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Thousands of Palm Beach County students can't receive basic medical care due to missing consent forms

New health consent forms required by schools under Florida's 'Parental Rights In Education' law
The health room at Royal Palm Beach Elementary School on Aug. 26, 2022.jpg
Posted at 3:09 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 16:48:58-04

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. — When you send your kids to school, you expect they will be taken care of if they have a bump or bruise or aren't feeling well.

But because of Florida's new "Parental Rights In Education" law, parents must now give written permission for even the simplest heath care treatments.

The School District of Palm Beach County said tens of thousands of families have not returned their permission forms, leaving their kids without care.

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Before Royal Palm Beach Elementary School nurse Marianella Halleran can take care of a student, she now has to make sure she has a health consent form on file.

It's a new requirement this school year because of the newly passed "Parental Rights In Education" law, demanding written permission for any health care services in schools, even as simple as a band-aide or ice pack.

"Without this consent with a 'yes,' we can't serve a child in the clinic. So we would have to call the parent to come pick up the child," said Keith Oswald, the chief of equity and wellness for the School District of Palm Beach County.

Oswald said the district only has about 60% of the health consent forms back.

Parents can check a small box on the bottom of their "New/Returning Student Registration Form," or fill out a separate health form to give consent.

The School District of Palm Beach County's new health consent form on Aug. 26, 2022.jpg
The School District of Palm Beach County's new health consent form on Aug. 26, 2022.

But Oswald worries some parents don't understand why the form is needed or what it really represents.

"Some parents are thinking marking 'yes' to health care services means that we are going to provide vaccinations or testing for COVID in our schools. That is not the truth," Oswald said.

Some schools are getting creative in trying to get the forms back. At Royal Palm Beach Elementary School, the principal made the form green so it would stand out to parents. The school has had about 80% of forms returned.

Halleran said her days are filled with not only treating injuries, but giving routine medications, treating allergies, and connecting with students.

"I love the relationships I form with the students, from the moment they arrive at the school as kindergartners to when they are fifth graders," Halleran said. "I probably cry at every graduation here, even though they are not my kids."

Royal Palm Beach Elementary School nurse Marianella Halleran works in a health room on Aug. 26, 2022.jpg
Royal Palm Beach Elementary School nurse Marianella Halleran works in a health room on Aug. 26, 2022.

Having these forms on file now allows her to do that.

School district leaders said if you have questions about the health consent form or need a copy, contact your child's school or click here. For a copy of the "New/Returning Student Registration Form," click here.

About 2% percent of Palm Beach County public school students have responded "no" to the consent, so they would not be treated if they are sick or hurt.

According to state law, it's considered a misdemeanor if a health care practitioner provides care without written parental permission.