FREMONT — If Andrew Stone needs an emergency insulin shot, any one of six staff members at his elementary school in Modesto is ready and willing to give it.

But if he went to school in Fremont, no one would. The school would call his father, and Andrew, 9, would wait until his dad reached the campus.

It's a discrepancy that a class-action lawsuit filed this week against the state and the Fremont and San Ramon Valley school districts seeks to change.

Schools are required under federal law to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for students, but the lengths that schools will go to for their diabetic students vary from training staff to give insulin shots to calling 9-1-1 during an emergency.

"There seems to be a patchwork (approach) across the state," said Larisa Cummings, a staff attorney at the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley, one of the organizations that filed the lawsuit.

"We've heard from parents who are very concerned (and) parents who have both problems and success stories," she said, adding that the success stories are more rare.

The fund conducted a survey in 2004 that indicated diabetic children in at least 40 school districts are not receiving adequate care at school.

Regina Nickelson's oldest son, Michael, is a diabetic who attended Ardenwood Elementary School and Walters Junior High School in Fremont before transferring to a charter school.


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She said her son was stigmatized by his illness and that teachers gave him a hard time because he often needed to go tothe office to drink juice when his blood-sugar level was low or go to the bathroom when it was high. They were convinced he was just trying to get out of class, she said.

There were times when his blood-sugar level got so low, he was too weak to test it himself, so the school would call Regina to have her come in.

"If there's not going to be a nurse, there's got to be somebody else who is responsible," she said.

On two occasions, the school staff called 9-1-1 because Michael had passed out in the office. Regina said that could have been prevented.

Fremont school district spokesman Gary Leatherman said the district has limited authority to insist that school staff "take responsibility, particularly for injections," and doesn't have the funding to place a nurse at every school.

"That is very unfortunate," he said.

Cummings said that if teachers and other support staff negotiate into their contracts that they won't administer medication to students, then the school district should hire other people.

"Our lawsuit does not dictate who should provide the care that's needed. The emphasis is really on the fact that the care must be provided. These are mandated (services)," she said. "In other words, it's no excuse."

Staff writer Grace Rauh covers education for The Argus. She can be reached at (510) 353-7010 or

grauh@angnewspapers.com.