me in the medical cabin. If his blood sugar is good I will give him a low glycemic snack and he can stay with his friends. Girls are on one side of the lake and boys the opposite.

    This is the schools response to me: I will have to consult a few people. Honestly, it makes me very nervous to consider your request. I have witnessed him panic and “talk himself” into a low blood sugar (especially when he thinks is Aunt (who is a teacher) is not in her room). When he does have a low or high he just leaves my room. I have spoken to him (and your sister) that I really need him to communicate a little more by telling me what is happening or what he needs. Even though I am teaching I am responsible for him and want to make sure he gets what he needs. I also have to consider the students and adults that would be near him, should he need help. That is a huge responsibility.

    Let’s see how he does over the next few weeks. We can meet and discuss then.

    I feel the school most likely doesn’t understand. It is impossible to talk himself into a low blood sugar. He is dropping low and panicking which is a normal response for a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic. Any advice on how to respond or if it is even worth my time would be greatly appreciated.

    • American Diabetes Association says:

      Hello Catie, it is the school’s responsibility to provide diabetes care on field trips and at any school-sponsored event where the student is a participant (as opposed to a spectator) – whether it be a trained teacher or the school nurse. If you would like help with your child’s issue, please call 1-800-DIABETES as soon as you can and you’ll be put in touch with our Legal Advocates.

      This is for public & private schools. The law can be found here: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=3284&ChapterID=17

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