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Calif. Supreme Court: Only school nurses to give insulin shots for students?

May 28, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The California Supreme Court has a tough decision on its hands when it comes to parents with diabetic children. Oral arguments begin Wednesday on whether to allow unlicensed workers to give insulin shots at public schools. The controversial issue may come down to money.

When Megan Libal's third-grade daughter was diagnosed with diabetes, her child's school didn't have a full-time nurse to administer insulin. So Libal quit her job to give the shots herself.

"For about four to seven months, we didn't have a consistent nurse. So my family and I had to make a decision," said Libal. "We made the decision that I would stay home and take care of her."

The California Supreme Court will be deciding a case that could change the lives of families living with diabetic children: Should a trained but unlicensed non-medical worker be allowed to give insulin shots to public school students?

State law says no, but in the midst of recent budget cuts not all schools could afford a nurse.

In some districts that actually have school nurses, the ratio is 6,000 students to one nurse.

Consequently, in 2007, without Legislative approval, the Department of Education allowed other school employees to give the shots.

Linda Davis-Alldritt, the president of the National Association of School Nurses, says that move jeopardizes student safety.

"Insulin as a medication can be fatal if given wrong," said Davis-Alldritt. "It's a hormone. Too much insulin can cause fatality and can cause it fairly quickly."

Critics of the nurses union, including the American Diabetes Association, say they're just trying to boost jobs, and that insulin shots can be administered safely by other people.

In a highly unusual move, the Obama Administration has chimed in, urging the California justices to allow other school employees to give the shots when nurses are unavailable.

"It's easy to give a shot, but it's not easy to do the assessment on whether or not that child has been successfully treated with the medication they've been given," said Davis-Alldritt.

While Megan Libal is leaning toward requiring school nurses, she does worry about other parents.

"I can only imagine a parent that couldn't quit their job," said Libal. "What do they do?"

The state Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming months.


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