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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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE for February 27, 2023:

The 2023 General Assembly Session adjourned Sine Die as scheduled on Saturday, February 25. During the 46-day session, the legislature considered nearly 2000 bills and approved 819 of them. While the General Assembly did adjourn, they did not complete work on the state budget. The existing biennial budget remains in place, but the House and Senate had each proposed a long list of changes to be taken up during this session.  The key items include tax reduction, pay raises for state employees, and significant additional funding in many areas of government. Budget negotiators pledged to continue negotiations in hopes of returning to adopt a broad set of amendments to the current budget in the coming weeks. We will continue to monitor budget negotiations and continue to advocate for funding nursing related priorities.  In the meantime, Governor Youngkin will consider the legislation approved by the General Assembly and return each bill with his signature, proposed amendments, or a veto.  The legislature will reconvene on April 12th to vote on the Governor’s recommendations.

Multiple pieces of legislation related to VASN objectives passed both chambers and will go to the Governor for his consideration:

HB1835 from Delegate Bell, which removes the location element from the penal code on threats made against healthcare providers so that it is applicable in any healthcare facility, has passed both chambers and currently awaits the Governor’s action.

SB1453 from Senator McPike requires all schools to have an Automated External Defibrillator available and  to develop a plan for the placement, care, and use of an AED in public schools in the Commonwealth. This legislation was approved by both chambers. The Senate has proposed providing $400,000 in state funds to assist localities in purchasing AEDs for their schools.

HB1630 from Delegate Coyner  will allow recently retired school nurses and others to return to work more quickly and receive compensation without losing their retirement benefits. This legislation reduces from 12 to 6 the number of months for the required break in service for a teacher, bus driver, school administrator, or specialized support staff,  to return to work full time and continue to receive their pension under the Virginia Retirement System. This bill was approved unanimously by both chambers.

SB970 from Senator Mason and HB1573 from Delegate Walker - this legislation directs the Department of Health to remove mental health questions from licensure, certification, and registration applications. This bill is identical to HB1573 from Delegate Walker. SB970 and HB1573 passed both chambers unanimously.  

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).