Students whose families do not “opt in” to medical services with their school districts will not be given Band-Aids, ice packs or other minor medical care, according to announcements and statements from Volusia and Palm Beach County School District officials, among others.
Palm Beach County school officials say that’s because the Florida Parental Rights in Education Law, which went into effect July 1, requires schools to notify parents of health-care services and give them the opportunity to consent to or decline them.
In response, some counties added an “opt-in” question to its annual student registration form, which asks parents to consent to services in the school nurse’s office.
As of Aug. 25, more than 3,300 Palm Beach County parents had opted out of medical care. But more concerning to district officials is that they still need about 57,000 forms. About 167,000 students attend district-operated schools.
If a child doesn’t have a registration form on file, they cannot receive medical care and the nurse must call their parents to the school to pick them up. Parents cannot give consent to medical services over the phone.
That’s creating headaches for parents who have not filled out the form and a flurry of uncertainty for school officials trying to keep children safe within what the law allows.
Volusia County schools in August sent a note home to parents explaining that they would have to opt in to medical services for minor care by school nurses.
The district went on to say staff will call 911 if a child is having a medical emergency. Palm Beach County has the same policy.
Palm Beach and Volusia Counties aren’t alone in the opt-in policy.
Broward, Pinellas and Orange County School Districts all asked parents to opt-in to medical services this year, according to forms listed on their respective websites.
Flagler County, just north of Daytona Beach, also requires parental consent for medical treatment. But that district offers an opt-out form instead of an opt-in form, where consent for medical services is implied unless parents submit a form declining medical services, according to the district’s website.
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Problems with medical opt-in form
Keith Oswald, Palm Beach County schools chief of equity and wellness, said Thursday at a district committee meeting that school nurses are limited in their ability to treat headaches, minor scrapes and bruises if a child doesn’t have a consent form on file.
He said there’s been a misunderstanding over what the medical service opt-in question means.
“Some people are marking no because they think we’re going to be providing vaccinations and do all these other things,” Oswald said. “Anything that would be serious, we would call EMS whether we have consent or not.”
Palm Beach County schools are not requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for students.
Oswald and others have also pointed out issues with accessing the form. Parents who have limited internet access or printer access are less able to return the form, whether they are supportive of their children getting medical services or not.
“Typically, it’s in our more marginalized communities where we’re not getting those back,” he said, citing possible communication issues and language gaps.
The health services consent form can be downloaded from the Palm Beach County School District website.
This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Parental rights law stops school nurses from giving Band-Aids, ice packs
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