State high court is skeptical of nurses’ stance on school duties

SAN FRANCISCO -- The California Supreme Court appeared skeptical Wednesday of arguments that only licensed nurses may administer insulin injections and other medications to schoolchildren.

During a hearing, several justices on the state high court questioned whether such requirements made sense.

The California Nurses Assn. has argued that state law requires licensed nurses to administer medication to school children, and two lower courts have agreed.


Justice Ming W. Chin, noting that most schools do not have full-time nurses, questioned why they should have to call in a licensed practitioner even if the child’s parents and physician have authorized a trained and designated school employee to administer insulin.

“You have this bureaucratic nightmare,” Chin said. “What happens to the kids?”

Justice Joyce L. Kennard asked why the state would prohibit a trained employee from giving an insulin shot “when even a child who is not too young can administer himself or herself.”

The court is considering a ruling by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, who while on a lower appellate court wrote a unanimous decision in favor of the nurses. Because of her prior ruling, she is not participating in the high court’s decision.

The lower court ruling included a concurring opinion from a justice who questioned the wisdom of the law and whether it was “the product of legitimate concern for the safety of diabetic public school students or the result of a labor organization protecting its turf and flexing its political muscle.”

The court will rule within 90 days.


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