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[IP] Diabetic Discrimination

And while we're on the topic of how our own kids can make themselves feel 
"different", how's this story about others' outrageous actions, sent to me by 
cyber advocate CamelsRFun! Granted this is the antithesis of most of these 
stories where the parents are DEMANDING a school nurse, but if these parents 
were comfortable without one, then this administrative action is unacceptable!

Transfer order irks parents of diabetic

              Thursday, October 5, 2000

              By LISA STIFFLER

              Other children went off to their first day of kindergarten
              with a backpack and lunch box. But when Fiona Galarreta
              and Taneejah Smith started school last month, they brought
              a small device that would prick their finger and test their
              blood-sugar level. 

              Before they'd worn the points off their crayons, the
              kindergartners -- both of whom have insulin-dependent
              diabetes -- and their parents were told by the Seattle Public
              Schools that they would have to enroll elsewhere in the

              Based on conferences with the parents, nurses and
              administrators, the district determined that "the safest and
              most appropriate placement was in . . . a school with a
              full-time nurse," said Brenda Little, deputy general counsel
              for the district.

              The girls' parents have sued the district to keep their
              daughters in Thurgood Marshall and Sanislo elementaries,
              which lack full-time nurses, arguing that nurses aren't
              needed for their children to control their diabetes.

              The district is allowing the girls to remain where they are
              until a hearing scheduled Oct. 19 in U.S. District Court. The
              judge is expected to make a temporary decision about their
              school placement until the case is settled in court. A trial
              date has not been set.

              The problems faced by diabetic children in school led to
              the creation of a state task force more than two years ago. A
              final report should be released to educators in the next
              couple of months. 

              Based on the statistical prevalence of diabetes, there are
              about 60 children of all ages in Seattle Public Schools with
              the condition, the district said. Most were either old enough
              to treat themselves or were in schools with a full-time

              Five diabetic elementary-school children were evaluated to
              determine what school they needed to attend. Four,
              including Fiona and Taneejah, were told to move to schools
              other than the ones their parents had chosen.

              "I'm shocked, just completely shocked," said Abby Wolk,
              Fiona's mother. "Nobody told me because my daughter has
              diabetes she's going to be completely discriminated

              Tony Shapiro, the attorney for the families, said there is
              protection for the children in state and federal
              anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with
              Disabilities Act and the Federal Rehabilitation Act. 

              The parents of both children said they informed the district
              during enrollment that their girls had diabetes. They say
              they were told that it would not limit their school choice. 

              An apparent lack of communication between enrollment and
              nursing allowed the students to enroll in schools without a
              full-time nurse. 

              Nine of the Seattle district's 69 schools serving
              elementary-grade children have full-time nurses. Most
              middle and high schools in the district also have full-time

              While Fiona, 6, and Taneejah, 5, can use a glucometer --
              drawing a drop of blood smaller than a lady bug and getting
              a digital measurement of their glucose level -- they need
              help reading the number and knowing whether to eat
              crackers and juice or skip chocolate milk with lunch. 

              Thomas Smith, Taneejah's dad, said that if her glucose
              level is between 0 and 79, she needs sugar; if it's over 200,
              she should have water. Between 80 and 199, she's OK. 

              "It's not really a complicated situation, but (the district is)
              making it out to be," Smith said.

              Before lunch at Thurgood Marshall, Taneejah tests her
              blood. Her teacher writes down the number on a piece of
              paper and pins it to the girl's shirt, where it is read by one
              of the cafeteria workers who has diabetes and knows what
              the little girl should eat, according to Smith. 

              The district said it will allow a child to use a glucometer
              and for a non-nurse to verify the numbers, but not more.

              "Once those numbers appear, then a layperson cannot take
              those numbers and recommend or assist a child in getting
              juice or cookies," Little, the schools' lawyer, said.

              However, Little said that this was not the final word on the
              matter. The district is concerned about risk and liability and
              is trying to determine what can be reasonably delegated to a
              layperson, she said. 

              When determining how to respond to a blood-sugar
              reading, "there are standards," said Clair Sagiv, the
              American Diabetes Association's area executive director
              for Washington. "It's not interpretive."

              One of the members of the state task force studying the
              diabetes issue, who asked not to be named, said that the
              intent of the group's forthcoming report was not to have
              children transferred between schools. 

              "The question is, do they move every kid with a special
              need?" he said. 

              "Kids with diabetes have enough things that make them
              different from other kids."

              P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042
              or email @ redacted
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