(ARA) - School is supposed to be a safe haven for children - a healthy place where they can learn and grow. Unfortunately, that's not always the case for the nearly 200,000 American children with diabetes who may place their health at risk when they board the school bus each day.
Diabetes is a disease that must be managed 24/7, 365 days a year. At home, these children have parents, baby sitters and others to assist them. Similarly, there needs to be someone available to help during the many hours students spend at school and school-sponsored activities. For some students, that means having trained school personnel to help with the insulin they need to survive; for all students, it means someone who knows how to help in an emergency. And although diabetes experts agree that school personnel can be easily trained to help a child with diabetes in need, there are many examples where students are left on their own and often aren't welcome at school because of their diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association's Safe at School Campaign has worked for years to make sure all children with diabetes have the care they need at school and the same educational opportunities as their classmates. Keeping a child with diabetes safe at school requires a collaborative effort among parents, doctors and other diabetes health care professionals, school nurses, teachers and administrators. Accordingly, the Association has developed the resources needed by parents and all members of the school care team. Through the Association's Safe at School Campaign, thousands of families and schools have worked together to develop plans for safe care at school. In many states, statewide policies were developed specific to diabetes care at school. Recent legislative successes include state laws in Florida and Illinois that prohibit segregation based on diabetes, allow students who are able to do so to self-manage their disease, and ensure school personnel are permitted to provide the care that students with diabetes need to succeed.
"It is vital to ensure that all children with diabetes have the same educational opportunities as their peers," says Linda Siminerio, RN, PhD, CDE, co-chair of the Safe at School Working Group. "The American Diabetes Association's Safe at School Campaign trains parents, health care professionals and school personnel to make sure children with diabetes have the care they need, and are not being discriminated against or placed in life-threatening situations."
But in other states, widespread problems remain. In California, for example, there is only one school nurse for every 2,200 students and a record of students not getting the insulin they need at school. Some students became ill and others were placed at increased risk of long-term complications such as blindness, heart disease, kidney failure and amputation. Some parents lost their jobs because of the need to leave the workplace to attend to their children. In a lawsuit currently pending before the state supreme court, the Association is arguing that under both state and federal law, school employees should be allowed to volunteer to be trained to help a child with diabetes in need. Supporting the Association is a broad array of agencies and organizations including the United States Departments of Justice and Education, the California Department of Education, diabetes medical experts, school boards, and civil rights organizations.
"The American Diabetes Association is fighting every day, in California and across the country, to Stop Diabetes and make sure that children with diabetes are never abandoned at school," says John W. Griffin, Jr., chair of the board, American Diabetes Association. "Diabetes experts from parents to doctors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree the solution is to train non-medical personnel to safely administer diabetes medications in school when a nurse is not available, just as family and friends of children with diabetes are trained every day."
Although the Safe at School Campaign has made significant progress, there is still much work to be done. To learn about the Safe at School Campaign, go to www.diabetes.org/sas or call (800)-DIABETES. To join the fight to stop diabetes in your community, go to http://www.stopdiabetes.com/.