Diabetes Now & Then: Students With Diabetes Have Rights
In our last Discuss Diabetes post, I shared part one of Crystal Jackson’s story where she discussed how diabetes rights for students have been strengthened in recent years. It was certainly eye-opening to learn just how far students’ legal rights have come, just in the past decade.
Crystal leads the American Diabetes Association’s Safe At School anti-discrimination program. She says that currently 28 states have legislation or regulatory reform for the protection of students with diabetes. Because of the Association’s devotion of resources to its Safe at School initiative, many students with diabetes are able to be educated in a safe and supportive school environment.
“When I started out in 1998 to find out what my daughter was entitled to, there was little information out there,” Crystal said. “The Association has led the way. Parents, health care professionals, educators, and policy makers look to us for guidance and expertise to ensure kids receive the proper care. We now have a hotline parents can call staffed by several very knowledgeable and committed legal advocates. We also have a wealth of information and tools available. We’re making people aware.”
Since Crystal joined the Association, its government affairs and advocacy staff – which encompass federal and state advocacy, anti-discrimination advocacy, grassroots building, and strategic policy – has grown from four employees to nearly 30. She said now the Association has a wealth of tools for parents to educate themselves and then educate school officials and teachers.
“Parents need to know that they can contact the Association and we can educate them and provide assistance with an individual problem. It’s important they know they do have rights and their children are entitled to the same level of care at school that they receive at home,” Crystal said.
Crystal pointed out a few helpful resources from the Association, including:
- Call 1-800-DIABETES for assistance with an individual school diabetes care challenge
While many students may never experience challenges with their diabetes care at school, Crystal said the Association is there for those students and parents who do. She said the Association’s approach is to “educate, negotiate, litigate, legislate.” Ideally, Crystal said, the Association works with parents to educate them on what their rights are and to support them with information they need to inform and negotiate with school officials.
“We always encourage folks to get things in writing. We want to have the understanding if the school has an objection to requested care or particular accommodations, we want to understand why,” Crystal said. “That helps us help parents understand what their concerns are so we can better strategize to address concerns and solve the problem at hand.”
Crystal mentioned one of the issues school officials often worry about is students checking their blood sugar levels in the classroom.
“They worry about blood-born pathogen transmission. I talk to school nurses and say ‘what do you do when a student has a nosebleed in a classroom or when someone falls on the playground and skins their knee? Comparatively, it’s a minute amount of blood that is required to check blood sugar levels,’” Crystal said.
She went on to say, “it often just takes some education about the disease and the rights for students with diabetes to solve many of the issues. Even with many states not having legislation about diabetes the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 provides protections for people with diabetes which was clarified when the Act was amended a couple years ago.”
“The Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, makes it clear that endocrine function is a major life activity and that mitigating measures cannot be taken into account when determining whether or not a student is eligible for services under federal laws,” Crystal said. “That makes it easier to receive accommodations from schools and employers. In addition, a school cannot make the argument that if a child’s blood sugar is being controlled by taking insulin, they no longer have a disability and no longer have protection. So that’s one area where we come in to provide assistance.”
In my opinion, it’s very reassuring to know there are people like Crystal, on staff at the Association, advocating for the rights of students with diabetes so that they can be safe at school and optimize their participation in school activities. It’s amazing to learn how much progress the Association has made, in Crystal’s 12 years there, in advancing diabetes education in schools and in helping to effectuate local and state policy and legislative changes to protect children with diabetes.
I thank Crystal, immensely, for sharing her story with us.
All the best,
Disclosure: Crystal received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.