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February 5, 2004

School and Daycare

Question from Norfolk, Virginia, U.S.A.:

My three and a half year old daughter was just recently diagnosed with having Type 1 Diabetes. For the last three weeks, our family has been trying to make the necessary adjustments to our lives/schedules. We discussed our daughter's medical condition/medical plan with her preschool providers and even took an additional week off from work to educate staff about her needs, how to test her blood sugar and how to administer insulin. One morning, when I dropped her off before going to work, I was advised that my daughter can no longer attend the preschool for her condition is seen as dangerous. I was advised that family would have to administer her insulin and, even if we were able to do that, they are still uncertain as to the safety of the children. My husband and myself are not in positions to leave work throughout the day to do this. She has a morning snack, lunch and an afternoon snack, each of which requires insulin. As a result of the preschool's decision (my missing more work), I ended up losing my job. My husband and I are frantically trying to locate a facility that has the capabilities to accommodate a diabetic toddler. My husband is in the Navy. At the time of our daughters diagnosis, we were advised that she is now considered a special needs child. However, this afternoon, when we were trying to secure her a position in a special needs center, we were further advised that they did not administer insulin either. I feel as if my daughter is being discriminated against and punished for her condition by the system itself. She truly enjoys school and deserves to go - not to be treated as she has thus far. It was extremely difficult for me to explain to her the reason behind why she could not go to school today. It appears that it may be awhile before she can go back to school. Is this something that we are going to be faced with indefinitely? Are there any laws that protect smaller children? Everything that I have read concentrates mostly on school age children attending elementary school. Are we going to have to wait until she is four years old before these laws apply to her? Is there anything additional that we can do? This is all such a new experience and it is incredibly frustrating to find such biases. Any information that you could provide would be greatly appreciated, especially regarding laws/regulations for toddlers in a preschool setting. I am most interested in finding out if it is illegal for the school to refuse to assist her with her insulin shots, forcing us to make repetitive trips back and forth to the school, further more, causing us to lose our jobs.

Answer:

Assuming this pre-school is not operated by a religious entity, your child is protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Please call 1-800-DIABETES to discuss your specific situation and I suggest reviewing school discrimination information at www.diabetes.org. You will also find the Kindercare/DOJ settlement agreement which requires daycare facilities to perform blood glucose management. Insulin administration at schools and daycare settings is becoming the norm and we are hearing about problems all over the country just as you have described. FYI, legislation may be introduced soon in California to address insulin administration by daycare facilities and pre-schools. Highly recommend that you call ADA at 1-800-DIABETES to discuss your situation, your rights, and the next steps.

CJ