Arizona, North Carolina Lift Diabetic Driver Ban
WASHINGTON (AP) - Under agreements with the Justice Department, Arizona and North Carolina will no longer fire or refuse to hire school bus drivers simply because they have diabetes. The department's civil rights division reached out-of-court agreements with the two states Tuesday. They resolved complaints filed with Justice that school districts in both Arizona and North Carolina were forced by state officials to fire diabetic school bus drivers who had had no accidents while driving. Both states had laws that barred people with diabetes who use insulin from operating a school bus. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that can cause excess blood sugar and other health problems; it can be controlled with injections of insulin.
The Arizona Department of Transportation and the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles enforced these laws without regard to whether a person's condition actually prevented him or her from safely driving a bus. The Justice Department said this was contrary to the requirements of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. ``These agreements will fix policies based on a stereotype that people who have diabetes and use insulin must be unsafe drivers,'' said acting Assistant Attorney General Bill Lann Lee. ``That just is not true.''Both states agreed to stop automatically barring bus drivers on the basis of diabetes.
North Carolina will enact new regulations; Arizona already has. The states will evaluate diabetics who use insulin individually to see whether the disorder can be controlled and monitored. Those allowed to drive school buses will be subject to continued safety monitoring. Two people fired even though they had driven local school buses safely for years without any health-related incidents were compensated by the states. The Arizona Department of Transportation agreed to pay $10,000 to Betty Hunt of Yuma, and she was reinstated as a bus driver for Yuma's Elementary School District No. 1, where she had worked for more than 13 years. North Carolina's Division of Motor Vehicles agreed to pay $9,000 to Joseph F. Callahan of Terrell, N.C. He did not seek reinstatement with the Catawba County School District for which he had worked for 4 1/2 years.
By Michael J. Sniffen
Copyright 1998, The Associated Press
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