Health department: Chesterfield students were never in danger

Posted at 12:50 AM, Jun 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-13 02:21:40-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) -- The Chesterfield Department of Health is defending a Chesterfield school, accused by some parents, of failing to ensure their child’s medical safety at school.

The Waehner and Strictland families say they pulled their children out of Swift Creek Elementary School this week because the school district refused to show them documentation that they had trained personnel on site to provide crucial medical care for their children.

Seven-year-old Lily Waehner and 10-year-old Hannah Strictland both have Type I diabetes, and wear insulin pumps to regulate their blood sugar levels.

According to both families, the nurse’s aide, who had been providing the majority of their children’s insulin care, left the school unexpectedly at the end of May. Both families say the school district did not inform them that the nurse’s aide was no longer working in the school and heard the news through other parents.

Lily’s mother, Catherine Martin, says she and her husband, Greg Waehner, confronted the school’s principal after learning about the change of personnel.

The Waehners and Strictlands say their fears were heightened, when the registered nurse assigned to the school, questioned how to use the children’s insulin pumps and was removed from the school by Chesterfield health officials.

However Chesterfield Health District Director Parham Jaberi, M.D., says the decision to remove the nurse was to ease the parents’ concerns and had nothing to do with her training or competence level as a nurse.

“Her forthrightness to come forward to the parents and say ‘tell me what do I need to do,’ may have been misconstrued as incompetence.”

Jaberi says school nurses/personnel are not routinely trained on the use of specific insulin pumps and therefore consult with parents to become familiar with instructions particular to each individual child.

The Waehners and Strictlands say their children have individual education plans, also known as 504 plans, to ensure their safety at school. The state code of Virginia requires that two employees be trained in the administration of insulin and glucagon, a lifesaving injection for emergencies.

The state law also requires that personnel receive no less than four hours of training, and must show a demonstration of competency.

Martin says both families demanded documentation of training, after being told by the school’s principal last Friday, that two clerical workers would be providing a majority of their children’s insulin care until the end of the school year.

However, both families say the school would not show them the documentation, citing personnel matters.

While Jaberi says the health district cannot disclose personnel files, he says a certified RN worked diligently last week to train the two clerical workers at Swift Creek Elementary to make sure that they were in compliance with state law.

Jaberi says an RN was also assigned to the school to help administer insulin to diabetic students.

While Virginia law requires that certified medical professionals provide training to school employees who administer medications in schools, it does not require that employees who administer insulin and glucagon be certified medical providers.

The Waehners, who have since filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice, say the school district has an obligation to keep parents informed about their child’s medical care at all times. They say the school’s lack of disclosure in this case, is reason enough to keep their child at home.