NASN Reports School Nurse Shortage (March 22, 2019)

The National Association of School Nurses reports that the number of school nurses is inadequate across the country, citing a 2018 study in the Journal of School Nursing showing that fewer than 40 percent of schools employ full-time school nurses. This, despite a recent CDC report that revealed rates of serious diseases like epilepsy and diabetes, as well as mental health needs, have increased in children over the past few decades. Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatrics has supported full-time nurses in every school. 

Unfortunately, the pool of school nurses appears inadequate to meet the needs of schools, which must compete with hospitals and other agencies that can pay salaries that are on average $16,000 more per year. This forces schools to make hard decisions and/or look at ways to secure nursing services. Some schools are even exploring sharing school nurse costs with local hospitals in order to fill nursing needs.

HB 97 Aims to Make Vaping on School Premises Illegal in PA (March 22, 2019)

In answer to a declaration by the US Surgeon General that vaping is an epidemic across the country, on March 12th the PA House Judiciary Committee unanimously advanced a bill that would close a loophole that allows students to use vapes and other electronic nicotine delivery systems on school property. The bill would also make it a crime to sell such products to persons under the age of 18. HB 97 unanimously passed the House during the 2017-18 legislative session, but wasn’t considered in the Senate.

Number of Homeless Students on the Rise Across the US (March 22, 2019)

The number of homeless students in the US rose in 2017 to over 1.3 million. A report by Education Leads Home a new report by the national campaign Education Leads Home reported that the nation saw an increase of over 100,000 homeless students from 2016 to 2017. The report also says data shows that homeless students graduate on time at significantly lower rates than their peers, with a national average graduation rate of just 64 percent for homeless students, as compared to the low-income rate of 77.6 percent, and 84.1 percent for all students.

Education Week Article Sheds Light on Increasing Student Emotional Issues (March 22, 2019)

According to March 14th Education Week article, “[b]etween 2005 and 2017, the proportion of teens 12-17 who reported the symptoms of a major depressive episode within the last year rose from 8.7 percent to 13.2 percent, the data showed. Adults ages 18-25 showed similar trends, while rates remained relatively stable for older generations.” This data supports other studies that show a recent increase in teens that attempted or considered suicide.

Also identified is the need for an increased focus on preparing staff to spot warning signs of serious emotional issues in students, as well as teaching children as early as middle school to spot signs of suicidal thoughts in their peers. The article also points to an ACLU report that shows a lack of resources to address mental illness in schools across the nation, including inadequate numbers of school counselors and psychologists.

Measles Outbreaks Prompt Officials to Re-examine Exemption Laws/Policies (March 17, 2019)

In order to attend school in the US, all 50 states require most parents/guardians to vaccinate their children against select preventable diseases (i.e., diseases that can be prevented through immunization). Such diseases include mumps, measles, rubella (German measles), and whooping cough (pertussis). However, in addition to medical exemptions, most states also allow parents/guardians to opt out of vaccination requirements for religious reasons. Further, 17 states also allow other exemptions, such as allowing families to opt out of school vaccination requirements for personal or philosophical reasons.

Concerns regarding the ease with which parents/guardians can opt their children out of required vaccinations have risen in light of outbreaks of measles and, to a lesser extent, mumps, forcing some states to rethink such exemptions. Over the past two years, more than 500 people have contracted measles – a disease that had been all but eradicated. The measles virus is highly contagious, is airborne, and easily spreads.

It is not only those unvaccinated children who are vulnerable to the virus, but others who have compromised immune systems are also highly susceptible, as well as infants too young to be vaccinated.  

Despite the wrongheaded claims from some in Washington, the scientific consensus about any risk from vaccines is that serious side effects are extremely rare, and any assertions that immunization might be tied to severe consequences like autism were debunked years ago.

Bills to restrict exemptions are now pending in a number of states.