Illinois Care of Students with Diabetes Act

SarahBlennerBy Sarah Blenner, JD, MPH

One out of every 400-600 school aged children has type-1 diabetes.  Diabetes is a condition where individuals either cannot naturally produce or cannot properly use insulin.  While the medical complications and threats of low blood sugar levels are often more immediate and apparent then complications and threats of high blood sugar levels, both conditions must be treated immediately to ensure the overall safety and well being of a child with diabetes.  Keeping blood glucose levels as close to normal now will help a child live a longer, healthier life.  Since children spend a large amount of time in school, it is important for these children to control blood glucose levels during school hours.

Healthy People 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National health objectives, sets a goal to increase the number of schools with a school nurse to student ratio of 1:750.   Healthy People 2010 and the National Association of School Nurses (NASN) also recognize that there are certain situations where more nurses are needed for a smaller student population, such as in situations where many of the students have healthcare needs that must be addressed during the school day. 

In March, the NASN ranked the progress of States in meeting this goal using 2009 and 2008 data.  According to NASN, only 13 states met this standard – Vermont leads other states with a school nurse to student ratio of 1:311.  

But while health professionals believe that the safest and healthiest way for students to attend school is with a school nurse to student ratio of at the most 1:750, Illinois has an astounding ratio of 1:2,023.   Ranked 40th by NASN, Illinois does not come close to meeting the appropriate mark.  Many Illinois schools do not have a school nurse.  Some schools share a single nurse for an entire district.  And there are even disparities between schools and school districts.  With the state budget crisis in Illinois, schools likely do not have the funds to invest in additional nurses to meet the recommended ratio.     

The solution?  Passing a state law called the Care of Students with Diabetes Act that would allow children with diabetes to attend school safely by training volunteer school employees on how to help a specific child with diabetes should the child need assistance.  On March 26, 2010, the Care of Students with Diabetes Act passed out of the Illinois House by 104 votes in favor of and 1 vote against the bill.   The bill unanimously passed out of the Senate Public Health committee on March 3 and will be brought before the Senate Executive committee on April 21.

Most medical organizations that deal with diabetes, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services believe that children and non-nurses can safely care for their diabetes in school if they receive proper training.  But some nursing groups argue that only nurses should deal with diabetes in school.

Limiting diabetes care in school to nurses is not a possibility.  The ratio of school nurses to students cannot accommodate all children with diabetes who attend school in Illinois.  If passed, the Care of Students with Diabetes Act would allow volunteer school employees to stand in for the nurse in the event that a nurse is not immediately available and will ensure the safety of students with diabetes during the school day. 

8 thoughts on “Illinois Care of Students with Diabetes Act

  1. When I taught in California, 40 years ago, my elementary schools had school nurses for at least half of the school day.
    In my next state, the disparity started happening in the last 30 years; when my child was young, in an elementary school of 500, the school nurse changed from being full time to about 3 days a week (shared with a much smaller school.
    The last part of elementary school (different district)(no nurse available) and all through middle school (back to original district), the number of nurses and amount of attendance continued going downhill.
    When the already busy staff was left to try to deal with these problems arising, success was spotty and often not acceptable. As the classroom teacher, first line of defense who knew the student and parents “best”, I do not think that it’s possible to deal with emergencies.
    This plan only works if there is regular blood-test monitoring, so nothing slips by. When are we supposed to do that? On “break” (when we may not even get to go to the bathroom, because “other” duties” are assigned to us)?
    I think all these poor decisions have come back to haunt America. I grieved when I saw Physical Education fall from the program and leave properly trained teachers out of a job and classroom teachers to “take care of it”, in the schools with a few classroom hours’ time here and there. Then, it was school nurses, then the Arts (which not only build creativity and humanity, but research shows they help organize disarrayed minds and inculcate better math skills).
    The money is always “spent”, in fact, to the point of being nationally in massive debt, so why is it that these vital priorities are left unattended?
    The children may or may not be served well by this Illinois band-aid. As a parent, I would rather a professional care for my child. And, as the numbers of diabetic children have reached epidemic proportions, school nurses need to return to the elementary schools, for sure, and Health class need to return to the curriculum in all schools.

    All the best — Em

  2. Juvenile diabetes is growing and to reduce the problems associated with it education these youngsters must be given priority along with school officials.

  3. I agree, as a Type 1 Diabetic myself it can see the benefits of this act… children and young adults with the condition need to be protected, a teacher needs to understand how a high or low glucose level can effect the health and responsiveness of the child, it can only be a positive thing, thanks for the article it was interesting. Ross

  4. Very interesting and informative too. Getting the word out there will help to understand diabetes. Hopefully this helps people and knowing the symptoms of diabetes is important to good health.

  5. Having read this I thought it was rather informative. I appreciate you spending some time and energy to put this informative article together.
    I once again find myself spending a lot of time both reading and commenting.
    But so what, it was still worth it!

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