Current State of Affairs, Legislation & Laws

Current State of Affairs

Virginia Capitol Building

Besides acting as our state’s leading association for school nurses, the Virginia Association of School Nurses (VASN) also acts as the primary lobbying organization for our profession.

It’s hard to believe, but some school districts in Virginia still do not employ a single school nurse. In fact, unlike more than half of the states in our great nation, Virginia still does not have legislation requiring the hiring of school nurses — though it’s not for a lack of effort on our part.

Since 2015, legislation to mandate more professional nurses in Virginia’s K-12 schools has been introduced and unfortunately defeated in the General Assembly. Most recently, VASN tried during the 2020 summer special session of the General Assembly with Sen. Jennifer Kiggans’ SB 5004, which would require each local school board to employ at least one full-time school nurse position in each K-12 school in Virginia. However, even during the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, our commonsense request was defeated again.

VASN went on to support HB 1736 in 2021. It has passed the House but was defeated in the Senate. HB 1736 was to require each local school board in Virginia to employ at least one full-time equivalent school nurse position in each elementary school, middle school, and high school in local school divisions. The bill defined a school nurse as a registered nurse engaged in the specialized practice of nursing who protects and promotes student health, facilitates optimal development, and advances academic success. It did not eliminate any personnel who are currently employed in school health services, including licensed practical nurses and clinic attendants.


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Virginia Association of School Nurses - Sine Die Legislative Update  April 26, 2024

The 2024 Session of the General Assembly is set to conclude by March 9th, marking a remarkable period of change. Notably, Delegate Don Scott has been elected as the first black Speaker of the House in Virginia's history. Moreover, Democrats have gained control of both the House of Delegates and the Senate of Virginia, resulting in new leadership for the respective caucuses. This session has also seen significant turnover, attributed to redistricting, retirements, and primaries, which has ushered in over 50 new members across both chambers. Despite these transitions, the Assembly has persevered in its duties and remains on track to adjourn as scheduled. There were 2,390 bills introduced this Session. The legislature passed 1,098 and the Governor signed 777 of those while amending 116 bills and vetoing 153. The legislature convened on April 17th to consider the Governor’s actions. The legislature did not take up the amendments to the budget and will convene for a special session on May 13th to consider the state budget. Notably, numerous bills pertinent to VASN have progressed through both chambers and all Governor’s amendments to the below bills were accepted and will now become law. 

Legislative Update

Naloxone in Schools

HB732 and SB726 mandates that each local school board must create plans and policies regarding opioid overdose prevention and reversal in public elementary and secondary schools. These plans must include provisions for procuring, storing, and maintaining at least two doses of naloxone at each school, allowing school board employees to possess and administer naloxone and granting immunity from disciplinary action or civil or criminal liability to any school employee who administers naloxone.

Community Schools

HB625 requires the Department of Education to establish the Office of Community Schools as an office within the Department for the purpose of supporting the development and growth of community schools throughout the Commonwealth

SOL: severe allergic reactions

HB121 requires the Board of Education to include in the Standards of Learning for health education for grade nine and grade 10 an in-person or online severe allergic reaction awareness training that includes certain topics enumerated in the bill.

Title IX Awareness Training for 9th and 10th grade students

HB215 requires the Department of Education to develop culturally appropriate, age-appropriate, and trauma-informed Title IX and sexual harassment prevention training modules concerning Title IX rights and protections, consent, and sexual harassment prevention and reporting and to make such training modules available to each school board.

Glucagon in Schools

HB1039 allows local school boards to establish and enforce policies for possessing and administering undesignated nasal or injectable glucagon in public schools within their jurisdiction. These policies must align with the guidelines outlined in the latest edition of the "Diabetes Management In School: Manual for Unlicensed Personnel" published by the Department of Education and must incorporate appropriate guidance.

Mental Health Instruction

HB603 mandates that health instruction for elementary and secondary school students must cover specific mental health topics, such as social and emotional learning, recognizing signs of common mental health issues, and promoting mental wellness through healthy coping strategies like conflict resolution.

