For Professors and Teachers

This page is intended to serve as a simple starting point for professors and teachers (6th grade and up) who have a student with type 1 diabetes. For more information and specifics regarding your institution, please consult with your school nurse, accessibility office, or other trained professional.

Before you begin...

This page includes an abundance of information in order to provide the most accurate and useful guide to having students with type 1; however, you will most likely not need to intervene or treat your student's diabetes during their time in your class.

Most people with type 1 are entirely self sufficient and will not need assistance.

If you are a teacher for students younger than 6th grade, please read this page as the information is slightly different.

Table of Contents

What is type 1 diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes (often abbreviated as T1D) is an autoimmune disorder where a persons body attacks and destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to help glucose (the body's main form of energy) pass from the bloodstream into the cells. Without insulin, a persons body has no way of getting energy, causing the glucose to build up in the bloodstream potentially leading to severe complications.

How is type 1 diabetes treated?

Unfortunately, there currently isn't a cure for type 1, but it can be treated and managed through injections of insulin. Since someone with type 1 diabetes can't produce insulin themselves, they must give injections of insulin, either through a syringe and needle, through a pen, or with an insulin pump. This is used to help their body absorb the glucose from the food that they eat and to help ensure that their blood sugar stays within an acceptable range. However, giving manual injections of insulin isn't as finely tuned and accurate as the pancreas doing the job itself, so there are times when a persons blood sugar goes too low, and they need to eat some fast acting sugar (ie. candy, frosting, juice box) to help raise it again.

Insulin injection with syringe, needle, and vial.

Insulin pen, can be dialed to a certain amount and then injected through a needle screwed on the end.

Insulin pump, which automatically delivers insulin at set intervals and upon request before eating food.

What should I know as a teacher?

Most people with type 1 diabetes, especially those who are older, are completely self sufficient in their care and will rarely need assistance. There are two main occasions when you may need to intervene, cases of severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) or cases of severe hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Read below about how to notice and treat such cases.

Severe Hypoglycemia Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Shakiness

  • Dizziness

  • Sweating

  • Hunger

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Confusion

  • Headache

  • Convulsions of seizures**

  • Unconsciousness**

  • Death**


**These symptoms only occur in the most severe and rare cases.

Severe Hyperglycemia Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Shortness of breath

  • Dry mouth

  • Weakness

  • Confusion

  • Fruity-smelling breath

  • Abdominal pain

  • Coma**

  • Death**


**These symptoms only occur in the most severe and rare cases.

When to Intervene

If a person is conscious, coherent, and able to take care of their diabetes independently, then there is usually no reason to get involved. However, if the person is unable to treat themselves, are unconscious, or are not responding, then you should follow the steps below.

Severe Hypoglycemia Treatment

Steps to take:

  • If the person is conscious and able to eat, find them some fast-acting carbohydrates. Good examples include candy, juice boxes, cake frosting, or non-diet soda. Anything with high simple sugar content will work. Most people with type 1 will carry a source of glucose with them.

  • If the person is unconscious or seizing, you may need to administer an emergency injection/nose spray called Glucagon. Find more information about that below.

  • Call 911 if the person is unconscious or seizing. Make note of how long any seizures last and inform medical professionals when they arrive.

  • Monitor breathing and heart rate. If they stop, begin CPR.

Severe Hyperglycemia Treatment

Steps to take:

  • If the person is conscious and coherent, have them administer insulin. If they use a pump, try having them use an insulin pen or needle, as a malfunctioning pump could be the cause of hyperglycemia.

  • Call 911 if the person is unconscious or seizing. Make note of how long any seizures last and inform medical professionals when they arrive.

  • Monitor breathing and heart rate. If they stop, begin CPR.

