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Response to New York Times Story

 

November 4, 2015

Dear Parents,

The Post Oak School was mentioned in a recent New York Times story about juvenile diabetes. The author of the story states that public and private schools are required by federal law to accommodate students with disabilities, including diabetes. A former Post Oak parent, whose 5-year-old daughter was diagnosed with type-1 diabetes while she was a primary student at Post Oak, is quoted as saying that the school would offer no support for her daughter and as a result, she chose to withdraw her from the school. The implications are that the school was not only unsupportive of this child and her family, but that we were in violation of federal law as well.

This is both inaccurate and untrue. What are the facts?

Here is a description of the range of support we provided the student and her family. As soon as the parents informed us of their daughter’s diagnosis, we held a series of meetings with them to understand the nature of the illness, and the care required. Then, in consultation with her physician, we developed a detailed, written action plan covering routine care and emergency situations. The parents and school signed off on this plan as well as the American Diabetes Association’s eight-page Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP), and eventually, the two-page Pump Therapy Orders. Eight Post Oak School staff, including the classroom teacher and assistant, were trained to help the child test her own blood-sugar levels – the recommended best practice leading a child-patient to independence and self-management of the illness. School staff were also trained to administer insulin and glucagon injections in the event of emergency. However, we informed the family that we were not willing to assume responsibility for routine daily injections. Instead, the parents agreed to come to the school at lunch time every day to administer those injections during the period leading up to being fitted with an insulin pump. Low blood sugar levels were easily addressed by maintaining a special supply of drinks and snacks in the classroom, in the gym and on the playground, just for this purpose. On the other hand, had there been a dangerous spike in her blood sugar level, school staff would have responded by administering an emergency insulin injection, just as we would with an epi-pen for children suffering an allergic reaction, and we were clear with the parents that we would do so.

Once their daughter was fitted with an insulin pump, school staff were trained to use the testing strips, read the results, and administer the appropriate dosage. At this point the parents decided they no longer needed to come to school to administer mid-day injections.

This child not only completed that year at Post Oak, she re-enrolled and completed a fourth year in the primary, which both family and school felt was appropriate since so much energy had been focused on this life-altering illness. At the end of those two years, the family decided to have her join her older brother in homeschooling.

Given the special attention and extraordinary efforts dedicated to this family and their young daughter over a two-year period, you can imagine the sense of betrayal my faculty and administrative staff feel in reading such an inaccurate account of what happened. I suppose this is covered by two aphorisms: “Don’t believe everything you read,” and “No good deed goes unpunished.”

And what about the school’s implied violation of federal law? Most private schools, including Post Oak, choose not to accept any federal funds. This means, among other things, that we are not obligated to provide special services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) nor accommodations under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), obligations which apply to public schools and those private schools which do accept federal funds. While Post Oak is often willing and able to provide support for children with special needs, we are able to set limits within the guidelines established by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when doing so would prove an undue burden on our resources or result in a fundamental alteration in the nature of the services which we provide.

You may wonder how often Post Oak has faced this issue. In the past twenty years, we have had two students diagnosed with type-1 diabetes and in both cases we worked with the families and their medical providers to provide the support needed by the child to continue enrollment in the school. The first child completed 8th grade at Post Oak and is now an attorney in Houston.

How would we handle such situations in the future? If another child were diagnosed tomorrow, the description of care given above gives a clear indication of how we would proceed. Not too far down the road, we will add a nurse to our staff, who will be based in the sick bay/clinic – one of the improvements slated for the upcoming BigWork building project on the Bissonnet campus. Having a trained nurse on campus will allow us to offer an even higher level of care.

I hope this answers questions the Times story may have raised.

John