Harrison School District apologizes after complaints about scoliosis screening

District did not clearly notify parents ahead of time; all standard procedures were followed
Published: Sep. 21, 2021 at 4:53 PM CDT
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HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) - The Harrison School District is apologizing to parents for not properly notifying them about scoliosis screenings for 6th-grade girls.

The school is required by the Arkansas Department of Health to notify parents at least seven days prior to the screening. Harrison school leaders hold scoliosis screenings every year. This is done on 6th-grade girls and all 8th-grade students. Some parents complained they weren’t notified ahead of time. They pointed out that it can be uncomfortable, especially for girls because they’re asked to take their shirts off.

”She said that she had some girls in front of her coming out of the room crying, so she was scared of what was going to happen,” said Sarah Blackwell, who has a daughter in 6th-grade.

”We work all of our child’s lives to instill in them that it’s not okay to undress in front of strangers and show their body to people,” said Lisa Comeau, who recently withdrew her child from the district.

The screening is done in a private room by a certified person. Two women administered the exams: one a former nurse and the other the head nurse from the high school. The district followed state-wide procedures during these screenings.

”We are instructed on six different screening techniques and positions that allow us to best assess the spinal column at different angles,” said Tiffany Robertson, RN who is the district’s head nurse. “This is best done with the removal of the shirt to identify the landmarks needed to do these assessments.”

Robertson says the screening checks for other concerns and girls can choose not to participate if they feel uncomfortable.

“It allows us the opportunity to assess for any abnormal bruising, cuts, lacerations, skin discolorations that could be an indicator of diabetes, or cancerous lesions or moles,” Robertson explained.

Although screenings were administered correctly, the issue is the lack of communication in advance.

”They need to tell us, they need to prepare us so we can prepare our little girls,” said Blackwell.

”Letting us know when the screening was, so we could prepare them, make sure they were dressed appropriately,” said Comeau.

The school says it should be more sensitive when handling issues such as this. The school did formally notify parents by including information on the screenings in the handbook but says this is not enough communication with parents.

“One of the things we should’ve done a little bit better communicated ahead of time and let parents know their sixth-grade student would have a scoliosis screening, or just all the medical screening next week,” said Dr. Stewart Pratt, Harrison School Distirct Superintendent. “Here is what each of the stages of those screenings looks like and that way they could have had a chance to talk to their child and explain this is what is going to happen during that screening process in your medical exam.”

Dr. Pratt says it’s already added more ways to communicate. They include letters in the mail, electronic reminder notifications, and a nurse talking to students in class days before the screenings start.

Click here for more information on scoliosis screenings rules and regulations.

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