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California lets teachers give insulin shots
October 11, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
This is a few months late, but I see that the California Supreme Court has ruled that teachers and other non-medical personnel at schools will be able to give diabetic students insulin shots. That ruling was made over the objections of the state's nurses union, who took the position that only trained school nurses should be able to give an insulin shot in schools. Many California schools don't have school nurses. That is, of course, also the case at many schools in North Dakota. The reason for the school nurse shortage is usually lack of funding.
I have some mixed feelings about a law like the one in California. On the one hand, I'm sure it's much easier for parents of diabetic children if a teacher can give the child his insulin shot or check his blood sugars throughout the day. In a lot of cases, apparently parents were taking time off work to drive to the child's school to deliver the insulin shot themselves. On the other hand, I don't think teachers ought to be required to take over a child's medical care. They are teachers, not doctors or nurses. There is likely some legal liability involved here, too, since parents could sue a teacher who made a mistake and gave a child too much or too little insulin and caused the child to go into shock. Testing a child's blood also involves some risk of the teacher coming into contact with child's blood.
Teachers are being asked to take on more of the care of medically fragile children in their classrooms too, especially because of budget cuts at schools nationwide. On one board, I read a remark by a teacher whose school requires teachers be trained in giving medication to a child who has seizures. The medication must be given rectally. Other teachers are being required to be trained in CPR and use of an epipen for children who might go into anaphylactic shock due to a severe food allergy. Children with developmental delays or a physical handicap are also more likely to still be in diapers. Should teachers be required to change a child in their classroom during school hours? Aside from the time it takes away from classroom instruction, teachers would be entirely justified in saying, "Changing diapers or giving shots isn't part of my job."
Obviously, children with serious health conditions deserve to be at school with everyone else. The Americans with Disabilities Act and other education laws require this and that their health care needs should be attended to while they are in school. But those tasks should probably be performed by a school nurse or by someone else who has received medical training and not by a reluctant teacher who has been coerced by school administrators into "volunteering" for these tasks as a condition of keeping his or her job.
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