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Bill would put diabetic supplies in public schools

RICHMOND—It took the death of a Virginia child to get schools to have Epi-pens on hand.

Another child’s death—this one in Stafford County—led to defibrillators in schools.

Now some parents of diabetic children hope to get schools to have diabetic supplies on hand, before a child winds up in crisis.

Sen. Richard Stuart and Del. Mark Cole both have bills in the General Assembly that require schools to change the way they deal with diabetic students.

Stuart’s bill was advanced by a Senate subcommittee Monday afternoon.

It requires schools to allow diabetic students to carry their medical supplies with them. As a parent testified, if a school went into lockdown and the child’s insulin was locked in the school office, the child could die.

Stuart’s bill also requires schools to keep an emergency supply of glucagon—a medication that works the opposite of insulin—which is the main difference between his bill and Cole’s, as Cole’s doesn’t require glucagon. Both bills would require all school employees to receive basic training in emergency situations, and raise from one to two the number of school employees that must have training in how to deal with diabetic students.

Stuart said he has a diabetic niece and understands some of the specific needs children with diabetes have, and the issues some face in schools.

“It’s a serious issue,” he said. “These children need some assistance, and we’ve got to figure out a way for the school system to get them the help that they need.”

Several parents of diabetic students came to testify about the problems their kids have had in public schools. Some had come home over- or under-medicated, sometimes dangerously so. Some couldn’t keep their supplies with them.

Stafford resident Jennifer Natividad came to Richmond to back the bill, bringing her daughter Annika, 10, who has diabetes.

She pointed out Annika’s medical supplies, carried with her in a small purse. Natividad said that when Annika was first diagnosed, her school wouldn’t let her keep her supplies with her. That and other issues surrounding how the school dealt with Annika’s needs led Natividad to put Annika in private school. But she backs Stuart’s and Cole’s bills to help other children.

Greg Waenher of Chesterfield, whose daughter Lily has diabetes, said most of the regulations concerning how schools should train personnel on caring for diabetic students are already written, created by the state Department of Education under a state law years ago. There’s just no enforcement of it, he said.

The Virginia Education Association and the Virginia Association of School Boards both had issues with Stuart’s bill.

Rob Jones of the VEA said teachers are being asked to provide more and more medical assistance for students, and suggested that diabetic training be limited to teachers who have diabetic students in class.

Pat Lacey of the school board association said his group is concerned about the cost of keeping a supply of glucagon in each school.

Lawmakers said they were sympathetic to the bill, although they had reservations, and urged Stuart to fine-tune it to satisfy the concerns of school and teacher groups.

The bill will go to the full Senate Education and Health Committee next. Cole’s bill is also working through the legislative process on the House side.

Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245