Team 10: Diabetic girl's attendance battle could help other kids in school lockdowns

Posted at 7:01 PM, Nov 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-03 22:01:32-04

EL CAJON, Calif. - In the aftermath of the police shooting of Alfred Olango, protesters filled the streets of El Cajon on Sept. 29, rallying near the intersection of Mollison and Naranca avenues, not far from Naranca Elementary School.

Fearing a school lockdown, Sheila and David Berman panicked. They kept their 10-year-old daughter Faith home from school.

It wasn't because the Bermans feared the protesters; they kept Faith home because they were afraid if the school was locked down, Faith would not be able to get to the nurse's office across campus for her insulin shots.

Faith is a type-1 diabetic and she needs insulin shots as many as seven times a day.

The fifth grader wears a monitor that beeps when her blood sugar goes too high or too low. Sometimes a snack will help, but more often than not, she needs her medication.

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Policy within the Cajon Valley Union School District is medication must be kept in the office where a nurse can monitor its use.

The Bermans say the nurses at Naranca Elementary are "awesome" at monitoring Faith's diabetes and administering her insulin, but during a lockdown their daughter would not have access to the nurse.

As it turned out, the school didn't have a lockdown the day her parents kept Faith home, but her absence from school was marked as unexcused.

Faith was devastated because her goal this school year was to have perfect attendance, after medical setbacks the past two years kept her from taking home an attendance award at the end of the school year.

Her parents asked the school to reconsider, and their answer was that Faith could attend Saturday school to get the absence excused. The family rejected that idea, saying Faith shouldn't be blamed because her parents kept her home.

"It's not fair to her to punish her for her parents looking out for her well-being," said Sheila Berman. "It's not right."

The Bermans contacted the California Department of Education. They claim someone in that office told them they could challenge the decision by taking it to the district superintendent.

However, Cajon Valley Unified School District Superintendent Dr. David Miyashiro stood firm. Although sympathetic to the family's medical issues and concerns, Miyashiro said changing the absence from unexcused to excused would be committing fraud against the state, which funds schools based on accurate attendance records.

"We wouldn't do it," Miyashiro told Team 10.

David Berman consulted a lawyer and said he would file a lawsuit to fight for his daughter's right to have her absence excused since it was due to medical necessity.

When asked how far he was willing to take his fight, Berman responded, "As far as I have to go; to the Supreme Court if I have to."

That won't be necessary, because nearly a month after Faith was kept home, Miyashiro accepted a written excuse from Faith's doctor for her absence.

The absence is now marked excused.

Miyashiro told Team 10 he's glad the Bermans brought the issue to his attention. He said all districts need to look into ways to make sure that kids who have medical needs have access to their medications, even during a lockdown.

One idea he mentioned was the possibility of keeping medicine "under lock and key" inside classrooms, to be used only in an emergency.

Miyashiro also said he had conversations with local police and fire personnel who reassured him that in the event of a lockdown, paramedics would have access to the school to make sure students with medical needs with get the care they need.

The Bermans are glad their little girl won't face repercussions because they kept her home out of an abundance of caution.

"Safety is the most important thing in life and we as parents have to protect our children," said David Berman.