Court Overturns California Department of Education Advisory that Trained Non-medical Personnel Can Administer Insulin to Children with Diabetes

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     In August of 2007 the American Diabetes Association (ADA) and the California Department of Education (CDE) entered into an agreement that ensured that students with diabetes had access to insulin in school by allowing trained non-medical personnel to administer insulin. The agreement was made to settle a lawsuit alleging that students with diabetes in California were not receiving adequate health services due to a shortage of school nurses and schools not allowing trained non-medical staff to provide those services. As a result of the agreement, the CDE issued a Legal Advisory on the Rights of Students with Diabetes in California"s K-12 Public Schools. The American Nurses Association and several other nursing associations sued arguing that under California state law only a nurse can administer insulin. Last Friday, November 15, a superior court judge agreed and ruled that in California only licensed nurses can administer insulin.
     This court decision is not about whether students with diabetes are entitled to have insulin administered at school, if needed. Under Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with diabetes, as persons with disabilities, are entitled to those services to ensure they have equal access to educational services (please see my post Opening the School Door to Section 504 ). This court decision is about who, under California law, can administer the insulin. For now, the California courts have said California law requires that only licensed nurses can administer insulin. But federal and California state law still require that educationally needed diabetes care services, including insulin, must be provided to students.
     Unfortunately, in California, there are nearly 14,000 school children with diabetes and only 2,800 school nurses spread across 9,800 California schools. So, limiting administering insulin to only licensed nurses will make it difficult to meet the needs of students with diabetes. But, legally, those needs must still be met. Thus, the American Diabetes Association issued a press release stating that this decision was not in the best interests of children with diabetes and it will continue to work until children with diabetes in California and throughout our country are safe at school.