Today, 44 Boston Public Schools do not have a full-time nurse. Instead, these schools share part-time nurses that travel back and forth between buildings every day. In these schools, our students will not have complete access to the medical attention they require on a day-to-day basis.
In order to set our children up for success and resolve systemic failures in our school system, the social, emotional, behavioral, mental and physical well-being of our children must be a priority.
Having a full-time nurse in every school cannot be a line item discussion in the budget; it needs to be a standard operating, non-negotiable requirement.
The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed that a child’s physical health has a direct impact on their academic performance and success. In addition to the normal bumps and scrapes our kids get during the school day, we have many students who are fragile, sick, have allergies and asthma, or other serious health conditions that need immediate attention. I’ve met with parents who have been forced to change schools because their child has allergies or other medical conditions and their building lacked a full-time nurse to ensure access to treatment.
I’ve also met with parents who have been denied the services in their child’s Individualized Education Plan because of insufficient support specialists in their school. By failing to adequately provide these services, we are pushing families away from the Boston Public Schools. We have an obligation to provide our students with high-quality public education and a learning environment that is welcoming and safe for all children. That means guaranteeing school-based services for their physical and mental health.
Throughout BPS, there is an overwhelming need to increase school-based mental health providers. In addition to nurses, we need full-time social workers, psychologists and guidance counselors to address issues affecting students, such as trauma, depression, anxiety and bullying.
With over 4,200 BPS students experiencing homelessness, every school in the district has at least one homeless student. Ongoing crime and violence in the city continues to cause childhood trauma and is a driving factor of chronic absenteeism because children are afraid to go to school. With the growing opioid epidemic in this city, we have children that face the threat of exposure to needles in their parks and playgrounds.
Every day in Boston, too many of our students are experiencing significant childhood trauma. By neglecting their mental health needs, we place our children at a higher risk for chronic health conditions, incarceration, substance abuse and suicide. We need to do more for our children, especially our most vulnerable children, to make sure we are giving them the full range of resources and support they need to have an equal opportunity for success.
The long-term impact of fully funding at least one full-time nurse and one full-time social emotional support specialist in every school cannot be understated. Without these services, we place an incredible burden on our teachers and take away time from the classroom because we ask them to function as the nurses, therapists and social workers.
Since my first year in office, I have advocated alongside our former colleague, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, for a full-time nurse in every single school and fully funding school-based support staff remains a top policy priority, especially with the impending budget cycle hearings for FY20. As the City Council prepares for the budget, I was disappointed to discover no public mention of additional investment to provide all of our schools with a full-time nurse and a full-time social emotional support specialist in the budget recently passed by the Boston School Committee.
It is frustrating that this continues to be a conversation, when we know the importance of having nurses and social emotional support specialists in our schools. We need to do more and we need to do it now.
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