For many children, a diagnosis of diabetes does not lead to problems at school. But issues can arise including concerns about field trips, participation in sports or who is qualified to handle a low-blood-sugar emergency.
Fortunately, a civil rights law (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) prohibits discrimination based on disability and protects your child’s right to a fair, equal education.
In addition, Ohio House Bill 264, signed in June, states that students with diabetes in Ohio schools should:
- Receive diabetes care in accordance with a doctor’s orders
- Be allowed to manage their own care if their doctor deems it appropriate
- Be supported by staff (including school employees, nurses and bus drivers) trained to help with diabetes care
- Be allowed to attend the school they would otherwise attend if they did not have diabetes
- Have support from school boards to ensure access to diabetes care, as outlined by their physicians
- Be able to keep close tabs on blood glucose and ketone levels, administer insulin and other medications as needed, and control the timing of meals, snacks and physical activity
- Be able to have medications given by a school nurse, designated employee, or on the written request of parents and authorization of doctors, by the students themselves – in addition to being allowed to possess all necessary supplies and equipment to perform diabetes care tasks
- Have access to a private area for performing diabetes care tasks, if requested by the student or a parent, guardian or other caregiver.
The new state law also:
- Requires state officials to adopt nationally recognized guidelines for training school employees in the care of students with diabetes
- Requires schools to provide information on 504 eligibility
- Grants immunity from civil liability to school employees, boards of education and other school authorities for activities authorized by the bill
By setting up a 504 plan, you can ensure your child’s diabetes is managed appropriately and that he receives the same education as other students. The plan applies to all public and private schools receiving federal funds.
Even if everything at school seems fine, a 504 plan is recommended to safeguard against unexpected situations, such as a new principal or budget cuts affecting staffing.
To set up a plan:
- Establish eligibility. To determine if your child qualifies, a 504 team (which may include a 504 coordinator, principal or vice principal, guidance counselor, school nurse, school social worker and teachers) will meet to discuss the circumstances.
- Draw up the plan. While the school may have its own template, you should know what provisions you want to include. To view a sample, visit the American Diabetes Association’s site at diabetes.org/504plan.
Plans vary depending on individual needs. However, all should include:
- Availability of trained diabetes personnel during school hours, on field trips and school-sponsored extracurricular activities
- Presence of other trained staff, such as teachers and coaches, who have a basic understanding of diabetes and what to do if your child needs help
- A detailed outline of the diabetes care your child needs
- A communications plan to outline how you will be informed about diabetes care occurring at school
- A summary of your child’s self-care abilities and right to carry supplies as well as self-manage their diabetes
- The right to consume snacks when needed
- The right to participate in gym, sports and extracurricular activities
- The right to a fair education, including the ability to take tests only when blood sugar levels are normal, to take breaks when needed and so forth
Be sure to have these provisions and additional communications in writing. If your child’s needs change, you may update the 504 plan. Even if there aren’t changes, you should update the plan annually and have it re-signed.
If your child’s school is uncooperative, you may contact the ADA’s legal advocacy staff and national network of attorneys and volunteers at 1-800-342-2383.
Diabetes law aims to create a safer school environment