Time-wasting bureaucracy expands to charters

The “pathologies and pettifogging bureaucracy that so hinder district schools” are being forced on charters, writes Rick Hess. The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the U.S. Department of Education is demanding that 44 charter schools in Washington, D.C. prove they’re training teachers to serve students with diabetes — even if they have no such students.

Schools must provide:

. . . a “specific, narrative response to each of the complainants allegations;” “the school’s policies and procedures on, and narrative descriptions of, the school’s practice applicable to, the care of students with diabetes, including all relating to the provision of diabetes-related services;” “a description of–and all methods relating to–the method by which the school identifies students who have diabetes;” “copies of the section 504 and all other health plans for each school student with diabetes;” “the number of school staff knowledgeable about diabetes, including registered nurses, who are present at the school and the settings in which such staff are required to be present;” “diabetes-related training the school has provided or arranged for school staff during the 2010/2011 and the 2011/2012 school years;” and oodles more. The complaints included allegations that some schools did not have “adequate numbers of properly trained staff to monitor and administer medication” to students when they’re transported to and from school or during extra-curricular activities and field trips.

It’s usually safer to let juvenile diabetics manage their own medication than to let an unfamiliar adult take over. But this isn’t just about diabetes, Hess writes.

. . . multiply this little Kafkaesque exercise by all the imaginable complaints about every category of special need, every statute and regulation relating to public funds, every conceivable complaint that some special interest or grudge-holding group can surface, and expect schools to bulletproof themselves against all of that, and you realize how easy it is to prevent educators from actually focusing on education.

Compliance isn’t really about safety. If teacher training doesn’t guarantee teachers will  be prepared to teach multiplying fractions, I doubt spending some of that time training on diabetes, asthma, allergies, juvenile arthritis — and all the other medical conditions that might or might not occur — will turn teachers into competent paramedics.

About Joanne


  1. I took medicine for childhood epilepsy from 4th grade until college. For the first few years, my mom packed my lunchtime medicine in my lunchbox. By the time that I was in high school, I carried my medicine with me, taking it at lunchtime and in the afternoon if I had activities that kept me at school until dinner. My friends knew, but I kept the medicine hidden to avoid dealing with the nonsense of having a random adult intervene in something that I managed myself at home.

    Teachers need a heads-up in dealing with a newly diagnosed student (ie if they do X, then call us/do Y) but most kids who have a chronic condition learn to manage it on their own so that they can do normal kid things, like camps, sports, and sleepovers.

  2. From what you shared, it sounds like the ‘burden’ on a school that has no diabetic children would be de minimis. I expect that compliance with the letter would be pretty simple, as well, for schools that have diabetic students but have not established proper protocols – after all, public schools manage to do so as a matter of routine.

    Schools that don’t want to be subject to the oversight that results from receiving public funds as their primary or exclusive source of funding are free to go private. Schools that want to hop on board the public funding gravy train are voluntarily agreeing to follow the associated body of regulations. If the regulations are inappropriate or burdensome, schools can advocate or lobby fro their reform.

    Rick Hess should try to find a friend with a scanner – it would be elementary to OCR the letter or to post it as a PDF.

    • If there were one, and only one, type of public school you might be right but there isn’t.

      Being a creature of the political system public education is whatever the legislature says it is and the bureaucracy can twist it to be. In this case a federal agency is asserting power over D.C. charters. It remains to be seen how the the schools, the courts and the legislature decide the issue.

      My guess is that the OCR is acting at the behest of the NEA although that’s certainly not a necessity bureaucracitic expansion being an on-going problem inherent to bureaucracies. The solution is to rap the OCR smartly on the back of the hand legislatively or, the lesser solution is an adverse judicial opinion. Either or both lessons to be re-applied as needed until the lesson takes.

  3. What a bunch of whiners. I have worked in public schools, parochial schools, and a charter school. Being prepared for common childhood ailments is standard practice in any well run school, and takes very little time. That Rick Hess is trying to make this an issue, shows that he has very little knowledge about how schools are run.