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California Supreme Court Rules that Non-Nurse Public School Employees can Administer Insulin

Updated: 8/14/21 9:00 amPublished: 9/3/13

Earlier this month, the California Supreme Court unanimously decided that public school employees can administer insulin to children as long as they have parental consent and are following doctor’s orders. This brings nearly eight years of work to a satisfying conclusion, and it’s a major triumph for the American Diabetes Association  and its Safe at School campaign.

In May, the ADA successfully argued that school employees do not require nurse’s training or expertise to safely administer insulin, despite strong protests from the American Nurses Association (ANA), which seemed more concerned about the jobs of its members than the well-being of the students. While this ruling only affects California, it could positively affect similar cases.

According to Dennis Maio, the lawyer who represented the ADA before the California Supreme Court, the ruling will allow public school employees to receive the basic training necessary to administer insulin. However, the ruling doesn’t actually require schools to provide training, so parents will likely need to reach out to school employees and ask them to volunteer to be trained. Mr. Maio says parents probably will not have much trouble finding volunteers, although the ADA could help in situations where public schools are unwilling to provide volunteers.

This landmark decision represents a huge change from the status quo, in which only trained nurses or parents were allowed to administer insulin to the estimated 14,000 children with diabetes in California’s public school system. While it was in theory an admirable safety standard, in practice it created real problems for students and their families, especially when trained nurses are not consistently available and parents cannot afford to leave their jobs whenever their child needs insulin. This decision is particularly heartening in that it suggests previous laws were enforced without an understanding of the current state of diabetes care; the justices only needed basic education in the safety of modern insulin therapy to rule in favor of the ADA and, more importantly, for the 14,000 children who can now feel safer at school. —AW

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