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March 4, 2002

School and Daycare

Question from West Virginia, USA:

My 15 year old daughter, who has had diabetes since age five, just started attending high school in the past Fall. She has been going to her doctor every two weeks because her blood sugars are out of control, and her high school is giving her a hard time over being absent so much. There is times when she does not feel good and does not go to school. What are my daughter’s rights with regard to being absent?


From: DTeam Staff

I would not be focusing on the school policy but on why her blood sugars are fluctuating so much. The high school experience may be stressing her for various reasons and causing this, so I would bring a therapist into the picture soon.

Additional comments from Dr. Jim Lane:

I have empathy for your position. I have been there with patients, their family, and the school. What I feel works best is to have a meeting with the school to lay out the care plan. If your daughter’s physician can help by calling, writing, or sending a letter outlining the care plan, that would help. That step usually goes a long way toward helping everyone understand what is expected from all parties. It also holds people responsible for doing what is required, including your daughter. I know it is difficult, but with the right help, she should be able to participate fully in her high school experience. If that still doesn’t help, and meetings with school administrators don’t get you anywhere, you may have to consider legal help. Hopefully, it won’t go that far.

Additional comments from Dr. Matthew Brown:

Your child needs to be in school despite high blood sugars. Allowing a child to be absent routinely because of high blood sugars can allow the child to manipulate the blood sugars to achieve desired goals. This is an ominous situation for an adolescent, and in my experience, will lead to problems.

I would encourage you to continue to work on aggressively changing her situation to achieve the blood sugars you are desiring, but don’t allow the child to miss school routinely because of diabetes. Of course, an occasional absence is tolerated because of illness or other problems, but routinely missing because of diabetes must be avoided.