Diabetes Care in Washington, DC, Public Schools

Dr. Fran Cogen Health Pro
  • DC schools reach agreement to provide aid to diabetic students


    By Emma Brown, Published: August 29, 2012 Washington Post

    "DC public schools officials will ensure that two staff members at every school with diabetic students are trained to give insulin shots and other medical treatment, according to an agreement signed last week with the U.S. Department of Education. The staff members must be trained by Oct. 19. Officials also said they would not require or request that students transfer schools because of a need for diabetes care. The school system agreed to establish a grievance process for diabetic students who think their rights have been violated. The agreement, signed Aug. 22, resolves a civil rights complaint brought in July by University Legal Services, a legal aid organization in the District, and the American Diabetes Association. The complaint alleged that a D.C. third-grader was forced to miss days of classes last year when the school nurse was absent and other staff members couldn’t provide adequate treatment for her diabetes. The federal government is investigating similar complaints about inadequate diabetes care at the city’s charters schools, said Victoria Thomas, a staff lawyer with University Legal Services. On Friday, the city adopted emergency regulations that allow trained staff members at traditional public and public charter schools to administer emergency medication to students with diabetes.”

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    "The Agreement does not require a full-time nurse for each student with diabetes. It requires DC Pubic Schools to train full-time staff at the school in addition to any school nurse so that there is always someone available to administer diabetes care. The agreement also addresses field trips. It requires that a nurse or trained staff be available to provide diabetes care on field trips and extracurricular activities."


    -Victoria Thomas, staff attorney at University Legal Services


    The District of Columbia has now joined the ranks of several major cities that will ensure diabetes care in the school setting even if there is no nurse immediately available to provide care due to staffing or other concerns. This agreement is a major win for all the people who interact with our students with diabetes on a day-to-day basis. The next step was the training for the non-health related staff employees to provide care to the students. The Childhood and Adolescent Diabetes team of Children’s National Medical Center received a call from the District of Columbia’s Department of Health to request our services for the training.


    We prepared online material that included information from the American Diabetes Association’s “Safe at School” program to be studied prior to the face-to-face practicum offered to all non-health related employees who serve as “back-up” to school nurses. DC Schools also provided a pre-test in conjunction with the Department of Health.


    There were 7 stations for learning:


    1. Nutrition

    2. Blood glucose monitoring

  • 3. Insulin administration with syringes

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    4. Insulin administration with pens

    5. Hypoglycemia/treatment

    6. Hyperglycemia and ketone testing

    7. Insulin pumps


    Each group of employees rotated through the stations during the 4-hour sessions. At the end, participants took a test. An 81 percent was required to “pass” and all employees were allowed to retake the test until they understood all concepts and eventually passed.


    It was incredibly rewarding to meet the DC public and charter school nursing and non-health related employees that included a principal, special education, and music teachers as examples. At the conclusion of the sessions, nearly all employees felt more comfortable working with our children with diabetes.


    We especially thank Crystal Jackson of the American Diabetes Association for her support and consultation during this process. We anticipate that this will be the beginning of an ongoing instructional program for the DC public and charter school staff. We thank everyone who was involved for their contribution and support as it is incredibly gratifying to participate in our role as advocates for our children and adolescents with diabetes.

Published On: October 25, 2012