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Special Report: Diabetes Discrimination

Increasing numbers of kids with diabetes are affecting daycare centers and schools, both of which are having a hard time dealing with the growing number of students who may need special care.
Diabetes rates in children are skyrocketing, with experts predicting a 23-percent increase by 2050 in type one diabetes, the kind typically diagnosed in children.

These increasing numbers are affecting daycare centers and schools, both of which are having a hard time dealing with the growing number of students who may need special care.

When jarred Kuper was diagnosed with diabetes at eight years old, his mom sat day after day, all day, at his school so that she could monitor his blood sugar levels herself.

“It's a minute to minute disease,” Laura Kuper says. “So the wind could blow and their blood sugar changes. It’s, it's a constant worry.”

Three years later, she counts on the school nurse for help.

Diabetes care is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Schools have to comply and it means they’re required to provide for services for children with disabilities and if a daycare receives federal funding they have to comply with those same rules,” explains Linda Siminerio with the American Diabetes Association.

School Nurse Debby Morris says, “When we have a student that has diabetes we have to meet with the families and the staff, and talk about accommodations for school, what we need to do to make you know the student safe. “

But a growing number of parents complain they are facing discrimination.

“Some daycares don't accept kids with diabetes,” Kuper says.

Experts say there is a lot of confusion about who is responsible for what.

“Families still face some challenges in getting some resistance at the daycare and school level,” Siminerio says.

Facing challenges like who will monitor insulin levels? Who will give the shots? That’s not spelled out in the federal law. State law isn’t always clear, either.

The ADA says some parents end up sitting at the school all day.

“There’s parents that work and shouldn't have to worry and don't have that luxury,” Kuper says.

So what can parents do?

There are currently complaints filed with the justice department over care for children with diabetes. Attorneys say unfair treatment is taking place everywhere from daycare centers to summer camps.

The American Diabetes Association believes it’s stressful enough having a child with this disease. Fighting the system only escalates that stress.

“What we need to do is be able to think of ways to be able to support services to help those children have access to things that children who don’t have diabetes have access to in the school setting and the daycare,” says Siminerio.

Kuper has worked out a system with her school so that the school nurse monitors Jared’s condition.

She, and other parents like her, say they just want their children to have access to the same opportunities other children have.

“They shouldn’t be denied, um, you know, being taken care of just because they have a disease.”

State law varies on who may administer insulin. In Arkansas, the law states:
  • School staff members such as teachers, coaches, or principals may be trained to administer glucagon to students in case of an emergency.
  • Capable students are permitted to self-manage their diabetes and self-administer medication under the supervision of a school nurse.
Meantime, there’s a database that you can check to see what your school’s policy is or input what’s happening in your school if you have that information so it can be shared with others: http://www.childrenwithdiabetes.com/schools/

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