FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE October 11, 2005
For more information, contact:
Julia Epstein, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, (510) 644-2555 (x. 241)
Peter Greenley, Reed Smith LLP, (415) 659-5669
Zach Goldberg, American Diabetes Association, (703) 549-1500 (x. 2622)
UNPRECEDENTED CLASS ACTION CIVIL RIGHTS COMPLAINT FILED IN FEDERAL COURT
CHILDREN WITH DIABETES SUE SCHOOL DISTRICTS, STATE FOR ASSISTANCE; DENIAL OF GLUCOSE MONITORING AND INSULIN ADMINISTRATION DURING THE SCHOOL DAY CHALLENGED
(OCTOBER 11, 2005, Oakland, CA) - Four elementary school-age students, along with the American Diabetes Association, filed an unprecedented civil rights complaint today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeking class action relief against the California Superintendent of Public Schools, the California Department of Education, members of the California Board of Education, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, the Fremont Unified School District, and their Superintendents and Boards of Trustees. The suit asks the Court to compel public school officials to comply with federal law by providing the assistance that California students with diabetes require to manage their diabetes during the school day.
The complaint alleges that the state and the local districts violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and applicable federal regulations in their failure to ensure the health and safety of public school students with diabetes in Kindergarten through 12th Grade by providing insulin administration, blood glucose monitoring, proper care in emergency situations, and other appropriate diabetes care.
The plaintiffs are represented by a team of attorneys from the Berkeley-based non-profit Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund (DREDF) and the Oakland and San Francisco offices of Reed Smith LLP. DREDF Directing Attorney Arlene Mayerson and staff attorney Larisa Cummings are joined by a pro bono Reed Smith legal team that includes attorneys James M. Wood, Kenneth J. Philpot, Michael F. McCabe, Kurtis J. Kearl, Lisa C. Hamasaki, Tita Bell and Kendra Jue.
"Students with type 1 diabetes, and some students with type 2 diabetes, require insulin to survive," said Mr. Wood. "Without access to regular and ongoing blood glucose testing and insulin administration during the school day, these youngsters are at risk of serious and possibly fatal health complications. We intend to ensure that schools provide the services that are necessary to protect these children's health and well-being. The federal government is committed to the idea that no child will be left behind in public schools. This lawsuit will ensure that no child is locked out because schools will not provide fundamental assurances that children with diabetes will be safe in school."
"The California Department of Education, the San Ramon Valley and Fremont districts and many other districts across the state refuse to assign any school personnel to assist students with the injection of insulin as prescribed by the students' doctors, even though school personnel can be trained to do so and are regularly trained and assigned these tasks in some schools," explained DREDF's Ms. Cummings.
DREDF has been representing children with diabetes in California and across the nation for years. As DREDF attorney Arlene Mayerson explained, "After several attempts to obtain relief from the California Department of Education failed, DREDF had no choice but to file a lawsuit. It is unacceptable and illegal for the districts and the CDE to ignore their moral and legal responsibilities to these children."
The complaint asks the Court to require the California Department of Education and the school districts to establish policy ensuring that districts will provide a sufficient number of adequately trained school personnel to check students' blood glucose levels, monitor students for symptoms of high and low blood glucose, and assist with administering insulin or glucagon or other treatment the children require.
"Diabetes must be managed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A student with diabetes cannot take a break from diabetes when he or she boards the school bus in the morning." said L. Hunter Limbaugh, the Chair of the National Advocacy Committee at the American Diabetes Association and a parent of a daughter who has diabetes. "It's vital that all students with diabetes in California and throughout the nation know they will be in a medically safe environment that affords them the same educational opportunities as other students. As is very clear from the stories of the named plaintiffs in this lawsuit, many students with diabetes in California are not safe at school. They do not have access to the basic tools to manage their diabetes. It is because this situation is intolerable for students and their families that the American Diabetes Association has joined this lawsuit."
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Founded in 1979 by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Inc. (DREDF) is a national law and policy center dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of people with disabilities through legislation, litigation, advocacy, technical assistance, and education and training of attorneys, advocates, persons with disabilities, and parents of children with disabilities.
Reed Smith LLP, a top-25 international law firm with 1,000 lawyers located in offices throughout the United States and Europe, represents Fortune 100 as well as mid-market and emerging companies. Clients include financial services firms, life sciences companies, health care providers, technology companies and entrepreneurs, power generators and suppliers, manufacturers, universities, non-profit organizations, real estate developers, and municipalities throughout the United States and in 40 countries. For more information, visit www.reedsmith.com.
The American Diabetes Association is the nation's leading voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. The Association's advocacy efforts include helping to combat discrimination against people with diabetes; advocating for the increase of federal diabetes research and programs; and improved access to, and quality of, healthcare for people with diabetes. Founded in 1940, the Association's mission is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. A leader in the national effort to ensure the safety of students with diabetes, last year the ADA launched its "Safe at School" campaign, a multi-faceted approach that is supported by the medical and scientific expertise of the ADA and the energy and commitment of its top volunteer leaders and grassroots advocates.
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Last Updated: Wednesday October 12, 2005 17:29:07
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