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June 15, 2001

School and Daycare

Question from Hopewell Junction, New York, USA:

My eight year old son, who has had type 1 diabetes for about a year and a half, is in the third grade, and I requested a 504 meeting with public elementary school public elementary school personnel. I specifically asked that a nurse be available all day and a substitute to be called in if nurse is absent and some kind of assistance if my son feels low. School personnel told me that they are not required by law to have a nurse available or a sub and that I would have to come into school to administer insulin if my son is running high before lunch. They also told me that if an emergency arises they would have to call an ambulance; or call another nurse from another school which would take more 15 minutes. Why should my son go through that trauma if he needs insulin or feels low? He will certainly be stressed out about this, and his numbers will then in turn be affected. They don't seem like they are worried and not taking my son's diabetes under consideration. I have read all of your answers to other's and the 504 laws, but doesn't it state somewhere in black and white that public schools are required to have a nurse on school premises for my son since he falls under the disability act? They really did not give me an accommodation plan only that they will inform me of the nurse's absence, or even if there is a nurse available and that "I" would have to be available for my son and his needs. My son does not need an aide in the classroom, but does require a sense of comfort that he can go to someone if he feels low, such as the nurse. I am a devoted mom, and always make myself available for my son if he needs me at school, but I need to move forward with my life and not be responsible for the school's irresponsibility and aid in their problem of not finding nurses or even having a nurse at school. My husband and I are very upset and may want to call our lawyer. Also, can we refuse their so-called accommodation plan and request another 504 meeting in September?


See The Law, Schools, and Your Child with Diabetes.

It appears to me that your request is not for a reasonable accommodation. The law does require that the school does provide someone to assist with your son’s diabetes, but that person does not need to be a nurse. You need to make sure that other school personnel are sufficiently trained (by you, you son’s diabetes team or the school nurse) to help when a nurse is not available.

Also see Diabetes at School which contains a great deal of information for training school personnel. It is most important that alternate individuals be knowledgeable about recognition and treatment of hypoglycemia since is really the only emergency that requires immediate treatment. These days, many schools are treating the lows right in the classroom to avoid the need to go to nurse running a risk of the blood sugar going even lower and losing precious classroom time. In addition, does your request mean that your son cannot go on a field trip unless the your or the nurse goes with him? (Something to consider when reviewing your request!)

You are being a good mom and extremely conscientious about assuring your son’s safety in the school setting. I wish more parents would take this proactive approach. However, think about what your son really needs. You can ask for assistance from your local chapter of the American Diabetes Association or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, and your son’s diabetes team, in formulating an effective plan for school.