By LUCAS L. JOHNSON II, Associated Press
Tennessee is now one of more than 20 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws adding insulin to medications that school staff may volunteer to be trained to administer, according to the American Diabetes Association.
"It really just helps give an extra level of support to the children and their families by allowing trained personnel within the schools ... to help out when there's a need," said Kristie Ryan, executive director of the American Diabetes Association in Tennessee.
About 208,000 Americans under age 20 are estimated to have diagnosed diabetes, according to the association.
In Tennessee and other states, tight budgets have thinned the ranks of school nurses. Even at schools with a nurse, the legislation's proponents say, that nurse may have to travel to other schools without nurses.
Critics of the measure, such as the Tennessee Association of School Nurses, argue instead for bolstering the dwindling ranks of school nurses. They warn that something as routine as giving an insulin dose can require a medical background if the unexpected happens.
However, parent Freddie Martin of Franklin says he's comfortable with someone being trained to administer insulin to his 10-year-old daughter, who has type 1 diabetes.
"It gives another layer of protection if the nurse is not around," he said. "The more people that are trained ... the better off everyone is."
Under the law, school boards would have to approve the legislation, and parents would be able to opt in.
Another new law changes the way members of the state's textbook selection panel are selected. The panel makes recommendations to the State Board of Education, and local school systems then choose which textbooks to adopt.
Criticism of the content of some books led to calls for a stronger public review process.
Under the new law, the House and Senate speakers and the governor would each make three appointments to the panel after Jan. 1. Currently, all but one of the 10 panelists is appointed by the governor. The legislation also requires that history and fundamental documents be taught.
Some said they don't think the change is necessary.
"So far as I can tell, the textbook folks have always done a fine job and I really didn't understand the need for the Legislature to get involved," said House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh of Ripley. "If politicians should be worried about anything in this arena, it should be making sure every child actually has a textbook."
Other new laws will:
- Require marinas to install ground fault protection on electric lines, post notices about the danger of electrical leakage into waters surrounding a marina and require annual inspections by the Tennessee Fire Marshal's office to ensure ground fault safety.
- As part of welfare eligibility, a parent or guardian with a child struggling in a school must attend two or more conferences with the teacher within a year to review the child's status.
- Allow an ex-felon who has turned his or her life around to receive a certificate of employability, which gives businesses who hire the person protection from negligent hiring lawsuits.
James Settles founded a Nashville transitional housing program called Aphesis House, which helps former prisoners reintegrate into society. He said he supports the new law because it's tough for them to get jobs when they're released.
"They've paid their debt to society," Settles said. "This gives them an opportunity to be taxpaying citizens."