When a student is sick or experiencing ill behaviors, they are sent to the school nurse, who has a minimum of a two-year degree, three-year diploma, or bachelor’s degree. However, if following the evaluation they are sent home, it is marked in attendance as an unexcused Parent Note. Texas legislation allocates for the registered nurse to send a student home if they are ill, yet it is counted as a strike against them in daily attendance. In the classroom, students are expected to have perfect attendance or near that, only missing five or fewer days throughout the entire school year. School nurses should be qualified to write medical excuse notes for students who have attempted to attend school, but are sent home by the nurse due to illness.
As outlined in the Texas Education Code, Sec. 25.087, a school nurse visit will not count for Foundation School Program (FSP) funding as a health care professional appointment. For it to be considered an excused absence, the appointment must be a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare professional. The Keller ISD is a part of the Telemedicine program, allowing for a video chat consultation with a doctor. Even so, this is still not considered a healthcare appointment, nor will it leave the student with a medical excuse note.
Higher income families have more accessibility to healthcare appointments. At Alliance Family Medicine, a local healthcare facility, students and their families who have health insurance will usually pay the cost of copay, roughly $20 for a visit with their physician. However, without insurance coverage, a new patient will pay a base amount of $105, not including the cost of any diagnostic tests. This is not uncommon, most practices charge the same rates, with or without insurance.
School districts in Texas receive state funding based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA) numbers. The school loses money when a student is absent. Meanwhile, the school must still pay for faculty salaries, daily operations, and all the other expenses involved with running the school. One might argue that this is reason enough for a student to push through ailments, however, there should not be a price on any student’s head. If a student feels sick, they should not be encouraged to stay in the school building, where they touch desks, doorknobs, community supplies, and interact with other students.
Moreover, students who are keen of their attendance often fear retribution of missing class. The 90 percent rule applies to all absences, including excused absences. Missed lessons and their corresponding assignments weigh heavily on an already ill student. The Keller ISD policy outlines that students are to receive a certain amount of days to turn in missing classwork, respective to the amount of days they have missed. However, through an anonymous sample of students, it was found that they are not given the days to catch up with the lesson plan. If a student leaves school early, at the discretion of the school nurse, yet does not go to the doctor, it is not an excused absence. This basis gives instructors free-reign to not apply the policy. Meanwhile, students are toughing it out and contaminating the entirety of Timber Creek. Not visiting the nurse leaves thousands at risk of exposure to the contagion.
Illness does not discriminate against students who cannot visit a doctor for everyday that they miss school. Healthcare should be accessible for all students. This begins in the school. School nurses, registered nurses, should have the ability to excuse a student from school if they are sent home. Education thrives in a healthy mind and body.