Before Kari Christiansen retained a lawyer and threatened to sue the primary school her diabetic son attends, Carter Christiansen, a second-grader, could not bring his medical supplies to school and once fell unconscious in the school hallway. In another school district, 17-year-old Jennifer Schwartz had her insulin pump snatched away – when the needle and tubing were still inserted in her body – by an unwitting teacher who thought the beeping device was a cell phone.
In a Chicago Tribune article, Carolyn Starks reports the difficulties that many diabetic schoolchildren face in managing their disease in schools. Parents are fighting for accommodations and policy changes to help young children with diabetes, which affects one in every 500 people under age 20, according to the article.
In many school districts, glucometers and other supplies that diabetic children need to use several times throughout the day are banned from school zones, or, in cases where they are allowed in schools, have to be locked away in nurses' cabinets. The needles in these devices, which are the smallest needles in the world – are thought to be dangerous.
To help diabetic students manage the disease at school, physicians and lawyers have joined force with parents to make these children’s need known. Dr. Patrick Zeller, endocrinologist, and Ed Kraus, associate professor at Chicago-Kent School of Law, are among such advocates for diabetic children.
Parents should feel comfortable about communicating to teachers and other school workers about their children’s needs. Dr. Zeller said that schools “want to do a good job” and that they are willing to help the students when they are educated about the disease. Jean Sophie, the new superintendent in Carter Christiansen’s school district, was eager to accommodate the Christiansens’ requests because she personally knows children who are diabetic. Teachers will likely be willing to make special arrangements, if notified by parents of diabetic students, such as allowing the kids to bring snacks into classroom in case of low blood sugar.