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For Immediate Release
November 9, 1999
Contact: Traci Mogil
Phone: 703-549-1500 x-2290

Civil Rights Agreement Reached In Loudoun County
School Children with Diabetes Nationwide May Benefit

(Leesburg, VA) - School children with diabetes all over the country may benefit from a recent agreement settling discrimination complaints lodged by Loudoun County parents who feared their children's health was in danger. The agreement, forged by the federal Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education (OCR) and Loudoun County Public Schools, came in response to a long-fought battle waged by several Loudoun County parents in conjunction with the American Diabetes Association (ADA).

Parents Crystal Jackson and Sandi Pope, on behalf of their three elementary school-aged children, lodged complaints with OCR after Loudoun County school officials refused to allow school personnel to administer life-saving glucagon injections to students suffering from severe insulin reactions. The officials said only registered nurses could administer the shots, but nurses were not available at all Loudoun County schools. The school district adopted a policy that called for dialing "911" rather than have non-medical personnel administer glucagon. Parents complained their children could die or suffer brain damage in the seven to ten minutes in might take for emergency personnel to arrive.

Putting the glucagon issue into perspective, Ms. Pope points out that she, and other parents of children with diabetes in the Loudoun County schools, "were being asked to send our children to school with the knowledge that if they needed life-saving medication, no one at the school would provide it."

Ms. Jackson and Ms. Pope alleged that refusal to provide this service, and other services necessary for children with diabetes to receive a "free appropriate public education," constituted discrimination in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance. OCR agreed to take on this important issue and the office's investigation ended with the signing of a Commitment to Resolve dated October 25, 1999.

"We are hopeful that the resolution of our discrimination problems will help others whose schools refuse to provide these accommodations," Ms. Jackson said. "Schools must be willing to administer glucagon and insulin, must be willing to allow a child to have a snack, must be willing to do blood sugar testing, permit extra absences for doctors' appointments and illness, and give the child an opportunity to make up missed work and tests."

Ms. Jackson and Ms. Pope won an earlier victory this year when they, and the ADA, successfully pushed for a new law forcing Virginia public schools to train personnel to administer both insulin and glucagon shots. This law, introduced by state Sen. William Mims, provides important protection for children in public schools throughout Virginia. The OCR agreement, however, goes further than the new law by specifying that the school district must provide trained school personnel to accompany children with diabetes on field trips, during extra-curricular activities, and on the bus; provide basic training in diabetes care for all school staff who have immediate custodial care of children with diabetes at school; and develop and implement a Health Care Plan for each student with diabetes setting out the reasonable accommodations needed for that specific child.

"The American Diabetes Association is extremely pleased with the OCR agreement and hopes it will serve as a model to help children in schools all over America," said Dr. Ann Albright, Chair of the ADA's Advocacy Committee. "We constantly receive calls from parents whose school systems discriminate against children with diabetes. We believe this agreement will help us in our fight to put an end to this discrimination and protect the health of children with diabetes in schools and day care centers."

While the Loudoun County school district has learned a lot about diabetes during the course of resolving these complaints, the families have been taught many lessons as well. "This experience has certainly provided our children with a sense of empowerment and has also taught them to stand firm in their beliefs," Ms. Jackson noted. Ms. Pope reflected, "Fourteen months ago, at the very tender ages of 8 and 9, my children learned what it felt like to be discriminated against at the hand of their school system. We learned how to spell discrimination, we learned the meaning of it, and most importantly, we learned how to fight it and win."

Diabetes is an incurable disease that affects the body's ability to produce or respond properly to insulin, a hormone that allows blood sugar to enter the cells of the body and be used for energy. People with Type 1 diabetes -- which make up the vast majority of students with diabetes -- as well as some people with Type 2 diabetes, must receive insulin every day either through injections or an insulin pump. However, use of insulin can cause too much sugar to cross the cell membranes. This results in abnormally low blood sugar levels or "hypoglycemia," which can cause loss of consciousness, seizure and the inability to treat oneself with oral glucose. Glucagon shots are required when individuals with insulin-dependent diabetes experience severe hypoglycemia.

Diabetes affects approximately 16 million people nationwide. It is the country's sixth deadliest disease and can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and amputations.


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Last Updated: Thursday February 27, 2014 19:28:21
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