Federal laws protect the rights of children with disabilities – such as diabetes. Students with diabetes have the right to enroll and participate in school, just like their classmates. This means they have the right to receive the diabetes care they need to be safe and have the same educational opportunities as students without diabetes have. There are several important federal laws that provide protections.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) provides important protections for students with diabetes attending public school or private and religious schools that receive federal financial assistance. That is, it applies to the vast majority of students. Section 504 prohibits schools from treating children with disabilities—like diabetes—unfairly. It gives children with disabilities the right to the care they need to be safe and fully participate. Students do not need to have any problems with learning in order to be protected by Section 504. Covered schools are required to provide reasonable services and modifications that should be documented in a Section 504 Plan.
The best way to protect your child under this law is to put in place a Section 504 Plan. We encourage you to use our sample 504 Plans.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, including diabetes. It has provisions very similar to Section 504. It applies to public and private schools, preschools, child care centers, and camps except those run by religious institutions.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
Under the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act (IDEA), the federal government gives money to state and local education agencies to provide special education services to some children with certain disabilities. In order to get services, the student's disability must harm his or her ability to learn. Some children with diabetes qualify for special education services under IDEA, especially if they have another disability, such as autism, or another learning disability. Some children may qualify on the basis of diabetes alone. Students who qualify will have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that sets out what the school is going to do to meet the child's individual needs.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to give their employees up to 12 weeks of leave without pay due to a health condition each year. It can be used to take care of children with diabetes. For example, a parent/guardian might use it if his/her child is hospitalized, or for doctor's appointments. It should not generally be used to provide care to their children at school because this is the school's responsibility. Many employees do not qualify for protections under this law. See more information on the FMLA on our employment page, including links to sample medical documentation.