For some parents, this is a highly anticipated and exciting annual ritual, but for parents of children with diabetes this can trigger a large headache. Not only do you have to scramble for school supplies and plan for packing healthy lunches, but you might also face concerns that your child may not have access to proper diabetes care while they are at school. What if they’re excluded from activities and field trips, or have to take an exam when their blood glucose is dropping?
The American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School campaign aims to get rid of fears like these and protect these children. The Association works with schools, families and health care providers to ensure all children with diabetes are medically safe at school and have the same educational opportunities as their classmates. This includes training a small group of school staff on how to handle diabetes care, such as insulin and glucagon administration, and to also make sure staff understand the impact diabetes can have on a child’s health and ability to learn. Safe at School also works hard to ensure that children capable of managing their diabetes can do so in the classroom or anywhere in the school setting.
The campaign provides many resources to help keep children safe all year long and overcome any obstacles that might stand in the way. These tools include free advocacy materials and expert guidance provided by lawyers and professional advocates, plus workshops for parents and training modules that teach school staff about diabetes. The Association also fights for policy change and new state laws to make sure these kids can always count on teachers, coaches and other school staff to help them with needed care.
Recently, the Safe at School campaign played an active role in legislative and regulatory victories in Alaska, Connecticut, Georgia and Louisiana, which have established laws and policies to make sure students with diabetes get the care they need. We hope these victories will continue so every child in the country can go to school with the confidence that proper care and fair treatment will be provided.
Melissa Rohrer and her son, Landon, are a great example of Safe at School’s efforts. As an eighth grader in Springfield, Ohio, Landon’s entire class was going on a field trip to Washington, D.C. Parents were told that a nurse would be attending, but Melissa later discovered this was not true. In response to a letter she sent to the school superintendent detailing her concerns, she was told no one was trained to handle diabetes care on the trip, and she could be offered a partial refund. Melissa contacted the Association and received assistance and access to resources that resulted in the superintendent agreeing to provide diabetes care training for staff. In the end, Landon was able to attend his school trip.
Latesha Taylor, a mother of a nine-year-old with type 1 diabetes, has not been quite as fortunate in her head-to-head battle with the D.C. Public Schools. The school administration has stood firm in the belief that it is not their responsibility to care for a child’s diabetes and that only a nurse can check blood glucose or give insulin or glucagon. When the school nurse is absent, Latesha is required to either pick up her daughter, Loretta, or go to the school herself to provide her diabetes care. The school even threatened to call 911 if Loretta was left unattended and needed insulin or emergency glucagon. Forgoing her own work to care for her daughter has resulted in several lost jobs for Latesha and a number of school absences for Loretta.
The American Diabetes Association has filed a discrimination claim with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights on behalf of the Taylors against the D.C. public and charter schools. Advocates continue to fight for Loretta and many other children with diabetes in similar circumstances. Learn more about her story in this recent article from Diabetes Forecast magazine.
Planning for optimal diabetes management for your child at school is a team effort. It requires parents/guardians, the student, health care providers, the school nurse and other school staff to work together to implement the child’s diabetes care plan – commonly referred to as the Diabetes Medical Management Plan. Parents can offer expertise about their child’s needs, and school staff can offer more information about school resources and limitations, as well as state or district practices and regulations.
So, you may have questions or are curious to learn more about your child’s legal rights and how to best prepare to send your child back to school. The Association is here to help with a free Back to School Parent Advocacy Webinar on Aug. 14 at 8 p.m. ET where parents will learn more about Safe at School, strategies to resolve common school diabetes care problems, federal and state law protections, available resources and how to get involved. You’ll get to hear from two veteran parents who’ve been there—not only on behalf of their own children, but also on behalf of other parents to help them keep their children safe at school. Space is limited, so sign up now!
To learn more about Safe at School and how you can help keep your child with diabetes medically safe, visit http://diabetes.org/safeatschool.
For help with school issues, please call us at 1-800-DIABETES. And click here for ways you can pledge to protect children with diabetes.