More Rights for Students with Diabetes

Published on in Children's Doctor

Kailey’s life changed when she developed diabetes last year at age 12, but she adjusted well to her condition and did an excellent job with her diabetes care. The biggest shock came when Kailey was forced to move to a new school because her old one had lost its school nurse due to budget cuts. She also had to give up playing field hockey, because a nurse was not available for after-school activities.

But, thanks to a statewide advocacy effort, which included staff from the Diabetes Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Kailey is back in her old school and is captain of the field hockey team. A new Pennsylvania state law signed by Gov. Tom Wolf last summer allows students with diabetes to participate in their diabetes care and attend school-sponsored activities without requiring a school nurse to be present.

The law has two major components that facilitate the care of students with diabetes. The first “allows a school employee who is not a school nurse or licensed healthcare provider to receive training to assist students with diabetes.” The second component “permits a student to self-monitor their diabetes care and allows possession and utilization of diabetic medication and monitoring equipment if the student’s healthcare practitioner, parents and school nurse acknowledge the student’s competency.”

This new legislation paves the way for competent students with diabetes and nonmedical school staff to provide routine diabetes care — much the way it is done outside of school. By establishing a requirement for staff to be adequately trained and partnering with the child’s medical team, this law provides for greater flexibility while safely meeting the child’s medical needs. As a result, students with diabetes will be able to go on school field trips and participate in school sports and other extracurricular activities without the limitation of having a school nurse available.

As diabetes care providers, we encourage developmentally appropriate diabetes self-management by children to promote integration of diabetes care into their daily routine. This law establishes the opportunity for this to expand to students’ time in school, which constitutes more than half of their waking weekday hours. Empowering students and staff in this way will reduce the number of situations where children with diabetes feel “different” and will allow students with diabetes to remain in the classroom rather than going to the nurse’s office for routine diabetes care.