American Diabetes Association Joins Three Families to Sue New York City Public Schools for Failure to Provide Diabetes Care to Students

Empty School Hallway
Empty School Hallway by Paul Rosemeyer via Flickr

November 1, 2018 – New York, NY – According to a federal class action lawsuit filed today, New York City public schools routinely violate the rights of students with diabetes by denying them necessary services and even excluding them from some school activities altogether. Almost two months into another school year, many parents of children with diabetes still face the impossible choice of sending their child to school without knowing whether their child will receive the necessary diabetes-related care or keeping them at home.

Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”), the American Diabetes Association (“ADA”), and Law Offices of Popper & Yatvin are suing the New York City Department of Education (“DOE”) and other New York City agencies for their systemic failure to ensure that students with diabetes can attend school safely and have access to the same educational opportunities as their peers. This constitutes a clear violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the New York City Human Rights Law.

By law, the DOE is required to develop a diabetes-care plan for all students with diabetes. These plans include protocols for measuring a student’s blood sugar, administering insulin, and planning for emergencies—necessary accommodations for anyone with type 1 diabetes. But these care plans are rarely ready by the first week—or even first few months—of the school year. Even after the plans are in place, students continue to miss critical instructional time when they are unnecessarily removed from the classroom for diabetes-related care that could be provided in the classroom. Frequently, the DOE refuses to extend these accommodations to after-school programs, field trips, and other academic enrichment opportunities, as the law requires. Their parents are often required to attend school or programs to provide care themselves.

Plaintiffs the American Diabetes Association and several children with diabetes who attend public schools in New York City and their parents, are suing to remedy this unjust and discriminatory situation. The DOE estimates that at least 2,000 students with diabetes attend New York City public schools. By law, the DOE’s obligations to these students are very clear: Provide routine and necessary diabetes-related care for students with diabetes in the appropriate setting based on the individual preferences and needs of the child, as well as during nonacademic and extracurricular activities, regardless of whether those activities occur before, during, or after the school day. Shifting the burden of care to parents during the school day or school-related activities is unacceptable.

“We filed this class action lawsuit for not only our son, but to see positive change for all children with diabetes in New York City public schools,” said plaintiff Yelena Ferrer. “We greatly appreciate school staff’s effort to provide day to day care for our son, but the wide ranging problems with the DOE have not allowed for our son and many others to be safe at school.”

“The DOE must provide a safe environment for students with diabetes to learn and succeed in school,” said Michelle Caiola, Managing Director, Litigation, at Disability Rights Advocates. “The law protects students with diabetes and their right to attend school and participate in school-related activities.”

“Diabetes care is routine but absolutely critical for a child to be safe at school,’” Sarah Fech-Baughman, Director of Litigation at the ADA, said. “Excluding a child from class time or an academic enrichment opportunity, such as a field trip, because they have diabetes is harmful, stigmatizing, and unlawful. The ADA is standing up for all children with diabetes in New York City public schools to fix these system-wide problems.”

“Children with diabetes and their families deserve better, and the law backs them up,” said Seth Packrone, Staff Attorney with DRA. “The way parents of students with diabetes must fill in the the gaps for the DOE’s failures is not only wrong, it’s illegal.”

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages. Rather, the lawsuit seeks an immediate overhaul of the DOE’s systemic policies and practices governing the delivery of diabetes-related care to ensure that all students with diabetes receive appropriate care and can participate in all school programs.

The lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York. A copy of the Complaint is available here.

About Disability Rights Advocates

Founded in 1993, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is the leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-change, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

About the American Diabetes Association

Nearly half of American adults have diabetes or prediabetes; more than 30 million adults and children have diabetes; and every 21 seconds, another individual is diagnosed with diabetes in the U.S. Founded in 1940, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization whose mission is to prevent and cure diabetes, and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes. The ADA drives discovery by funding research to treat, manage and prevent all types of diabetes, as well as to search for cures; raises voice to the urgency of the diabetes epidemic; and works to safeguard policies and programs that protect people with diabetes. In addition, the ADA supports people living with diabetes, those at risk of developing diabetes, and the health care professionals who serve them through information and programs that can improve health outcomes and quality of life. For more information, please call the ADA at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or visit diabetes.org. Information from both of these sources is available in English and Spanish. Find us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).

Contacts

Seth Packrone: (212) 644-8644
spackrone@dralegal.org

Sabrena Pringle
press@diabetes.org