IIT Chicago-Kent faculty and students help get law enacted to protect Illinois school children with diabetes

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law faculty and students played an integral role in securing passage of the Care of Students with Diabetes Act. The Illinois law, which took effect December 1, clarifies the rights and responsibilities of students, parents, school and healthcare personnel related to students with diabetes who need assistance with care during the school day and at school-sponsored activities.

Under the provisions of the new law, volunteer, non-nurse school employees may now help students manage their diabetes during the school day. The law also ensures that someone will be present at all times to administer insulin and a life-saving medication, called glucagon. In addition, the law allows Illinois schools to comply more easily with federal anti-discrimination and disability laws, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and §504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Distinguished professor Lori B. Andrews and clinical professor Edward Kraus recognized the need for such a law when they worked on pro bono cases on behalf of children who were faced with health risks at school when their legal rights were not recognized. In addition, Chicago-Kent was involved in a two-year study of the medical, social and legal issues facing children with diabetes that showed children with fewer restrictions on self-care were better able to control their diabetes.

Chicago-Kent students worked with faculty to analyze the laws in other states in order to craft a comprehensive approach for the Illinois law. The faculty and law students consulted with families, diabetes advocate Suzanne Elder and the American Diabetes Association on issues related to school children with diabetes and helped draft model legislation covering school children with diabetes that was introduced in the Illinois General Assembly in March 2010. In the role of advocates, they worked to educate Illinois legislators and citizens about the need for a law to protect the rights of children with diabetes.

Although the Care Act was passed by the General Assembly in May 2010, Governor Pat Quinn (D) signed an amendatory veto in July that changed the effective date of the law to June 1, 2011. Both the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate challenged the governor's actions. The House voted to override the amendatory veto on November 16. The Senate concurred on December 1 and the bill became law.

"The Diabetes Care Act would not have been possible without the strong, bipartisan leadership of Rep. Tom Cross (R-Oswego) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago)," said Professor Andrews.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition that must be managed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, due to the dearth of nurses in Illinois schools, many children were unable to get the diabetes care that they needed.

The Care Act prohibits school districts from denying access or restricting the assignments of students with diabetes. The new law also allows for designated staff to assist students with diabetes and provides training and legal protections for school personnel. In addition, the new law requires that information sheets be provided for personnel who transport students for school-related programs and activities and specifies what students with diabetes must be permitted to do to care for their health while in school.

"Illinois students with diabetes and their parents can now breathe a sigh of relief, as the Care of Students with Diabetes Act is now law. A significant number of children have Type-1 Diabetes, and this new law ensures that, in Illinois, these students can get the diabetes care that they need without sacrificing any of their legal rights," said Professor Kraus.

Chicago-Kent College of Law is the law school of Illinois Institute of Technology, a private, Ph.D.-granting institution with programs in engineering, psychology, architecture, business, design and law. The Health & Disability Law Clinic in the Law Offices of Chicago-Kent is part of the multidisciplinary IIT Center for Diabetes Research and Policy that engages in legal advocacy and representation to protect the rights of people with diabetes. The clinic works to fight discrimination and protect the rights of children and adults with diabetes throughout the state of Illinois. Faculty, attorneys and law students in the clinic provide free legal advice and representation in matters that include children with diabetes who face discrimination in schools. Chicago-Kent has published an informational brochure, "Protecting the Rights of School Children with Diabetes".