More than half of American public schools don’t have a full-time nurse, and the situation is getting worse as school systems further cut budgets. This year, 51 were laid off in Philadelphia’s public schools, 20 in a Houston suburb, 15 in San Diego and dozens more in other school systems nationwide.
Other schools have reduced their school nurse staffing.
At Githens Middle School in Durham, N.C., school nurse Valerie Mitchell is only there two days a week. Parent Suzanne Fuller chalks it up to luck that Mitchell was there the day her son, 12-year-old Rock, had a seizure. In addition to having seizures, Rock has an attention deficit disorder and cerebral palsy.
When the school had a fire drill a few months back, the sensory overload of the flashing lights, screaming alarm and rushing students was too much for Rock. His teacher thought he was having a seizure and called Mitchell.
“Had a bad headache, and he just felt like he was in a tunnel. That’s what he kept telling me. I just tried to keep him calm, tried to keep him comfortable. You multitask during that time,” Mitchell says.