New Westminster School District’s Parent-Punishing Policies

My daughter has bronchitis. She has a prescription of Amoxicillin that she needs to take three times a day: morning, lunch time, and evening. She goes to school in New Westminster.

The requirement that she takes her medication while at school means that we, as parents, need to jump through all kinds of frustrating and punishing hoops.

First, there’s a policy that states that unless it’s an emergency (and antibiotics don’t count), designated staff can only administer medication to students if:

  1. The medication is required while the child is attending school.
  2. The parent has completed a Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  3. The physician who prescribed this medication signs the Request for Administration of Medication in School form.
  4. The parent completes a Medical Alert Form that’s attached to the Pupil Record Card.
  5. The designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

Yes, seriously, the Student Heath & Safety Accident & Sickness Procedures, written to support Board Policy Number 504, states that the designated staff member has received adequate instructions concerning the administration of adrenaline.

That little bit of nonsense is beside the point, however. The chief problem is that these hoops are extremely onerous on parents. First, you have to know about this policy. The only way you can even hope to figure this out is by going to the School District 40 website, searching for “medication“, finding a single link to Lord Kelvin’s parent information page (really?), which then talks about the Request for Administration of Medication at School form, which is only available at the school office. Is that only for Lord Kelvin? Only for elementary schools? Who knows!

For some reason this search doesn’t tie into the actual Board Policies, because if you want to do a search of those you need to download a PDF of every policy and then search through that. Welcome to the 20th century. I’m shocked that we don’t need to fax the form in too.

So, here’s why these policies are overly onerous. About 15% of Canadians over 12 don’t have a family doctor. We don’t. We have to go to a drop-in clinic to see a doctor. A doctor at a drop-in clinic prescribed my daughter’s medications. If we had known about this Request for Administration of Medication in School form we might have stood a chance of getting it filled out at the time of prescription, but that would have entailed a) knowing about the form, and had we known about it, b) dragging a sick and infectious child to school that she’s too infectious to attend to pick up a form. Oh, never mind that she was sick last week, during spring break, and the school was closed so we couldn’t pick up the form in the first place.

Now to get the prescribing doctor to sign the form, one of us has to take time off work to go to the clinic (because this doctor only works mornings) and hope that when our name is called we can see that doctor. You see, at that clinic when a doctor is working drop-in hours you can’t make an appointment to see them, so you roll the dice and hopefully you get the specific doctor. If you don’t, I don’t know what happens, you wait even longer, taking even more time off work.

Okay, so suppose you just want to send your child with their medication and allow them to take the medication themselves? Not allowed. Medication isn’t allowed in the classroom, and it can’t be stored in the staff lounge either without this Request for Administration of Medication in School form.

But you know what you can do? Have a complete stranger come in and give your child their medication. Honest to god as long as you call the school and say “Joe Smith is going to give my daughter medication” that’s allowed. Of course, as a parent you can do that as well, but this unduly punishes the working parent who works in a different city, works at an inflexible job, or for any other reason they may be unable to get to the school to administer medication.

Even getting the form punishes working parents as well. We drop our daughter off at daycare around 7:30 am (before the school office is open) and pick her up after 5:15 pm (after the school office is closed) because we work. How are we supposed to get this important form without taking time off work? It’s punitive, it’s backwards, and it’s stupid. Join the 21st century and put the PDF on the SD40 website for crying out loud.

I know some of the School Board trustees for SD40. They’re great people, and they’re extremely focused on improving education for every child in New Westminster. But seriously, School District 40 is the single-most frustrating institution I’ve had to deal with in the past five years. Their policies are stupid and generally lack common sense (the first one I railed about was one that said that a drivers licence couldn’t be proof of residency, yet a vehicle insurance bill was), their website is outdated and difficult to navigate, and there seems to be this culture of doing everything to the letter of the policy. I don’t know if people at SD40 are generally concerned with covering their asses or getting sued or some other such nonsense, but as a parent it’s incredibly frustrating to deal with.

This medication situation is the latest hot mess, and I just know that it won’t be the last.

Oh, and if you’re a parent of a child in New Westminster School District 40 and you’ve come across this post and have some of the same frustrations we do, here’s the Request for Administration of Medication at School form (obtained 29 March 2016, may be out of date depending on when you’re reading this post).

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