What Now, JCPS?

Random Rants of a Mad Parent

So, I was at my son’s school yesterday. We had been collecting hand sanitizer for the teachers, which we thought was a good idea since it’s getting cold out and flu season is just around the corner. They just told me that hand sanitizer is no longer allowed in the schools. They weren’t completely sure of the reason, but just that it was to be kept from student use. And that parents were no longer to be asked to provide it as part of school supplies. I thought, surely this can’t be right. Someone must have read the memo wrong, right?

So I called the Health Services department and spoke with a nurse there. She said that it was true. They were in the process of implementing a new procedure (not a policy, as policy would go before the board, and this does not) to discontinue hand sanitizer use based on a recommendation from the Louisville Health Department. She went on to explain that research shows that hand sanitizer is being used as a substitute for washing with soap and water. It is often not used correctly, missing fingertips, etc. and it should only be used when soap and water aren’t available. Since hand washing is more effective at killing germs than hand sanitizer, they believe that removing the hand sanitizer from the schools will cause students to go back to hand washing instead.

OK, if it were as simple as that, that would be a very logical statement. However, it’s like taking away birth control so people won’t have sex. We know how well that works. The ones who we don’t need to worry about will do what they’re supposed to, but majority will end up not using any form of protection and end up populating the world with unwanted … germs. I’m talking about the kids who pick their noses and lick their fingers on their way from the bathroom to the lunch room. Sure, you should still encourage them to wash their hands several times a day, but why not also have hand sanitizer in the lunch room line? And if they aren’t using it properly, hey, teach them how to use it properly!

As a gesture of good will, she offered up that I could still leave hand sanitizer at school for my son. They could treat it as an OTC medicine. He would just need a note from a doctor saying he could use it whenever he wanted to. He would just need to stop into the office so they could dispense it for him. Well, if he’s going to go to that much trouble, he might as well just go wash up. Besides keeping my son at a “low germ count” does absolutely no good if the guy at his lunch table who sneezes on him doesn’t have the same permission slip from his doctor. But thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.

So this morning, I called the health department, to you know, ask them where is the data that caused them to come up with their recommendation. The nurse I spoke with there stated the obvious that hand washing is more effective than hand sanitizer. I said, “I don’t disagree, but did you know that they are interpreting that statement to justify taking hand sanitizer out of the schools?” She said, “They’re doing what?” She went on to defend the logical statement, which I still didn’t disagree with, but I pointed out that while it may be a bit easier to have an elementary school class stop teaching 10 minutes before lunch to let everyone stop at the bathroom to wash up, have you ever seen what happens when the lunch bell rings in high school?

I asked her if hand sanitizer in the lunch line isn’t at least better than NO hand washing before lunch? And I asked her if she happened to hear the NPR story on All Things Considered from just yesterday (http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/12/04/248511038/these-days-school-lunch-hours-are-more-like-15-minutes) about the increasingly competing demands on students’ time and how students are lucky if they get 15 minutes of table time during lunch. Add a stop to the bathroom where all kids from the same grade are trying to wash at the same time before lunch and now they’ll be lucky if they get 5 minutes. Silence.

But I wasn’t done. I pointed out that there is also a push to eat healthier in school, but healthier foods take longer to eat. (My son recently told me to stop packing oranges in his lunch because he doesn’t have time to peel it.) And there are more and more demands on the students’ time toward meeting common core standards because the teacher’s job is on the line. (That’s another matter altogether.) They’re not going to be giving out hall passes to every one of them to wash up before lunch. Ain’t gonna happen!

So let’s say there will still be kids who do the right thing and take the time to wash up before lunch. But these are the same kids who are last to get to the lunch line only to find they’re all sold out of tater tots. They won’t make that mistake again. But even if kids wash their hands 3-4 times a day, they still touch their noses and mouths more often than that, and should still have access to hand sanitizer for in-between washings.

She re-quoted the CDC, stating that handwashing is more effective than hand sanitizer. I asked her if she knew that it also states that “The use of an alcohol gel hand sanitizer in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students.” I am pretty sure this new procedure is missing the mark.

I am so frustrated with every time something ends up being done improperly, the administrators determine that the solution is to take away the power for teachers to do their jobs and dictate the solution from on high. Please put hand sanitizer back in the schools and let teachers get back to teaching, not handing out more bathroom passes. Or I can assure you, we’ll be seeing an increase in absences because of the spread of communicable diseases. And how exactly will that help us reach our goals?

I gotta run. My son is calling me to bring him some advil. See, he is home from school today. He was projectile vomiting all night.  Just blew his perfect attendance record. Maybe if the kids had access to hand sanitizer this could have been avoided. Just sayin.