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Feds Prob Potential Deadly Lack of Treatment for Diabetics in DC Schools

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 10-Jul-2012

By Catherine Bertram, partner

According to an article in the Washington Post, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating DC Schools because of a complaint by the mother of a diabetic third grader at Davis Elementary in Southeast D.C. The mother contends that when the school nurse was not available she was told she only had two options on those days: either come to school with her child, monitor her blood glucose level and administer the medication or she could keep the child at home.

The complaint was filed with the Office for Civil Rights for the US Department of Education. The complaint contends that when the mother exchanged heated words with Davis principal Maisha Riddlesprigger, that Ms. Riddlesprigger issued a “barring notice” that prohibited the child’s mother from entering the building. Did DCPS ban the child’s caregiver in the nurse’s absence?

According to the article, DCPS has not responded to a request for a comment on the situation. According to University Legal Services staff attorney Victoria Thomas, DCPS’s refusal to provide so-called “Trained Medication Employees” to administer diabetes care violates federal and District law.

This case seems to highlight a dangerous situation in terms of DCPS practices. The school system has to have a plan for nurses’ absences and previously indicated it was training other school staff to deal with issues. However, in a diabetic emergency, without the nurse, all school personnel can do is call 911. That can pose a deadly delay for a child who needs insulin urgently.

According to the Post article, the civil rights office of the US Department of Education has expanded its inquiry beyond DCPS to include the city’s 53 charter schools. If the office finds that DCPS or the charters did violate the rights of diabetic children, it could require the schools to sign a resolution agreement promising to comply with the law, or could even withhold federal funds.

If any of the children are harmed by the unsafe situation they may have claims against D.C.

About the author:

Catherine Bertram is board certified in civil trials and was recently nominated as a Top Lawyer for Washingtonian Magazine. Ms. Bertram has over 20 years of trial experience and is unique in that she was formerly the Director of Risk Management for Georgetown University Hospital so she brings a wealth of knowledge to her practice. She is a partner with the firm and lives in the District. She can be reached by email at cbertram@reganfirm.com or by phone 202-822-1875 in her office in Washington, D.C.

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