Although I rarely write about school matters, especially those with personal experiences in them, I am making an exception this time. I note those facts only because a recent experience led to this article. I’m going to lay out the facts as unemotionally as possible and let readers call the shots.
I was typing away frantically on my typewriter, on deadline, when I got an unexpected call. It was a school nurse. Although I can’t quote the exact words she used, not yet having perfect recall (but working on it) the basic gist of the request was this: my son had fallen and could not get up. In short, he’d been running and his foot had given way and the gym teacher sent him to the medical clinic to see the nurse. The nurse thought he might have a broken leg.
What else could I do? Extremely concerned, I rushed him to the hospital. He was x-rayed, given four sheets of instructions, including a request to see a sports doctor and sent home. We also had to buy crutches for him as it was too late to rent any. He went to school on crutches the next day. Also, his foot looked as though someone had taken a hammer to it. It was as blue as a container of blueberries, with some purplish spots thrown in as accent colors.
The surprise from the school
First, a tiny bit of background. My son had an A in gym. No question about that. He is an avid athlete, with soccer being his first love. He came from Romania and his first request was “Will my new family buy me a soccer ball of my own?” (at the orphanage, there weren’t enough soccer or any other athletic equipment for each child to have a personal toy, soccer ball or other related item). The answer, of course, was yes. That soccer ball was used daily, sometimes for hours, as he perfected his technique.
My son came home and told me that the forms from the hospital were not “enough” even though they were not only four pages long but had our medical case number, the physician’s name, a list of instructions (including info about staying off his feet) and more. No, instead I was to have gotten a hand-written note from a very busy physician so that he could be “excused” from his final participation exams in gym class.
Please keep in mind that he was injured in gym class. Please keep in mind that the gym class teacher sent him to the medical clinic at school. Please keep in mind that the school nurse and gym teacher both noted that his foot could be broken. Please keep in mind that the list of instructions included the notation that he see a sports doctor for follow-up care because the accident occurred without any obvious reason. He was simply running across the floor.
Then my son told me he wasn’t going to be excused from running across the floor, even though he was on crutches and on pain pills…..because I didn’t send in a physician’s hand -written note. Apparently, official hospital records and paperwork did not suffice. Apparently, the gym teacher’s observation of the accident – and her concern – did not suffice.
Because I assumed there must be a mistake and that my son would be excused from final exams in gym, I called the school.
When my son first told me he wouldn’t be excused from final participation exams in the class. I did not believe this (or found it very hard to believe) so I called the gym teacher, whose name I am not revealing here, but can easily provide if required. Also, as source material, I have all four pages of hospital paperwork, including the doctor’s name and instructions. I have an x-ray and record from the hospital. All prove my son was seen and treated at St. Vincent Hospital in Indiana.
In spite of this, I am told that only a hand-written note from the physician which includes instructions that my son is not to participate in gym class will suffice. The paperwork is not enough! Perhaps I am being overly naive but this seems overly zealous to me.
Here is why:
1. The teacher saw and reported the injury and felt it was serious enough to warrant medical attention – or at least a visit to the nurse’s office.
2. The nurse felt the foot might be broken and urged me to get my son.
3. I had four pages of explicit directions and paperwork from a local hospital, all with instructions for care that precluded participation in gym class.
The teacher told me I had to get a hand-written note but finally compromised and said I could get the doctors to fax in a note
At first, it seemed I was going to have to drive back to the hospital and get a hand-written note to get my son excused from participation in gym class. Finally, after I made the case that my son had an A in the class and also asked the gym teacher about his performance all semester (where there was an admission that the’d performed well enough to have an A), I was allowed to have a hospital doctor send a fax to the school. In other words, some doctor who could have been attending to a very sick person had to spend time and energy faxing an excuse to the school.
This all happened in spite of the fact that one teacher felt concerned enough to have our son leave the school and get medical treatment outside the school. Why? School rules, plain and simple. No exception. Excuses from gym have to include a doctor’s note. Being on crutches, having hospital paperwork that notes that the student is to stay off his feet and records of treatment as well as the physician’s name and contact information are not enough.
I hope all readers of this will consider the fact that YOUR medical bills and medical costs might be impacted by this kind of rule. When a doctor has to take time to fax a school in spite of having already completed paperwork, that doctor’s time is being spent sending paperwork to a school and not treating a patient.
How many times a day does this kind of thing happen? When did official hospital paperwork become “not good enough” – and why?
Also, while I was admittedly unaware of the necessity of hand-written notes in addition to hospital records in order to satisfy school rules, the reality is that I could have forged a hand-written note and it would have sufficed. That – or drive back to the hospital. I would have driven back to the hospital if necessary but I do wonder why the school couldn’t have included a simple reminder to get a hand-written note from the hospital physician – before sending me to the hospital in the first place.
Yes, I believe all parents should read the school handbook, the one they hand out every year, the one with many, many pages of school rules and requirements. Yes, I believe parents should read the handbook and discuss it with their children. Yes, we did this….and yes, I don’t recall seeing that part about hand-written notes and hospital visits,especially the part that notes that even when the school initiates the request for medical care, a parent must have a hand-written note as an excuse or back-up to paperwork.
I am truly hoping some reader can enlighten me about this because I’m sincerely baffled. If I’m out of the loop on this and this type of bureaucratic rule seems a good use of parental time, doctor time and a boost to student performance and morale, then I’d like to know if that is how people feel about this. Because right about now, I’m not feeling any too happy about the whole experience.
Accidents happen. Feet get broken or sprained. But when did common sense part way to a strict adherence to rules, to the point that a student is told a note is required to be excused from participation in gym class – even after a teacher thought an injury was severe enough to warrant medical care and even when I sent in all paperwork from the hospital and sent my son to school on crutches and with pain pills in him?
That is what I would like to know
Sources: St Vincent Hospital, exam and paperwork and x-rays
Paperwork from St Vincent Hospital
Personal experience and phone records of the call to the hospital and school