I feel like I am being discriminated against!


I am a type 1 diabetic and I was referred to this site based on an incident I am having teaching at a local school.

I started working June 2008 as an after school art teacher and the position has carried over to this day. In addition to the after school program I had also begun substitute teaching at this location. Last week my hours were cut drastically down to a single day each week, which seems hardly even worth while for me. I was told this was due to budgetary limitations. On top of that I was told, in confidence, that the principal of the school had been asking about me and had asked if they knew I was a diabetic (which they do, of course).

You see one day while substitute teaching I stepped to the back of the room to check my blood sugar (as I normally do) and while doing so I knocked a bottle of Humalog insulin from my case. I picked it up and placed it on the counter and was suddenly called away and it was accidentally left there.

Within 3 minutes the teacher called me out of the room, gravely informing me that a student had picked up my bottle of insulin and brought it to her. She was acting as if I had put him in horrible danger, I felt that she was under the impression this was some form of narcotic. I informed her I was a diabetic and assumed that the case was closed but later that day she must have reported this incident to the principal. Other wise it would never have come to my attention at all. The after school program mentioned this I thought in passing but I am coming to the conclusion that my hours being cut may be directly related to this incident.

I attempted to speak with the principal about this today and apologize and explain that this is not something that happens on a regular basis, that I have had diabetes for over ten years and I have never had an incident like this before.

She did not care. She said it was unacceptable. She said “this can’t happen” and I tried to explain that this is an illness that I have to live with. I even tried to show her the bottle and explain that it posed no danger to the students what so ever. But she would have none of it. She was cold, abrasive and short with me and when she finished talking she just looked down at her work as if I should under stand that the conversation was over. I was no longer welcome at her school.

I was shocked and hurt to be turned away and dealt with so dismissively. This is the same elementary school I attended as a child and I always been treated warmly and with respect by the staff and students and now I am just being brushed away.

Later that day I spoke with some of the other after school teachers and one of them mentioned that at one of their meetings they over heard some one say that this is why I was getting fired.

To protect their own interests they were going to let me go. To appease this bully of a principal who is targeting me based on my illness. She called me careless and irresponsible, though this has only happened once. Even though the insulin is probably less dangerous than a bottle of nail polish, a nail clipper a scissor or even a paper clip!

She refuses to have me back as a substitute teacher on the basis that my illness makes me a hazard to her students. I refuse to believe that incident is worthy of me being virtually black listed at her school.

I have a great record as a teacher and I am very popular with the students, which is why they kept me on for ONE day. Because they do not want to lose government funding and they cannot afford to lose any students.

I feel like this may have a discrimination case against them. I do not feel like this “incident” was even worth reporting to the principal and was done so out of fear for an illness they do not understand.

Making an example out of me would be essentially saying that DIABETES is unacceptable at her school. There are surely children with diabetes who have to attend school and I am certain they would not be turned away. This is apart of peoples lives! I know for a fact that there are other diabetic employees at this school and let me tell you they were shaken by this news.

I am outraged and have no idea how to proceed at this point. My initial reaction was to quit teaching altogether but something keeps pulling at me, that this is unjust and I have been treated unfairly.

I am starting to feel like it is MY job as a diabetic to make an example out of her!

I am seeking the advice of other diabetics and diabetic teachers out there and I wanted to share my story. Please let me know what you think and keep in mind that with a closed minded principle ONE slip is all it takes for your illness to be considered UNACCEPTABLE!

Thank you,

You sound like a good teacher.please do not let this bully mkae you quit teaching. I guess you would have to see a lawyer to see if you have a case, as another diabetic…I surely think you do (I am biased) and hope an attorney would think so.

hang in there…don’t give up!

I am a diabetic private teacher contracted by a high school. This is completely and totally unacceptable and I STRONGLY encourage you to seek counsel from the JDRF in your area.

That being said, remember that there was a case of a child being suspended for sharing glucose tabs with another student a couple of years ago and the student lost that case. It is the unfortunate cost of zero tolerance drug policy in American school systems. So the fact that a student touched your insulin bottle (gasp) could be an issue you will have to face. But it sounds like an obvious accident and not that you were stabbing children with licked lancets or something. I say, fight this. This is soooo wrong.

Thank you! I can’t tell you how relieved I am to have some one back me up on this!

I agree with Denise and Melissa-
I think you have grounds to fight this.

This is discrimination bred by ignorance and fear. The first thing you need to do is contact your employer and file a complaint against the school and the principal. Next, contact the New York Department of Education. If you can find the contact info for their general counsel (their attorney), that is a good place to start. Tell them what is going on and what you are planning on doing about it. Clearly state you will be retaining counsel as soon as possible (a good idea if you can afford it).

