In Scotland, a 13-year-old with Type 1 diabetes was barred from a long-planned school field trip, and her mother is saying the school purposely waited until the last minute to tell her about the decision.
According to a report in the Press and Journal, Aaliyah Thomson had been planning to leave for a May 14th field trip with her Elgin High classmates. Just two days before she was to leave, however, Aaliyah’s mother received word that she would not be allowed to go because of her diabetes. Jaye Thomson, the mother, claims she received word very late on a Friday afternoon with no time left to get the decision overturned. Aaliyah’s classmates went to a campground lodge without her, and Jaye pulled her daughter from school the next week rather than have her attend without her classmates.
In the report, the school district claims that they had no choice but to bar Aaliyah after repeated requests for information about her Type 1 diabetes management went unanswered. Jaye disputes this claim, however, saying she gave all the information needed in a meeting in early May.
According to the American Diabetes Association, U.S. schools may not bar children with Type 1 diabetes from field trips or other extracurricular activities based on their condition. Under two federal laws, The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and The Americans with Disabilities Act, diabetes is considered a protected “disability”; public schools must provide reasonable accommodation to make sure children with diabetes can fully participate in all activities. Furthermore, a child with diabetes’ participation is not dependent on whether a parent or other family caregiver can be there. Schools must provide personnel who can provide adequate care during extracurricular activities, even if that means hiring a nurse for field trips.
However, what’s required by law doesn’t always happen in practice, at least not without a fight. In 2015, a student with Type 1 diabetes in Mora, New Mexico was barred from a school field trip because of her condition, according to a KRQE report. A letter from the school district said the field trip would take place in an area with poor cell phone reception, which might put the student at risk should she have a medical emergency.
An Insulin Nation multi-part report has found that the level of accommodation for children with diabetes varies greatly by school district, and that parents often have to be proactive to make sure their children receive the full protection under the law. To make sure children with diabetes can participate fully in extracurricular activities, the ADA suggests parents do the following:
- Send adequate supplies
- Request that additional staff be trained in basic diabetes care
- Adjust insulin schedules to incorporate the change in activity levels
- Remind a teacher or field trip organizer about non-medicine-related needs for a child with diabetes, like access to food, water, and bathroom breaks.
Have you or your child been barred from a field trip or extracurricular activity because of Type 1 diabetes? If you’d like to share your story, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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