{Guest Post} Let Them Take Insulin

by Leighann on June 5, 2013

School may be winding down for most of us, but that doesn’t mean that diabetes in school isn’t on the mind of d-parents in California.

Illinois recently passed the Care of Students with Diabetes Act, which basically says that students can carry diabetes supplies everywhere, can test and treat anywhere, that non-medical “care aides” can help take care of diabetic children in the school setting, and that children with diabetes cannot be asked to change schools to one with a nurse on staff.

As the bill was going through Illinois government, I remember thinking supporting it was a catch-22. Of course the best case scenario is that there is a full-time nurse in every school who is present every minute of every day. But that’s just not reality. So we need to have a contingency plan on the books to make sure our kids are safe at school and that there are staff who are trained in their care.

This past week arguments were given in California Supreme Court about whether or not non-nurses can give care to kids with diabetes in school. As it stands, only nurses can provide care. There are not full-time nurses in every school and this creates major problems for parents, particularly of younger children.

D-Mom Christina, of the blog Stick With It Sugar, was kind enough to share her thoughts on diabetes care in California schools.

Let Them Take Insulin

Originally Written by Christina of Stick With It Sugar

It’s a good thing only kids who have one or more parents with medical licenses get diabetes.

Wait – what?

News flash – most kids diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes do not have parents in the medical profession. Yet somehow we (parents of children diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes) learn (very quickly I might add) to keep our kids alive and thriving.

More breaking news – friends of both the child diagnosed and friends of the parents often learn quickly how to manage diabetes. Us Rents (parents of cwd) have a knack for talking often about diabetes care with nearly anyone willing to listen and many of our kids do to.

HOWEVER – here in CA, some (mainly nurses unions backed by teachers unions) would like us, schools, state officials, and courts to believe that diabetes is so complicated and life threatening that only licensed medical professionals should be allowed to administer or assist in the administering of – insulin in school. (Of course they recognize that diabetes is a self-managed chronic decease so it is acceptable for a 5-year-old to self-manage if he/she is so inclined or the unlicensed parent of the child is welcome to avoid having a job so that they can attend school with their child to manage diabetes)

A tidbit of history regarding diabetes care in schools in CA:

Back in 2007 a case against the CA dept of Education was settled to allow non-licensed staff in schools to administer insulin and aid students in managing diabetes. BUT HOLD THE PHONE – the nurses union (supported by the teachers unions) brought a counter suit to block the new policy that would allow non-medical staff to assist in diabetes management at school.

What did this mean for children with diabetes in school in CA?

It meant that if no nurse was on campus they wouldn’t get insulin regardless of the dangers of sustained high blood sugars. It meant if a cwd ate lunch and needed insulin with no nurse on campus that the child did not get their insulin until a nurse arrived – sometimes hours after the child ate.

Of course if the child could self-administer – problem solved. I mean why shouldn’t a 5-year-old be encouraged to count carbohydrates, calculate insulin needs based on a sliding scale, fill a syringe with insulin and inject themselves. I mean its only math and it isn’t like insulin could kill them. Ok actually YES insulin can easily kill a person. The same medicine that keeps my kids alive can kill them in less time than an episode of SpongeBob.

Or the alternative – a parent could come to school everyday to administer the insulin for their child. I mean it isn’t as if there are ever single parent homes or homes where both parents have jobs or anything. Clearly those of us that want our kids cared for while attending school are just a bunch of whiney crybabies who don’t want to interrupt our lazy days of Oprah and Bonbons to go to the school to keep our kids alive.

Why do the nurses unions fight against allowing non-medical school staff to assist in managing diabetes?

I want to start by saying there are nurses here in CA that do support non-medical staff assisting – those that recognize that the state can’t possibly fund a full-time nurse in every school. Those nurses recognize that the kids need to come first. I thank those nurses.

As for the unions – you’re jerk-faces. I get that you want job security but don’t wrap that up with words of concern for my kids. If you cared about my kids you wouldn’t fight against allowing others to help manage diabetes. The damage caused by sustained high blood sugars is far worse than the time and energy needed to train the school receptionist, my sons teacher or the music teacher to count carbs, calculate insulin and fill a syringe. Most kids can do this on their own by the time they are 9 – some much earlier (with supervision).

Yesterday (ok – I started this post on Thursday so when I say yesterday I mean Wednesday May 29th) The California Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides (those for allowing non-medical staff to assist in the dosing of insulin supported by the American Diabetes Association and those against it – the CA nurses union).

I’ve read rumors that suggest the Supreme Court is leaning toward the ADA and against the unions. I hope this is the case. The court has 90 days to render the decision.

Look I would love to see a licensed nurse in every school. But reality says that will not happen – not here in CA and not in other states either. California is broke – the schools are broke. There just isn’t any money – despite the fact that some of the richest companies and people live in this state.

Quick interjection – some may suggest that districts cluster students with diabetes in specified schools that would have a nurse full-time. I want it understood that this would be discrimination. Clustering students is illegal. While I would prefer a nurse be on staff at the school my child attended – I would not be willing to send my child to a school further away from my home to make that happen. First – students are diagnosed throughout a school year – not always before beginning school. So lets ponder the idea of clustering for a moment.

Lets say a child is diagnosed in the middle of 3rd grade. They had been attending their school since kindergarten and have a huge support system of friends established. They know the school staff, they know the school schedule, and the staff know the child. Those that suggest clustering are also suggesting that the student, newly diagnosed with a life-long chronic illness that requires constant shots and finger pricks, be removed from their support system and friends to attend a new school with no friends and no familiarity. Would the additional stress of changing schools help the child adjust better to the new diagnosis – no. It would likely cause additional stress, anger, fear and sadness.

Most of you are in the know and will follow the case but for those not in the know I will post an update within 90 days of the supreme court decision. Let’s hope the decision is in the best interest of our children.

Further Reading

Stick With It Sugar: Let Them Take Insulin

Illinois’ Care of Students with Diabetes Act (Take the time to read it. Many of the requirements it establishes should be addressed by every state and performed by every school district, in my opinion.)

More posts about diabetes at school

More posts about 504 plans

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kelly June 5, 2013 at 11:43 am

I live in Colorado and was unaware this was happening in California. I am simply blown away. We do not have a nurse in our school and most others don’t either but we have a person designated to work in the health room over lunch time hours who is trained to care for students with special needs. The office staff is also trained. I knew we were lucky but had no idea schools were refusing to give insulin to diabetic students. How can a school where a child is required to go not have the means in place to safely care for special needs students? Does the 504 plan not cover California? How can they get away with this? I am sad to hear that parents and children with diabetes are going through this, as if diabetes isn’t challenging enough.


2 christina June 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Thanks Leighann for sharing my post. I love what Illinois has done to protect and provide for students with diabetes. It is a catch-22 for sure. I sometimes would find myself wondering if once our law is passed if it will mean schools will simply stop trying to hire nurses to save money period. It won’t matter as long as staff at the schools are willing and able to provide assistance but I do worry that some schools (like my sons right now) will not have any staff willing or that I would be willing to sign off on. We shall see – sadly it seems the number of young children diagnosed each year continues to increase so the need for qualified staff assisting will also increase.
Its a real treat to be included on your blog – thank you again.
Best wishes always.


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