URGENT LEGISLATIVE ACTION ITEM:
Urge Senate Committee on Education and Health to Support HB 1736

Now that HB1736 has passed the House, it is in front of the Senate Committee on Education and Health.

HB1736 requires 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 defines 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.

HB 1736 does not eliminate any personnel who are currently employed in school health services, including licensed practical nurses and clinic attendants. These experienced school health personnel will continue to work in schools.

The Virginia Association of School Nurses has been trying to get this legislation passed for several years. With your help, we think this could be our year! Your kids deserve this bill and now is the time for you to take action!

Click the “Start Writing” link on the right or the button below to send a pre-written email to your Senator today (the system will automatically find your Senator based on your address)!

Your kids deserve it!

contact your senator today!

Current State of Affairs

Besides acting as our state’s leading association for school nurses, the Virginia Association of School Nurses 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.

Every year since 2015, legislation to mandate more professional nurses in Virginia’s K-12 schools has been introduced and unfortunately defeated in the General Assembly. We tried again during this summer’s 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.

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 COVID-19 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. School nurses also help to ensure appropriate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), proper spacing and health-focused cleanliness, and recommended strategies for virus containment.

Though our bill was defeated in 2020, we are not out of the fight. 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 — and we are already gearing up to introduce new legislation in 2021.

We are calling on all parents, teachers, citizens, PTAs, and administrators to join the fight by contacting your legislators and local school board members to demand this commonsense correction to a long overdue oversight.

Stay Tuned & Stay Active

As the 2021 session of Virginia’s General Assembly approaches, VASN will have numerous outreach opportunities for our supporters. Please stay tuned to this page as legislation is introduced. 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.

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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 in 2021.

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