You would be forgiven if you can’t keep up with the many changes in the Illinois laws governing education at back-to-school time this year. As if Illinois special educators and administrators don’t have enough to do already, a significant number of laws passed or awaiting Governor Pritzker’s “John Hancock” impact special education. See the end of this post for information about the many Franczek resources on the horizon to assist with understanding the current education-legislation landscape. For now, we wanted to make sure you are aware of some particularly noteworthy legal changes relating to students with medical concerns and medication needs that you should be actively working on now. We have all you need to know here.

Update to the Care of Students with Diabetes Act. While the changes below go into effect in January or next July, this amendment took effect immediately. The law now allows schools to maintain a supply of undesignated glucagon in a secure location that is immediately accessible to a school nurse or a delegated care aide. The school nurse or delegated care aide can administer the undesignated glucagon if they are authorized to do so through the student’s diabetes care plan and the student’s prescribed glucagon is not available or has expired. The student’s parent/guardian and health care provider must be notified immediately after the administration of undesignated glucagon. If your school is going to implement this provision, take steps to update your administration of medication policy, obtain a prescription for glucagon for the school, and work with families to update students’ care plans. The law was prompted by an incident last spring where a school nurse made an emergency decision to administer another student’s glucagon to a student with diabetes who had lost consciousness due to low blood sugar.

The Seizure Smart School Act. This new law, effective July 1, 2020, puts in place supports for students with epilepsy that parallel those provided for students with diabetes under the Care of Students with Diabetes Act, including individual plans submitted by the student’s parent and physician and the use of a delegated care aide. The law addresses difficulties and concerns many schools encountered related to the administration of Diastat.

Under the new law, students with epilepsy will have a seizure action plan that specifies the services needed by the student at school and school activities and assigns a delegated care aide the authority to provide and supervise those services. Parents are responsible for sharing the health care provider’s instructions for managing the student’s epilepsy at school, and the law requires that the plan include accommodations and services that are reasonable and reflect the current best practice guidelines.

The delegated care aide is a school employee who has agreed to receive training and assist the student pursuant to the action plan. This person can be a school nurse, administrator, teacher, or guidance counselor, or can be someone employed by the local health department and assigned to the school or a person who contracts with the district to be the delegated care aide. Schools are not required to hire additional personnel for the sole purpose of serving as a delegated care aide. The delegated care aide must receive training specific to the student’s seizure action plan and provided by a licensed health care provider with expertise in epilepsy or an epilepsy educator who has completed the program offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, all school employees must receive training on the basics of seizure recognition, first aid, and emergency protocols.

The law also provides that the seizure action plan shall serve as the basis for the student’s Section 504 plan. While that language might suggest that the 504 plan will automatically incorporate the seizure action plan, you know that 504 eligibility and service decisions need to be made by the 504 team on an individual basis. So, for students who do not yet have a 504 plan, the district should follow its policies to refer the student for an evaluation. For students who do already have a 504 plan, the team will likely need to meet to determine if revisions to the plan are needed.

The law also allows students, if specified on their seizure action plan, to carry their needed medication, and prohibits districts from limiting the student’s school assignment based on the availability of a school nurse. Finally, the law provides protection from retaliation for any school employee who chooses not to be a delegated care aide and, importantly, provides immunity to schools and school employees from liability or disciplinary action related to the care of a student with epilepsy so long as the action is in compliance with the Act and does not constitute willful or wanton misconduct.

Updates to Ashley’s Law. Effective January 1, 2020, Public Act 101-0370 amends Ashley’s Law to deal with some of the logistical difficulties schools encountered under the original Act.

While previously only a student’s parent or other registered caregiver could administer a medical cannabis-infused product to a qualifying student at school, the school nurse or school administrator are now authorized to do so. Prior to administering medical cannabis products, school nurses and administrators must undergo annual training developed by ISBE. The school may also allow the student to self-administer the medical cannabis product under the direct supervision of a school nurse or administrator.

Additionally, while previously medical cannabis products could not be stored at school, requiring the caregiver to bring the product to school to administer it and then remove it, under the new law, medical cannabis products can be stored at school. Such products must be stored with the nurse and accessible only to the nurse or a school administrator. Students are not permitted to carry their medical cannabis products at school.

The student’s parent/guardian must provide written authorization specifying the time and circumstances under which the medical cannabis product may be administered and copies of the student’s and parent/guardian’s identification cards designating them as a registered qualified user or caregiver prior to any medication administration.

The law also protects nurses and administrators acting in compliance with the law from prosecution related to administering a medical cannabis-infused product to a student. Other restrictions and protections in Ashley’s Law remain in effect.

Updates to Self-Administration of Medication. As you know, the Illinois School Code already provides for the self-administration of asthma medication and epinephrine by students under specified circumstances. Public Act 101-0205, effective January 1, 2020, provides broader authorization for students to self-administer needed medications and requires districts to take additional precautions. Specifically, a student with one of the following plans that provides for the student to self-administer medication may do so:

  • an asthma action plan,
  • an Individual Health Care Action Plan,
  • an Illinois Food Allergy Emergency Action Plan and Treatment Authorization Form,
  • a Section 504 plan, or
  • an IEP

The law requires written permission for self-administration from the student’s parent or guardian as well as written authorization from the student’s physician, physician assistant, or advanced practice registered nurse. Parents are required to provide the medication with the prescription label, including the times or circumstances when the medication should be administered.

Additionally, the district must adopt an emergency action plan for any student who will self-administer medication. The plan must include what to do if the student is unable to self-administer the medication and situations where the school must call 9-1-1. Like the existing self-administration law, the new law provides immunity for districts and school employees for liability related to a student’s self-administration of medication, except in the case of willful or wanton misconduct.

These four new laws demonstrate a focus on meeting the medical needs of students in school to help all students to be healthy, safe, and focused on learning. The new laws include significant changes related to the administration of medication at school. Make sure your policies are updated and your school nurses and administrators are prepared for implementation. Additionally, you may want to reach out to parents of students who may be impacted to talk about the changes and review the student’s health plan for any needed revisions.

With so many legislative changes happening, it’s important to stay on top of the changes and what they mean for your schools. For instance, we have our eye on House Bill 3586, which is still sitting on the Governor’s desk with its confusion about application to non-CPS schools. For those of you subscribed to receive Franczek’s K-12 Education newsletters (and you all are, right?! If not, get on over there and sign up!), you will be receiving our annual, comprehensive summary of all new Illinois education legislation soon. Stay tuned! And if you haven’t signed up for our *free* K-12 legislative update webinar at 10 a.m. on August 27, 2019 yet, sign up now. You really won’t want to miss that, either.