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School districts: Students with diabetes may carry supplies

By Josette Keelor

Two new Virginia bills require schools to allow students with diabetes the option of carrying supplies with them while at school.

House bill 134 and Senate bill 532 require that students with diabetes be allowed to self-check blood glucose levels on school property, with parental consent and consent from a prescribing doctor, explained Debbie Litten, supervisor of student services for Shenandoah County Public Schools.

Each bill also requires that by July 1, 2015, the Department of Education review and update the Manual for Training Public School Employees in the administration of insulin and glucagons, according to the Commonwealth of Virginia's website, state.va.us.

Litten said the legislation particularly helps students while they're on the school bus, at school-sponsored activities and at school before and after hours.

"Depending on the severity of their illness, students are trained by their physicians ... to monitor their blood levels and to make sure their levels are stable," Litten said.

Students with diabetes may carry and use supplies like carbohydrate snacks, an insulin pump and equipment to check blood glucose levels, but according to Litten these decisions will not change the level of care schools provide students.

Students with diabetes still need to visit the school clinic each day so a school nurse can maintain school blood level charts.

"This isn't going to change anything we do during the day," Litten said.

There are 18 students diagnosed with diabetes in the county's public schools, Litten said -- 12 with Type 1 diabetes and six with Type 2. Litten said 13 county students monitor their blood sugar levels each day, some without a diabetes diagnosis, and 11 require insulin injections.

Greg Drescher, assistant superintendent of instruction for Warren County Public schools, said they are in the process of considering how the new state legislation will affect their policy. He said the School Board is waiting on recommendations from the Virginia Board of Education and expects a decision around the start of the new school year.

"That is generally a couple months' process," Dressure said.

The new state legislation will have little impact on students in Frederick County, according to Pam Unhoch, coordinator of health services for Frederick County Public Schools.

"Our students, based on their age and development, have always been able to access their supplies," she said.

She said county schools work with families on deciding whether or not a child is capable of using testing supplies.

"We try to help them come up with a plan that works for them," Unhoch said.

Frederick County schools also allow students with food allergies to carry epinephrine pens and those with asthma to carry inhalers, if they're capable of self-administering the medication.

She said school policy prohibits students from sharing, borrowing or selling medical supplies.

Of the county's 13,000 students, "50-ish" have been diagnosed with diabetes, the majority with Type 1, Unhoch said.

In all three school districts, epinephrine and other medical supplies have been available in school clinics and still will be this year, funded by each school district's budget.

In 2012, Shenandoah County schools purchased epinephrine with state funding, but Superintendent Jeremy Raley said last year and this year the School Board had to budget for it.

"It is another thing that we will do as public educators," he said.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com

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