Disability Dilemma for California Schools: Who Can Administer Insulin Treatment to a Diabetic Student? Unlicensed Persons Can Do So, If Parents Consent, Says the Court

Accommodating students who suffer from disabilities can be a daunting challenge, especially for cash-strapped school districts.  The issue played out recently with respect to the administration of insulin to diabetic students.  In a nutshell, the issue in American Nurses Association v. Torlakson was whether an unlicensed person at the school site could administer an insulin shot to a student, particularly where the medication was required as part of the student’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).  The American Nurses Association (ANA) had opposed such a practice; the ANA proceeded to file suit, contending that only licensed personnel could administer the medicine.

In 2010, an intermediate court of appeal panel agreed with the ANA, based upon its reading and interpretation of the California Nursing Practice Act (Bus. & Prof. Code, §§ 2700, et seq.), the California Education Code (particularly section 49423) and related administrative regulations.  The court said the statutes and regulations dictated that an insulin shot in a public school may only be administered by a person who has been duly licensed to do so. See American Nurses Association v. O'Connell, 110 Cal.Rptr.3d 305 (2010).

However, the California Supreme Court reversed that ruling.  The state high court concluded in American Nurses Association v. Torlakson that the governing statutes did indeed permit non-licensed persons to administer the insulin shots. (Note that the case name is different in the state supreme court because the current state superintendent of public instruction was substituted in place of his predecessor who was the defendant in the lower courts.)

For your convenience, a complete copy of the California Supreme Court’s ruling is attached.

Slote & Links regularly advises parents, teachers, school administrators, private schools and public school districts on a variety of legal issues and if you have questions about these rulings, or any other aspect of public or private school administration, please feel free to consult our office.