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Diabetes Forecast

The Healthy Living Magazine

Who Needs a 504 Plan?

My son was recently diagnosed with diabetes. When I spoke to the principal, vice principal, and school nurses, they advised me that my son doesn’t need a 504 plan. I’d like to know what I can do. Melissa Alfaro, Henderson, Nevada

Crystal Jackson

Crystal Jackson, the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School director and parent of a child with type 1, responds

A 504 plan is a legal document developed by the school and parent to ensure a child receives needed diabetes care according to his or her doctor’s orders and has the same access to education and school-sponsored activities as other kids.

What to Know

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a federal civil rights law that prohibits federally funded programs from treating children with disabilities unfairly. Individuals with diabetes are considered to have a disability under this law because their endocrine system does not produce and/or use insulin properly.

Under Section 504, all public schools (including charter schools) and many private and religious institutions cannot discriminate against a student because of his or her diabetes.

What to Do

All students with disabilities like diabetes should have a written 504 plan that includes provisions addressing the availability of a school nurse and other trained school employees, self-management for capable students, diabetes care during field trips and extracurricular activities, alternate times to take exams and complete classwork when blood glucose levels are out of range, and absences without penalty for illness and medical appointments. It’s important to be proactive and put everything in writing while it’s working well. Then you and the school are better prepared in case of the unexpected, such as staff turnover.

Keep in mind: A student doesn’t need to be having academic difficulty in order to be protected and to receive services from the school under Section 504. But children who are having academic difficulties because of their diabetes (say, if constant highs and lows are impeding learning) may qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. All needed diabetes accommodations should be included in the IEP—there’s no need to write a separate 504 plan.

For More Info

For a sample 504 plan, visit diabetes.org/504plan. And to receive help with a school-related diabetes problem, call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or e-mail askADA@diabetes.org.

Interested in more information about healthy living with diabetes? Click here to subscribe to Diabetes Forecast magazine.

 
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