|Teacher's new tool (image by Zaldyimg)|
SB 161 (Huff), a bill that allows non-medical personnel to administer Diastat rectally to students having epileptic seizures, has passed the California Senate and is now in the Assembly. It also has the support of the Obama administration.
On first glance, the legislation is so absurd it sounds like a sick joke. Teachers will pull down a student’s pants in front of classmates and jab a syringe into his or her ass? In any other circumstance, we’d call such behavior molestation or abuse or practicing medicine without a license.
Here are the problems. All students are allowed equal access to educational services, regardless of disability, including epileptics and diabetics (the legislature also wants teachers to inject diabetic students, just not necessary in their rectums). Diabetics and epileptics sometimes have seizures in class, during which they are unable to inject themselves. Thus, there is a need for someone to be on hand to provide this potentially life-saving service. The only people at schools trained to do this safely, legally and with dignity are nurses, but we have stripped away so much funding from public education that schools can no longer afford full-time nurses. Many schools do not have nurses at all.
The solution, however, is not to put sharp, potentially dangerous needles (or plastic syringes without needles, in the case of diastat) into the hands of untrained non-medical personnel, who are at the same time responsible for the safety and learning of 20-35 other children. It is madness and stupidity, conceivable only because teachers are already so beaten down professionally and their unions so weak that politicians believe they can continue to defund schools and simply pile more and more work onto the teachers, regardless of how dangerous, irresponsible or stupid it is to do so.
Furthermore, ALL students, even those without disabilities, should have access to licensed and appropriately trained medical staff to ensure proper care. Legislation like SB 161 legitimizes and normalizes a world without school nurses, thus placing all students at risk of complications or death from illnesses and injuries that a trained school nurse would normally identify, treat or refer to a doctor. School nurses also have the potential to increase the amount of time students are in class by helping low income students manage minor injuries, disease, hunger or malnutrition that might otherwise keep them home or escalate into an emergency room visit.
Giving injections is not a trivial matter. There are obvious risks, like the spread of HIV and other blood-borne diseases, either through poor training or carelessness, or because teachers may be distracted by their other students, running round, screaming, rough housing or having their own medical emergency. However, the administration of Diastat (which does not use a needle) requires that the provider correctly identify the type of seizure the student is having, administer the drug properly in the rectum and at the correct dosage. It is only used for “cluster” seizures, yet there are many types of seizures, and distinguishing between them is no easy task, especially for a teacher who may never have seen a seizure before and who is likely scared. If done incorrectly, the injection could cause death from respiratory failure. Furthermore, SB 161 does not provide funding to train teachers, nor does it provide liability protection.
Recommendations by the CTA for its Members and Supporters
- Contact your lawmaker using CTA’s Legislative Action Center.
- Read CTA's official letter of opposition to SB 161.
- Read the opposition letter from the California School Nurses Association.
Recommendations by Modern School for the CTA
- Stop wasting so much time and money buying politicians
- Stop running scared and making compromises with abusive politicians in the desperate hope that the abuse will end (it doesn’t in domestic abuse, why should we believe it would here?)
- Start investing the majority of union resources on organizing members and educating the public
- Prepare for a wave of strike actions, including a general strike, not just to oppose SB 161, but all the attacks on the teaching profession (e.g., pension reform, ending seniority, weakening tenure, increasing class sizes, testing, charter schools) AND for massively increased funding so all schools are adequately staffed with nurses, librarians, counselors and support staff