Unfortunately, sometimes there are misunderstandings and disagreements about school diabetes care. When this happens, it is important to remind yourself that resolving the problem isn't about whether you win or lose. It is about working together with school staff and health care professionals so that your child is safe and is in a good position to fully participate and to be successful. You should take a deep breath and carefully consider these strategies:
The first step is to educate yourself about your child's rights. You can find more information on legal rights here. Your next step is to educate the people who are stopping your student from getting the right care and treatment. The root of the problem is usually ignorance and fear about diabetes and the law. Parents often find that when they educate school decision-makers about diabetes and their student's rights, the problem is resolved completely, quickly, and at no cost.
Here are some tips:
- Explain to school administrators and staff what diabetes is and what it means for your child. Some school employees may have never met a child with type 1 diabetes. It is important for them to learn how type 1 diabetes is different from the type 2 diabetes that their older relatives might have.
- Work with the school nurse and school administrators to provide training and information.
- Explore our website for information on diabetes in general, diabetes training, and the legal rights of students with diabetes.
If education isn't enough, you may need to negotiate. You should assume that everyone means well and wants the best for your child. You should work to come to a consensus with the school. But this does not mean compromising your student's safety or ability to fully participate in school.
Here are some tips:
- Set a tone of respect. Even if you feel that school staff are not treating you well, you can show by example that the best way to resolve the situation is to approach everyone with respect.
- Listen to the concerns of school staff, and clearly communicate your concerns.
- If you are nervous about how the meeting will go, bring a list of talking points or other notes to make sure you say what you want to say.
Where you disagree, ask school staff why they hold their position. You might discover that their position is based on bad information. In this case, you can provide more education and resolve the issue.
Create a written record of your meetings and negotiations. For example, if no written minutes are provided for the meeting, you can always write up your notes from the meeting and email it to meeting participants. This can confirm your understanding of the meeting outcomes.
You have the right to make an administrative complaint or file a lawsuit. Both options can be effective ways to defend rights when the law is being violated. These options should only be considered after education and negotiation have failed. Seeking protection in the administrative agencies or the courts may be necessary in some cases. Doing this can get your child the education and medical care that he or has a right to. If you are thinking about filing a complaint or lawsuit, consider contacting the American Diabetes Association's Legal Advocates for more information. Lawyers should see our extensive materials for attorneys.
An in-between step between negotiation and filing a lawsuit is making an administrative complaint. Administrative complaints can be made free of charge to government agencies, including the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, the Department of Justice, or to local education agencies. The procedures vary depending on whether the claim is under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or state law.
In a small number of cases, filing a lawsuit in federal or state court may be the best course of action, especially when the law is clearly and willfully being violated. When deciding to bring a lawsuit, you should consider the following:
- The likelihood of negative effects of a court dispute on existing relationships. When a lawsuit is filed, chances of a friendly resolution become much lower.
- It is often very time-consuming. It can take many years, which may not make sense when there is a very limited time frame to make a difference for the child in a given school.
- The outcome of a court case is always uncertain. A loss could set an unwanted precedent in a local school district, state, or even the entire country. This may not only hurt the individual child, but other children too.
Sometimes "bad law" is the main reason for continuing discrimination. Some of the most common barriers to fair treatment are state-determined professional practice laws and regulations related to the practice of nursing. Some states have laws that prohibit the administration of insulin, glucagon, or both by anyone except for a licensed health care professional. In some states the laws may not explicitly prohibit this, but are unclear and interpreted as prohibiting this.
To address these roadblocks, the Association leads state efforts to make sure students with diabetes are medically safe at school and treated fairly. So far, either school legislation or regulatory change has occurred in over 35 states, enabling students with diabetes to have improved access to needed care. Help increase this number by becoming a Diabetes Advocate!