Is Diabetes a Disability for School?
Diabetes, usually Type 1 Diabetes as diagnosed in school-aged children, is considered a disability under the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. The state law detailing school districts’ obligations to students with diabetes can be found at N.J.S.A. 18A:40-12.12 through 12.19, and requires that schools develop both an individualized health care plan and an individualized emergency health care plan for these students, among other legal obligations that our education attorneys can help you navigate.
An individualized health care plan is a document developed by the school nurse, in consultation with the parent of a student with diabetes and that student’s medical providers, usually an endocrinologist, and any other provider of diabetes care to the student. It should be consistent with the recommendations of those medical providers and detail the health services needed by the student to attend school. An individualized emergency health care plan is also a document developed by the school nurse, in consultation with the parent and medical professionals, that provides specific directions about what to do in emergency situations to ensure that the student with diabetes will remain safe, have access to snacks, water, and medication, and will continue to have their medical situation monitored during the emergency.
The process of obtaining these health care plans can be overwhelming, and our New Jersey education lawyers can help parents through the steps. Parents will provide written authorization for the school to administer diabetes care according to the health care plans. The individualized health care plan must include several points of information to ensure the student can attend school safely, including the symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia for that particular student and the recommended treatments, frequency of blood glucose testing, dosage and indications for insulin and glucagon administration, timing and amounts of meals and snacks, participation levels for exercise and sports, and considerations for school trips, after-school activities, class parties, and other school-related activities. It must also outline the diabetes education provided to all school personnel who may come in contact with the student, medical and treatment issues that may affect the educational process of the student, and a plan for school-home communication.
The school nurse leads the health care of diabetic students in New Jersey schools, coordinating care and staff training. The school nurse also has the primary responsibility for the administration of glucagon, but school districts are obligated to seek out employee volunteers who are willing to become trained specifically in glucagon administration in the event the school nurse is not present to administer the medication when needed.
Designated areas of New Jersey school buildings must also post reference sheets in plain view in relevant areas of the building, identifying signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia in students with diabetes.
If a student with diabetes rides a school bus, school districts must notify bus drivers of the student’s diabetes and ensure they know how to treat hypoglycemia, who to contact in an emergency, and that they have parent contact information.
Often, students with individual health care plans also require 504 Plans that detail accommodations in school that will allow them to access their education, like flexible attendance policies, access to snacks and water throughout the day, and the ability to use the restroom or visit the school nurse without missing instruction. Our New Jersey education attorneys often see situations where school staff are uncomfortable monitoring blood glucose or counting grams of carbohydrates, especially in young students with diabetes. An experienced education lawyer can help you enforce the school’s obligations to your child. Administering medication, monitoring worn or implanted medical devices, and ensuring a particular diet is followed are all related services that New Jersey schools are required to provide to students with disabilities when needed to access their education.
If your child has diabetes or another chronic medical condition, and you need help ensuring they have access to their education and can attend school safely, reach out to our education attorneys for a consultation.