Saturday, September 13, 2003

Teachers want out of medical duties

The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - Jefferson County public school teachers have filed a grievance seeking to end their roles as school nurses.

Each school day, teachers provide medicine and medical care to students, tasks once handled by nurses. In their class-action grievance, now heading to arbitration, teachers say they're uncomfortable with and ill-trained for the medical duty.

"It's flat dangerous," said Steve Neal, executive director of the 5,500-member Jefferson County Teachers Association, which wants the district to bring nurses back to schools.

Only two district schools have nurses - Churchill Park, a school for disabled children, and Hazelwood Elementary, which has been cobbling together a nurse's salary after hiring one through a pilot program four years ago.

District officials say they can't afford to hire the more than 150 nurses it would take to provide one for each school. And they say the few teachers and school staff asked to do the work receive the training they need and that no child has been hurt by a mix-up.

They also say the district's insurance covers most lawsuit judgments against employees.

"Somebody has to do it," said Bill Eckels, the district's personnel director. "You can't have a first-grader running around with a bottle of Ritalin."

Eckels said it's generally school office workers, not teachers, who provide such medical help.

Because of tight budgets, full-time, in-school nurses have for years been uncommon in Kentucky, said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education.

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