Laws Protecting People with Diabetes


What Laws Protect PWD?

The rights of children with diabetes to care for their diabetes at school is based on the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA). These laws provide protection against discrimination for children with disabilities, including diabetes, in any program or activity receiving federal financial assistance. This includes all public schools and day care centers and those private schools and centers that receive federal funds.

legal rights with diabetes

There seems to be a lot of confusion regarding the differences between a 504 and Individualized Education Plan (IEP). To put it simply, a 504 plan is plan designed to deal with medical issues, such as diabetes, while an IEP is a plan designed to deal with educational challenges or special needs that need not be related to a medical treatment plan. A 504 would contain instructions, for example, for blood glucose monitoring, while an IEP would include instructions for additional reading education, should it be needed. Children with diabetes use a 504 plan for accommodations related to diabetes and need not have an IEP unless they have special academic needs.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
According to this law, parents of qualifying children have the right to develop a Section 504 plan with their child’s school. To qualify for protection under Section 504, a child must have a record of such impairment, or be regarded as having such impairment. Schools can lose federal funding if they do not comply with this law. Parents can use these laws to ensure that, while at school, their children with diabetes can fully participate in all school activities, while at the same time caring for their medical needs. This means that the school cannot: refuse to allow a child with a 504 to be on the honor roll, deny credit to a student whose absenteeism is related to diabetes, refuse to administer medication (a school cannot require parents to waive liability as a condition of giving medicine), and determine sports/extracurricular participation without regard to the student’s diabetes. Any school that receives Federal funding must comply with IDEA and Section 504 laws. A child need not require special education to be protected.

The Americans with Disabilities Act
This law prohibits all schools and day care centers, except those run by religious organizations, from discriminating against children with disabilities, including diabetes. Protection under is this law is the same as that for Section 504.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
IDEA mandates the federal government to provides funding to education agencies, state and local, to provide free and appropriate education to qualifying students with disabilities. This includes children who have diabetes. As with the other two laws, you must show that diabetes can, at times, adversely affect educational performance. The school is then required to develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) to accommodate your child’s needs.

State Regulations
Some states have enacted additional legislation to protect children with disabilities. Contact your state legislature for further information.

What Do These Laws Mean?

Any educational facility, school or daycare center, which receives federal funding cannot discriminate in the admission, educational process, or treatment of a student who has diabetes. Provided that the presence of diabetes has been disclosed and verified, and that the student/parents have requested reasonable accommodations, the educational facility is required by law to make the approved modifications which allow the child with diabetes to fully participate and benefit from all school activities and programs.

The student/parents are not required to assume responsibility for the provision of needed accommodations. However, the school can refuse to grant a request for an accommodation that is not specifically documented. School personnel do not have the right to confidential medical information. They need only to know what needs to be done to guarantee equal opportunity for the student. Any individual member of school staff who fails to comply with the approved medical and education plan can be held personally liable.


Need Help Creating a 504 Plan?

We have details on developing your own 504 plan, including sample plans and links to relevant resources. 

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The CWD Back to School resources are made possible through the generous support of Lilly Diabetes.