School nurse questions whether ‘ill’ student should drive home from school

A school nurse asked how she should respond to high school students, who regularly drive to school and ask to be dismissed because they don’t feel well. They have no fever or other symptoms.

Her position is that if they are well enough to drive home, they should stay in school. The school nurse did not include any further details about her dilemma. My response, therefore, focuses on general information in this situation.

Driving to and from school

When schools allow students to drive to and from campus, they adopt a policy governing the students’ driving and parking on school grounds. This is so everyone is clear about the rules surrounding all aspects of this privilege.

For example, some schools require the student to sign a contract that explains all applicable rules before issuing a parking permit.

Another consideration is whether the school campus is open or closed. If open, students are usually free to leave at lunch time or during free periods. When driving is permitted to and from school in an open campus, the student can theoretically drive his or her car off campus at any time.

In the case of a closed school campus in which driving to and from school is allowed, students are unable to leave during the school day unless they permission from the school and the parents or guardian.

I assume the school in this situation has such a policy and that the school nurse has access to driving contracts.

I also assuming the school campus is closed, since she indicated students come to her office so they can be dismissed because they say they are not feeling well.

School nurse’s physical assessment

There is no doubt that when a student comes to the school nurse’s office and complains of not feeling well, the nurse must do an assessment to determine his or her overall state of health.

In order to ensure the school nurse has permission to conduct an assessment, most schools will require the parents/guardian sign a written consent form that explains what routine care will be provided by the school nurse.

The assessment is necessary as part of the school nurse’s decision-making concerning what, if anything, is wrong with the student and if anything is found, to initiate the appropriate treatment.

During the assessment, the nurse can determine if the student has specific symptoms that would be grounds for the student to go home. For example, if the student has a fever, sore throat or is vomiting, the nurse can make the decision to dismiss the student.

However, the nurse must also assess the student’s ability to drive home with the presence of these symptoms. If not, it would be best for the nurse to contact a parent or guardian so the student can be picked up and driven home.

The emotional assessment

If the student has no specific symptoms and the school nurse determines the student is not ill and does not fit the required reasons in the school policy to be dismissed from school, a second assessment is in order.

This assessment would …read more

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