People in the Know: Cell Phones in School

Q: Are schools required to allow cell phones in the classroom if a child uses one as a type 1 diabetes device — that is, to transmit CGM data to the nurse and/or parents at home?

A: It is becoming increasingly popular for students with type 1 diabetes to use smartphones to monitor their blood sugar levels in real time at school, thanks to advances in continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). CGMs detect blood sugar levels using a sensor and transmit the data to the student’s smartphone every five minutes. Alerts can be programmed to notify the student, parent, or caregiver when blood sugar is above or below target, or if it’s dropping or rising rapidly.

The FDA approved CGM data sharing via smartphone in 2015, and students with these devices now have the ability to share their blood sugar levels throughout the school day with a parent, school nurse, or designated staff member (their CGM “followers”). This technology is particularly helpful because it can alert the school nurse that a student is experiencing a low blood sugar even when the student is across campus or away from school on a field trip. The nurse or other designated school staff member should be prepared to respond to CGM alarms as prescribed in the student’s individualized Diabetes Medical Management Plan (DMMP).

Students using this new technology should be allowed access to their smartphone (or other receiver device with either a data plan or access to the school’s wireless network) to enable transmission of CGM data to caregivers when it is prescribed in the child’s DMMP. Likewise, if designated in the DMMP, students may also be able to receive text messages from their parents or other caregivers.

Recommendations for CGM use and data transmission should be spelled out in the student’s DMMP and documented in the student’s Section 504 Plan, Individualized Education Program, or other written accommodations plan. Some CGM-related points that parents might want to consider including in a child’s 504 Plan include how CGM alerts will be responded to, the location of the student’s smartphone or receiver during standardized testing, a data-sharing protocol, and a training plan for school staff.

Many times, schools are not familiar with new diabetes technology, and parents will need to work with the school nurse and their child’s diabetes care provider to make sure that key school staff are trained on the CGM components, basic troubleshooting skills, and how to respond to alerts.

Training resources, information about legal protections at school, and details on where to get help may be found on the American Diabetes Association website or by calling 1-800-DIABETES.

Crystal JacksonCrystal Jackson is director of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Campaign.

 

Anastasia Albanese-O’NeillAnastasia Albanese-O’Neill, Ph.D., A.R.N.P., C.D.E., is clinical assistant professor in the department of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and cochair of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School Working Group.

 

Related topics:
With T1D, How Young Is Too Young for a Cell Phone?
What I Learned by Trying James’ CGM Device on Myself 
Self-Conscious About “Sharing” Kaitlyn’s Numbers

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Disclaimer: The information in these articles is not intended as medical advice. Families should check with their healthcare professionals regarding individual care.