You also should file a complaint against your employer with the EEOC so the feds are involved. This can be very effective.

Don’t bother trying to work this out with the principal. She made her bed, now go make her lie in it.

I have been teaching a long time now and have never had anyone treat me differently because of my diabetes. I certainly would contact my union rep if I were you. They could direct you to the right place, and you shouldn’t have to pay any out of pocket to speak with a lawyer, if that is where this goes.

By the way, we have a group here for teachers with diabetes. Just click on groups up above and search for teachers:)


So very sorry to hear of the intolerance & ignorance you’ve dealt with. Can’t even imagine the anger you feel at being treated so unjustly! My husband’s a teacher (college Eng professor) & I come from a long line of public school teachers. Dedicated, caring & good teachers are treasures. You have a calling & a talent. Please don’t allow this shrew to force you out of your profession.

Wanted to add my encouragement to fight this–for yourself, for your students & for your diabetic colleagues. I’m originally from NY & the UFT used to be quite a force. Hope you’ll contact them, in addition to the excellent suggestions of the other members here. If it were me, I’d also contact the ACLU. They love cases like this. Sounds like a clear case of discrimination.

Bet there are some other complaints against this principal since this is her way of dealing with people.

Fighting the good fight is always worth it. Hold your head high & keep us posted.

This sounds as if they were just looking for a reason. The danger of insulin is arguable. I mean it must be applied with a syringe and this is a very deliberate act in my opinion. If this is considered as very threatening to students then every teacher that is taking serious medication that could be lost in class must be abandoned from teaching. It should not have happened but it can and will happen - even teachers are humans :wink: If someone finds nail polish remover and injects that with a syringe this will be more serious than handling a low blood sugar.

The bottom line: they want to get rid of you and this is based on one mistake. I want to encourage you to fight for a second chance.

If you’re an art teacher, don’t they have paint thinners or removers in your class room? How can they be worried about the insulin and not the paint thinners then?

That is so unfair and unacceptable! Do they think that some particles would seep out of the insulin bottle and make people sick? I hope that you have strength not to let this one go without a fight! Good luck!

I want to thank every one for stopping to let me know what you think! I honestly had no idea what my rights were in this respect! I am talking to people about this now and I will be sure to keep every one up to date on how this turns out! I cannot even tell you what it means to me that I have so much support! Thank you!

Oh and as for the turpentine, I have been working elementary so everything is very non toxic.

These people you work with at the school sound very ignorant of what diabetes is.It does not disable a person from leading a normal life.Please don’t discontinue teaching especially if it is something you like to do.Maybe changing schools might be an option.I bet their views would change if their one of their children got diabetes or themselves.How shameful!!

J, please do get some representation. I am a high school teacher for many years now, and am a recent diabetic. I informed my administrators and my school nurse to make sure we were all on the same page. I am also extremely concerned that the information was being spread around the building. This is a HIPPA issue, and your medical health should NOT in any way shape or form be public knowledge. If I were you, I would contact your local ACLU office and have them step in for you. When I was diagnosed, I tried wearing the jewelry, but can’t because it irritates my skin, and, I lose them. I talked with my principal about a tattoo on my wrist, and got no negative feedback whatsoever. I think the principal has something out for you, and I do hope you keep us posted. Good luck and God bless. Chris.

Ridiculous!!! That’s all I can think to say. We have so much to deal with and now this. . .

I am behind you 100%! Good luck and stay strong. . .

She is ignorant as far as diabetes goes. As people have suggested, contact the JDRF and they’ll help you and/or point you in the right direction.

Maybe she was trying to protect the insulin junkies in her classrooms.

Good luck

I did a little research today and found that the ADA has a site that discusses diabetes and discrimination HERE.
There are great links to:
Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act - Information about the new law that expands protections for people with diabetes.

Employment Discrimination

Lawyers - Resources to help attorneys fighting discrimination cases

Please do keep us all updated. This is a topic that may touch more people than you realize and we’d all love to hear how it goes.


Oh… digging deeper…
HERE it shows : The ability to keep diabetes supplies and food nearby. So, the child may have touched your insulin, but you do have a right to keep your supplies nearby.

Good grief! That is ridiculous and completely out of line! I personally end up leaving my own medical paraphenilla all over the place, just because it is such a huge part of my life, it’s sort of inevitable at times. It’s not like you were having the child hold your syringe or something. I think that is a complete injustice and I’m sorry you are in this situation. Like the others, I would try to fight this. And also like the others, I am biased as well. Good luck!

I agree with the many other voices that this treatment is not fair. Unfortunately ignorance (like not know what insulin is and that a student touching a vial of insulin poses no danger) leads to situations like these.

Please keep us posted on what you decide to do.

There is a group for teachers in our community! Perhaps you can share your story there as well!