Report roundup: Who handles child health issues at school?

Parents rely on school personnel to take care of children’s health and safety during the school day. This month’s Mott Poll report asked parents about their confidence in the ability of their child’s school to handle various health situations, such as administering first aid and responding to an asthma attack or suspected mental health problem. Media outlets across the country have joined in on the conversation. Here’s a roundup of the coverage.

First aid and mental health

Over two-thirds of parents (77%) in the Mott Poll were very confident that their child’s school could handle basic first aid, but only 38% felt their school could help a student with a mental health problem. Reporter Robert Preidt discusses this in a HealthDay article: Parents say schools don’t help kids with mental health, chronic disease. “One of the challenges of addressing mental health is that there are so many facets,” says Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark. “Parents may want to learn more about how their child’s school works to identify and support students struggling with mental health issues, and advocate for increased resources if needed.”

School nurses

Many parents identified school nurses as the people who would be most likely to handle various child health issues, however parents may overestimate how often a school nurse is onsite at their child’s school. This was highlighted in a UPI article: Parents don’t trust schools to handle chronic disease, mental health issues. While about 3 in 5 parents think a school nurse is onsite 5 days a week, reporter Amy Wallace notes that according to the National Association of School Nurses, less than half of US schools have full-time nurses. Clark advises parents with children who have special health needs to “work directly with school personnel to understand the onsite availability of school nurses, and to ensure non-medical staff are prepared to handle urgent health-related situations that may arise during the school day.”

Tips for parents

There are many ways for parents with children that have special health needs to take action with their child’s school. Angie Spence-Green, director of the Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools, gives tips for parents in a Michigan Health Blog post: Kid with a chronic illness? 5 tips for parent-teacher teamwork. She advises parents to speak up as early as possible, provide written instructions for staff, and keep updating and revising the plan. “If a parent feels a plan isn’t working, they should regroup with school administrators,” she says. “There might be several layers of school staff who need to get involved. The biggest piece is to be open and available.”