Proceed with Caution Under New Diabetes Law
Formerly House Bill 6065, the Care of Students with Diabetes Act provides for a school employee to voluntarily receive training to become a “Delegated Care Aide,” entitling the employee to assist diabetic students with insulin or glucagon injections and other medically-related needs in the school setting. HB 6065 passed in the Illinois House and Senate earlier this year, but was amendatorily vetoed by Gov. Quinn in July. The governor’s veto was overridden earlier this month.
The IFT, the Illinois Education Association, the Illinois Association of School Nurses and other groups opposed this bill due to serious concerns about the possible risks to students with diabetes, a life-threatening illness. The IFT feels strongly that the care of students with serious health conditions should be entrusted to school nurses, medical professionals trained to provide critical healthcare services and licensed to administer prescription injections and other essential medication.
Under the new law, a school staff member who volunteers to become Delegated Care Aide would receive minimal training before assisting with a diabetic student’s medical needs, including administering insulin injections. If improperly dosed or inadvertently given when not indicated, insulin injections can be harmful, and even result in death. The IFT believes the administration of prescription medication by unlicensed school staff with no formal medical training is an unacceptable risk to the safety of diabetic students.
Also of concern to the IFT is the liability of school staff who opt to become care aides. Although the Act includes language intended to limit the civil liability of Designated Care Aides, respected labor attorney Gil Feldman advised IFT President Dan Montgomery in a letter
that he has doubts about the language. ‘I anticipate that…there will be serious litigation over the scope of the immunity provision in the Act…’ he wrote. In the event of problems relating to the services provided by a volunteer Aide, the liability limitations are unclear.
“If you are a well-meaning school employee who volunteers for this program and accidentally causes harm or death to a child, you would not want to rely on the language of this bill to protect you in the event a jury finds you’re at fault,” said IFT Director of Political Activities Steve Preckwinkle.
Feldman summarized his concerns in his letter by stating: ‘… this Act delegates to school employees the authority to perform professional services and creates a potential hornets’ nest and absent judicial interpretation raises serious questions about the extent of civil and criminal immunity. Since participation by the employee is optional, I recommend great caution by our members asked to participate under the Act.’
The attorney also recommended that the IFT adopt a policy of discouraging members from becoming a Delegated Care Aide.
“We want to make sure that diabetic children get the highest quality care in our schools,” said Preckwinkle. “Unlicensed, essentially untrained volunteer teachers and school staff are not the ones best prepared to provide that. We hope our members will proceed with extreme caution in this matter, for the sake of their students and themselves.”
The IFT recommends that any member who is considering volunteering to become a Delegated Care Aide under the Act consult his or her personal attorney prior to doing so.