To the Editor:
It was disappointing, but not surprising, to read how many children in this country attend a school without a full-time, trained health professional (“1.7 Million Students Attend Schools With Police But No Counselors, New Data Show,” March 4, 2019). We are well past the point where all a school nurse does is administer medications and wait with ill or injured students until their parents arrive.
Today, school nurses are critical to students’ academic success and their physical and mental well-being. As the leading organization representing school nurses, the National Association of School Nurses believes that every school in the country should have at least one registered school nurse in the building all day, every day.
The American Civil Liberties Union report covered in the story focuses on school-based mental-health providers. NASN applauds the report for recognizing school nurses on school-based mental-health teams. School nurses are critical to the school mental-health team as they help address and reduce the stigma of a behavioral health diagnosis, decrease fragmentation of care, and remove barriers to behavioral health services.
Because of their regular access to students, school nurses are uniquely qualified to help assess and address the behavioral and mental-health needs of children of all ages. Beyond the dearth of counselors and professionals the ACLU highlights, fewer than 40 percent of schools meet even the modest goal of one full-time school nurse. If we are serious about students’ success—that can’t just be reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic—it has to be a holistic approach that addresses the physical and mental well-being of children as well as their academic efforts.
National Association of School Nurses
Silver Spring, Md.
A version of this article appeared in the April 17, 2019 edition of Education Week as Schools Need Registered Nurses