EDMONDS, Wash. If you are a parent, chances are good that you've seen budget cuts in your child's school. But when do schools cross the line between saving money and discriminating against students? Some parents in the Edmonds School District are being forced to make a decision they never thought they'd face.
Five times a day, Shelley Parish checks her daughter's blood sugar levels using a drop of blood from her little finger. Danielle, 5, is a Type 1 diabetic. Keeping her blood sugar balanced is a busy job.
Her diabetes is manageable. But in the fall, Danielle goes to kindergarten at Madrona Elementary where her parents want her to be. Parish expected a school nurse would help monitor her daughter's vital signs, but she recently learned that can't happen.
She said you can't come here. Basically, you need to go to Chase Lake, said Shelley
Chase Lake Community School is now home to the district's only full-time nurse. Because of Danielle's severe diabetes, she is considered medically fragile, which means state law requires she be near someone who can monitor her at all times.
She just basically said 'that is the safest place for her to be,' and I said 'I don't agree with you. How do I appeal?' said Shelley.
We really have provided as much flexibility as we can within the framework of making sure the student is safe, said D.J. Jakala, Edmonds School District.
The district says the idea of putting students with potentially life-threatening conditions into one school benefits the children, and they insist it's not one-size-fits-all.
We are not taking any student that reports on their enrollment that they are diabetic and are immediately shuttled into the consolidated health program, because there are so many unique characteristics with every person's medical condition, said Jakala.
The program is in its first year. It's expected to save around $50,000
Really, this idea of segregating kids with diabetes isn't sustainable, said Scott Heinze, a board member with the American Diabetes Association. He says moving all medically fragile children to the same school sends the wrong message to kids with a manageable illness.
This idea that we would take young people and segregate them because of the standard of care that they need to manage their disease essentially ostracizes these kids, said Heinze.
So far in the Edmonds School District, only 13 out of 540 medically fragile students were asked to transfer to Chase Lake. Almost all are diabetic. Two families are fighting the move.
Consolidating nurses and relocating disabled students is becoming more common as school budgets shrink. KING 5 has found past or pending court cases in at least six other states where those decisions were challenged California, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and New York. In all cases, it's argued that children's rights are violated under the American Disabilities Act.
It's tough that the budget has forced these people to make these choices, said Shelley
Are we going to always make everyone happy with our decisions? No. But at the forefront of every one of these is the health and safety of the children, said Jakala.
Shelley has decided to compromise. In order to keep Danielle at the school of her choice, Shelley will make the trip to Madrona Elementary several times a day to check Danielle's blood sugar herself because a nurse won't be there.
It didn't work for us, so I had to figure out a way to make it work. But, it was using our own resources, said Shelley.
In Washington state, there have been three civil rights complaints filed with the U.S. Department of Education over this same issue. In all three cases, Everett, Seattle and Yelm school districts, it was determined the districts did nothing wrong.