I have been contacted by a number of concerned parents and citizens about recent changes that are being made to nurses at several area schools. As you can imagine, these changes are causing a great deal of disruption and discomfort for the community and the students.
I know you are quite busy but I do think this matter might need your personal assistance. I want to make sure that your staff is informing you about their decisions in this matter and providing you the fullest picture on the ramifications.
I have been told that this change is being made pursuant to board policy; specifically about care for children with diabetes. I reviewed the regulation JGC-R that directs actions based on DeKalb Board Policy JGC. Additionally, I reviewed state statute regarding the student Diabetic Medical Management Plans (O.C.G.A. 160-4-8-.18).
DeKalb School Board Regulation JGC-R states: “The school nurse or at least one trained diabetes personnel shall be on site at each school and available during regular school hours to provide care to each student with a diabetes medical management plan being implemented by the school. ”
Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 160-4-8-.18, the state defines “trained diabetes personnel” as: “a school employee who volunteers to be trained in accordance with this rule. Such employee shall not be required to be a health care professional.”
Given the current clinical/nursing staff of the school communities that have reached out to my office, all policy, regulation, and law are being appropriately followed. There appears to be no policy, regulation, or state law that can be used as a basis for this change.
Parents have shared just how deeply disruptive this change will be. The clinical staff person at Kittredge, Ms. Sumi, is a fixture at the school and an alumni parent. She coaches the science team, academic bowl team and is the sponsor for the Beta Club. She has secured over $30k in grant money for health and wellness programs over the past few years. Tearing her away from her community and commitments is heartbreaking for the entire school. Similarly, Vanderlyn and Oakcliff’s nurses are valued by their community. Oakcliff’s nurse has been at that school for over 20 years. She is also uniquely qualified because she is bilingual. Vanderlyn’s nurse is also a Vanderlyn parent and was recruited to be part of the Vanderlyn staff. She was a stay-at-home mom and is only working because she is at her children’s school.
The nurses at these schools are now familiar with the myriad of medical situations, medication needs, and temperament of the children they are serving. They have bonded with these children already. Switching nurses in this way is disruptive for thousands of children in these schools. Surely this warrants consideration. It is potentially detrimental to those children that have come to depend on their current school nurse who already knows their important medical routines. Switching clinical staff may create a liability for the district as they start from scratch getting familiar with the needs of the students. Given that DeKalb is already compliant with policy, regulation, and state law, it is difficult for these communities to understand why they are being subjected to this.
Parents are distraught over this matter. I have heard unconfirmed reports that as many as 2 of the nurses involved in this change are resigning. If true, the premise of this change won’t even be accomplished and the, difficult to fill, nursing positions will be vacant. What will have been accomplished is a further degrading of the relationship between the district and parents. They will have broken the hearts of a community and its children in the process. It will reinforce the notion that the district acts punitively towards some school communities. I hope that you will consider this situation, direct your staff to delay any of their changes at this time, develop an alternative strategy, or decide that DeKalb is already in compliance with policy, regulations, and law.
Commissioner, District 1