How to Administer Glucagon/Baqsimi

In the event that a person is unconscious with suspected hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), then you may need to administer Glucagon (an emergency injection) or Baqsimi (an emergency nose spray). Both serve the exact same purpose of quickly raising blood sugar and are fairly simple to use. A student with type 1 diabetes should be carrying one or both of these medications either on their person or in their backpack or other belongings. In some cases, a schools nurse office or main office may have the students medication or have a copy of their own. Please check with your student about where they keep their Glucagon and/or Baqsimi.

The videos on the right demonstrate how to administer these medications. If they need to be used, 911 (or your local emergency number) needs to be called. They are not "magical" medicines that will cure hypoglycemia and the individual may still need professional medical attention.

Accommodations and Accessibility

All US public schools and colleges, most private schools, and any institutions that receive federal funding are required by law to provide reasonable accommodations to students with type 1 diabetes (or any disability). The Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act state that, “No otherwise qualified individual with a disability in the United States, as defined in section 7(20), shall, solely by reason of his or her disability, be excluded from the participating in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance…” These laws also specifically state that this provision applies to any "college, university, or other postsecondary institution, or a public system of higher education.” Schools and/or individuals who fail to meet reasonable expectations regarding accommodations or are negligent in their implementation may face civil lawsuits and/or criminal charges. Schools and/or individuals who fail to meet reasonable expectations regarding accommodations or are negligent in their implementation for third party testing (ie. College Board), may lose their right to administer such test on a school district or county-wide basis.

Additionally, certain testing companies, such as College Board and ACT, require that accommodations be provided for their test to students who need them.

While accommodations vary based on the individuals needs and the resources available to the school, here are some commonly accepted reasonable accommodations to students with type 1 diabetes:

  • Access to food and/or drink without restriction in the classroom, or the ability to leave the classroom/lab to access food and/or drink, always and at any time.

  • Access to restrooms at any time. (Frequent urination can be a symptom of type 1).

  • Ability to take breaks during tests, exams, or other timed assignments in the event that their blood sugar is out of range.

  • Ability to make up or postpone assignments in the event that their blood sugar is out of range (both low and high blood sugars can negatively affect mental cognition).

  • Access to their phone (if used for continuous glucose monitoring) and/or other medical devices required to treat their blood sugar.

Usually, school or district administration and/or the schools accessibility/student services office are responsible for developing 504 plans and ensuring that students receive the proper accommodations that they need. As a teacher, it is your responsibility to ensure that you follow such guidelines to the best of your ability.

Legal Privacy

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) dictates how personal educational information (including information about accommodations and medical conditions) can be shared and accessed. While the legal implications are long and complex, there are two simple concepts that cover most situations.

  • Personal information (such as medical diagnoses or information about accommodations) should not be shared with any person who does not need such information to carry out their duties to the school. For example, a test administrator would need such information, but a janitor would not. Similarly, other students do not need personal information about another individual in order to do their job (learning).

  • School employees should be mindful in how they communicate such information to ensure that it is not accessed by individuals who do not need it. For example, do not leave a copy of a student's 504 plan on a printer where others might see it, and do not ask a student about their condition or information where other students might hear the conversation. Negligence is often included in such provisions (ie. sending personal student information to a wrong email address).

Ethical Privacy

There is almost universal agreement that ones personal health information should be kept private and only disclosed with their permission. While the laws mentioned above provide robust legal protection, perhaps an ethical approach may resonate more effectively with some. It is common sense that if you went to a doctor and received a life-changing diagnosis, you might not want to share that information with everybody you know, or at least not right away. Such news takes time to process and understand, especially when one must learn how to treat a complicated condition. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of stigma around diabetes as being a disease associated with obesity, poor eating habits, or laziness, none of which is true for type 1 diabetes. While some wear their diagnosis of type 1 as a badge of pride and resilience for all to see, others choose to share it only with their closest friends, or even just their family. Neither option is right, wrong, good, or bad, they are all just different and reflect how people process their life's difficulties in their own unique way. As teachers and professors, your job is chiefly to teach students and ensure an appropriate and encouraging environment for learning. Sharing private information without permission can cause significant emotional trauma for some.