Catching Fireflies & Understanding School Code Amendments on Student Diabetes Care

By Sean A. Fields, Esquire 

School Law Snapshot

The Big Picture...
For some, Summer evokes memories of camping, swimming, catching fireflies and other childhood endeavors. For many involved in public education in Pennsylvania, it also means attempting to understand the latest amendments to the Pennsylvania School Code to prepare for the upcoming school year. Some of the more recent changes to the School Code include statutory changes that will affect the way school districts manage the treatment and care of students with diabetes.
The following are some important points regarding School Code amendments related to student diabetes care under Act 86 of 2016:

  • Amendments to the School Code now require a student's diabetes care and treatment at school to be consistent with the student's Section 504 Service Agreement, existing IEP if applicable, and district policies.
  • Students will be permitted to self-administer diabetes medication and use self-monitoring equipment if the required written documentation is provided by the student's parent or guardian, healthcare practitioner and the school nurse.
  • School districts have the discretion to permit the school nurse, in consultation with the superintendent, to identify a school employee who is not a healthcare practitioner to assist an individual student with diabetes care if the employee has received the training required by the School Code.
  • Because the amendments are effective immediately, school districts and other public school entities should prepare to implement the requirements of the law for the upcoming school year.

The Close Up...

In order to receive diabetes care at school, a student's parent or guardian is required to provide a school district with a written authorization for diabetes care that includes instructions from the student's healthcare practitioner. The care must be consistent with the district's policies and the student's Section 504 Service Agreement. The Service Agreement may require the district to provide school bus and school vehicle drivers with an information sheet that identifies a student with diabetes, emergencies that may occur related to diabetes, appropriate responses for those emergencies, and a phone number for the student's emergency contact. Finally, school districts have the discretion to permit a school nurse in consultation with the superintendent, to identify a school employee who is not a healthcare practitioner to perform diabetes care and treatment if there is written authorization from a parent and healthcare practitioner and the employee receives required training. However, school employees may decline the assignment of that role.
The cornerstone of the School Code amendments regarding diabetes care are provisions providing for student self-administration and the use of self-monitoring equipment. The implementation of such measures is contingent on required written acknowledgments. Specifically, the student's parent or guardian must provide a written statement from the student's healthcare practitioner with relevant information including a diagnosis, drug information and whether the student is competent to self-administer. The school nurse must also provide an acknowledgement before self-administration is permitted.
School districts will need to prepare to address changes to Section 504 Service Agreements that provide accommodations to students with diabetes. Many of those changes are likely to be prompted by parents or guardians requesting changes to existing Section 504 Service Agreements. In the coming months, districts will also need to adopt new policies or make changes to existing policies. Finally, districts will be making decisions regarding whether school employees will be identified to assist individual students with diabetes care and management as the Pennsylvania Department of Health develops training for such individuals.