Schools, Seek Help For Diabetic Students
Eric Louie, Contra Costa Times, October 12, 2005
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parents, another from Fremont and the American Diabetes
Association filed a lawsuit Tuesday to require California public
schools to assist in insulin injections and provide other help
for diabetic students.
The suit, filed at the U.S. District Court Northern District of
California in San Francisco, claims the public schools those
students attend will not provide such help, and thus deny the
children an education to which they are entitled. It names the
San Ramon Valley and Fremont school districts, the state
Department of Education and the superintendents and governing
boards of those agencies as defendants.
"This is a systemwide academic problem," said James Wood, lead
attorney with Oakland law firm Reed Smith. The firm is
representing the plaintiffs, as is Berkeley's Disability Rights
Education and Defense Fund, on a pro-bono basis.
The suit says one fifth grader at Rancho Romero Elementary, who
is also bipolar and has dyslexia, was diagnosed with diabetes in
2002 and began using a pump to administer her insulin in 2003.
Because of her dyslexia and blurred vision when her glucose
level is high, she needs someone to make sure she checks her
glucose when needed and takes the right action to give herself
insulin. The suit says the district refused to make sure she
checks her blood glucose when she should and rejected her
parents' request for someone to supervise when she uses her
The suit also mentions a kindergartner at Greenbrook Elementary
who needs insulin injections. A school district nurse, who
serves five schools, suggested she be the third option for
helping with those injections, called only after the young
student's mom and the parent of the third student in the suit.
The nurse, according to the suit, said no one else at Greenbrook
could be assigned to that responsibility.
As for the third student involved, the suit claims Greenbrook
staff agreed to test glucose levels, monitor snacks and work her
insulin pump but have not provided for that in a written plan or
made adequate assurances that student will get insulin or
State education department officials had not seen the suit by
Tuesday afternoon and had no comment, said Pam Slater, a
Though Wood said a school staff member who does not have a
medical background could assist with the proper training, just
as parents with diabetic children do, Koehne said it is San
Ramon district policy that is only nurses can administer
"It's a liability issue, mainly," he said. The district, which
has 30 schools, has 4.3 full-time equivalent nurse positions,
down from six three years ago.
Genevieve Getman-Sowa, associate development director of the
Diabetic Youth Foundation in Concord -- which is not part of the
suit -- said getting school staff to assist diabetic students
has been a problem. She said the cost of training school staff
members and having those people available for the students is a
key issue; another is the potential liability of the procedure.
"Some districts think if they say 'no' to everyone, the
liability will be off their hands," she said.
Reed said the growing number of school-age youngsters with
diabetes means the issue needs to be addressed.
"The irony is there's an epidemic of children with diabetes," he
said. "They really can't bury their heads in the sand anymore."
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