School Health Entrance Form

HB1279 requires the Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Education, to examine the Department of Health's Commonwealth of Virginia School Health Entrance Form to make more user friendly for families, physicians, and other health care professionals while continuing to gather all of the information that is necessary.

Free School Meals

SB283 requires the Superintendent of Public Instruction, in coordination Secretary of Education, to convene a stakeholder work group to study the estimated impact of offering free school meals to students statewide, identify options for reducing or eliminating student and school meal debt, and make recommendations on options for leveraging other programs funded at state and federal levels for the provision of student school meals.

Budget Updates:

The following items were included in the introduced budget and were not amended by either budget committee. 

  • VDH: $8 million for Earn to Learn Nursing Education grant program

  • VDH: $4 million in funding for nursing scholarship programs

  • VDH: $7 million in funding for the Nursing Preceptor Incentive Program

  • VDH: $16.1 million for the behavioral health loan repayment program, including psychiatric RNs and APRNs (the Senate proposes reducing this by $1.5 million each year)

Other amendments:

  • 271 #1h - Adds $250,000 each year for loan repayment for school based behavioral health professionals

  • 276 #1h - $2.6 million to provide operational support for the Virginia Healthcare Workforce Development Authority

  • 276 #1s - $1 million to provide operational support for the Virginia Healthcare Workforce Development Authority

Stay Tuned & Stay Active

Though the COVID-19 pandemic certainly magnified the necessity for school nurses, we know that this is not a new situation. Professional school nurses are the only staff that can provide surveillance via screening, assessing, and referring students/staff with possible symptoms. In fact, it was a school nurse in New York named Mary Pappas who first identified the H1N1 virus in 2009.

Skilled registered nurses in schools can provide health assessments that go well beyond the capabilities of an unlicensed staff member. School nurses are administrators who manage the health needs of our school communities and assist other employees to manage medication administration, health care delivery, and so much more.

To secure the healthy futures that all students across the Commonwealth deserve, our vision at VASN is to ensure that every K-12 school throughout Virginia employs at least one registered school nurse. Please stay tuned to this page for legislative updates. We need your support and your legislators and school board members need to hear your voices. Together, we can require each local school board to employ at least one full-time school nurse position in each K-12 school in Virginia. Your kids deserve it.

Share your advocacy efforts in the VASN Discussion List.

Laws About School Nursing in Virginia

Currently, Virginia doesn’t have a law mandating that all schools must employ a registered school nurse. Instead of making it a requirement, the language of the Code of Virginia section regarding “school health services” says that schools “may” employ school nurses, which leaves many of our schools without a dedicated, licensed school nurse.

22.1-274. School health services.

A. A school board shall provide pupil personnel and support services in compliance with § 22.1-253.13:2. A school board may employ school nurses, physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech therapists. No such personnel shall be employed unless they meet such standards as may be determined by the Board of Education. Subject to the approval of the appropriate local governing body, a local health department may provide personnel for health services for the school division.

B. In implementing subsection O of § 22.1-253.13:2, relating to providing support services that are necessary for the efficient and cost-effective operation and maintenance of its public schools, each school board may strive to employ, or contract with local health departments for, nursing services consistent with a ratio of at least one nurse (i) per 2,500 students by July 1, 1996; (ii) per 2,000 students by July 1, 1997; (iii) per 1,500 students by July 1, 1998; and (iv) per 1,000 students by July 1, 1999. In those school divisions in which there are more than 1,000 students in average daily membership in school buildings, this section shall not be construed to encourage the employment of more than one nurse per school building. Further, this section shall not be construed to mandate the aspired-to ratios.

On top of the deficiencies in our current state law, registered school nurses also aren’t required by the Virginia Department of Education’s Standards of Quality, which outline the educational programs and services that each district is required to provide.

These are the two major deficiencies we are fighting to correct through our legislative efforts (2021).