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September 8, 2002

School and Daycare

Question from Greeley, Colorado, USA:

My daughter was diagnosed about five months ago, and her school has been wonderful about everything to do with her care except field trips. Her father, my mother or I have been required to go on every field trip with her. All fifth graders are now required to go on an overnight field trip, and the school will not allow her to go without one of us going and paying our own expenses, along with hers.

If we had a 504 Plan on file, would that require the school to provide someone on the overnight field trip to give my daughter her insulin? The school nurse requested a paid nurse go, but the school district refused. I don’t feel this is fair to my daughter to be singled out just because of her diabetes.


From: DTeam Staff

I am not an expert on your legal rights, but it seems to me that if all fifth graders are required to go on this trip, the school should be required to make sure your daughter can safely attend, and a family member shouldn’t have to go (unless you feel this would help your daughter). Unless you feel your presence is medically necessary, it would be good for your daughter to be able to go away on her own.

If other parents are coming as chaperones, you will have a harder time saying you don’t want to be a chaperone. If no other parents are coming as chaperones, then you shouldn’t be required to. If other chaperones aren’t paying, you shouldn’t either. If other parents are coming as chaperones and your daughter won’t be singled out as the only child with a parent there, it might just be easier for one of you to go along if that is possible even if “legally” you don’t have to (but I agree, you shouldn’t have to pay extra).

Additional comments from David S. Holtzman, Esq.:

The key to this question is the compulsory nature of the school field trip. If there is a 504 plan on file regarding your child’s insulin requirements, the school would likely be required to provide someone on the field trip to administer insulin to your daughter.

Additional comments from Dr. David Schwartz:

This type of issue repeatedly comes up, and the problems that schools give is too problematic. We need a way to really push schools to help and not hinder. Contact the American Diabetes Association and have them advocate on behalf of the child by having an attorney write a letter on letterhead discussing the issues, including discrimination, etc.

Additional comments from Dr. Stuart Brink:Go to the school, request an education plan because of her medical needs. This is mandated by federal law and, you are correct, the school must provide any and all assistance to keep your child with the other children in reasonable and safe fashion. The ADA has an excellent school problems website where you can get copies or the pertinent laws. If need be, you can force this issue but the first step should be to start a dialogue.

You may need a lawyer to fight this battle but go armed with the correct data first. The legal advocacy group of the ADA can help with legal advice as well.

Some parents merely insist that they, as parents, go along as chaperone so this solves the problems. If you do not have the luxury of being able or want to do this, then the school must legally provide for your child even though your child has diabetes. Federal law trumps State and local laws all the time but depending upon the school system, they may or may not agree and you may have to fight for your child’s rights.


[Editor’s comment: I contacted Crystal Jackson at the ADA who deals with these issues, and the following was her response:
Schools cannot require parents to go on field trips. They must provide coverage — that is, a school nurse or other trained adult that will be able to perform and supervise diabetes care tasks. Otherwise, your child is being denied equal access and being discriminated against under 504. OCR settled a similar case in Indiana just over a year ago and made a determination that a school cannot require a parent to go on a field trip. It’s a parent’s choice.