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Schools in California are constantly under siege, facing a shortage of funds which in turn brings bigger classes, fewer teachers and a host of cutbacks. One cutback that seems to receive less attention than many others is the effect on school nurses. Once ubiquitous, school nurses have disappeared to a such a degree that a lawsuit heading to the state Supreme Court is looking at the legal issue of who can administer insulin injections to diabetic kids if no nurse is available.
The suit began back in 2007, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, with a dispute between the Department of Education and the American Diabetes Association. The Association claimed that California schools don't have enough nurses to care for diabetic children who are too young to test their own blood and inject insulin. The ADA wanted non-medical, but trained school personnel, to be allowed to administer the medicine.
A settlement was reached between the department and the association, allowing schools to train non-medical staff to test a diabetic student's blood sugar and if necessary, give the insulin injection.
The agreement was then challenged by the California Nurses Union. According to the Chronicle, the union argued that state law prohibits anyone other than licensed medical professionals from administering drugs, except in an emergency and that using non-medical personnel discourages the hiring of school nurses. The state court of appeals agreed with the union. The court found that the shortage of nurses in California was a chronic, not an acute condition.
That opinion was written by Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who is the governor's nominee to become the next Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court.
The American Diabetes Association has appealed to the Supreme Court of California.That court may not agree with the appeals court and the nurse's union when it hears the case. According to the Chronicle, somewhere between 12,000 and 16,000 school-age children in California have diabetes.