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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
So this is my morning. 
8th-Nov-2010 09:55 am
Boondock/can't believe
Dear Headmaster [LASTNAME],

I received a call today from my daughter (Elayna [LASTNAME], a sophomore), who wasn't feeling well. Since she'd felt fine less than an hour ago, I told her to ask if she could rest in the nurse's office for a little while and see if her nausea passed. The conversation then became disjointed as the nurse started talking at her, and with an "I - what-" the phone was passed to the nurse; my impression is that my daughter was not prepared to have the phone taken from her.

The nurse, who never identified herself by name, began the conversation by demanding that I drive over and pick Elayna up. I said "I can't - I'm epileptic, and it's less than six months since my last seizure, so that's illegal and not safe." (State policy regarding seizure disorders: http://www.mass.gov/rmv/medical/policies/lossofco.pdf)

The nurse demanded that I do it anyway. Her tone of voice through the entire conversation was very loud and aggressive. I explained once again that that was unsafe and illegal and I cannot do it. I said that I would call my husband and see if he could come get her, but since he's at work, that might take about an hour. (We are a one-car household, and my husband and I both take the T to work.) I managed to get off the phone and left a message for my husband. As I was finishing my voicemail, the phone rang again.

She demanded that I take a taxi and told me that my daughter couldn't stay there. I told her that I did not have money for a taxi, and that I had called my husband. She demanded again that I get in my car and drive over. Throughout this whole conversation, her tone was nasty and aggressive; she implied at every turn that I was being a bad mother because I would not violate the law and put my child's life at risk. In the process, she fabricated a number of "symptoms" that my daughter, now home, has confirmed she did not have (fever, chills, et cetera).

There were three phone calls in total, each ruder than the last.

Each berating me for having a disability that made her job inconvenient.

I do not understand why she refused to let my daughter, whose only symptom was and is nausea, sit in her office for ten minutes with a cup of water. As far as I've always thought, that's a school nurse's job.

Beyond her refusal to let a mildly-nauseous student sit in her office for ten minutes, there is also the matter of how she treated me on the phone. She was incredibly rude, insensitive, and aggressive. She refused to be even slightly flexible or even give me time to call my husband.

But what's really upsetting is that she finds it acceptable to repeatedly harass a disabled person about her disability, and criticize her as a parent for the crime of having said disability.

Headmaster [LASTNAME], I wish I wasn't epileptic. Trust me, it would make my life a lot easier. This is a temporary inconvenience to your nurse (who seems to have taken it deeply personally), but it is a very large and lifelong inconvenience to me and my family. We work around it as best we can, and part of that simply involves the assistance of my non-disabled husband - who the nurse did not allow me time to contact, despite the fact that I told her that I was going to call him and call her right back. In fact, I missed the return call from my husband during her third call. Had she simply let me figure things out with him instead of calling three times in ten minutes, this would most likely have been settled to everyone's satisfaction.

As it is, I am very upset at the way I have been treated. I don't think this nurse is suited to communicating with *anyone*, and perhaps ought to not interact with the public. At the very least, I hope that you have some sort of disability-sensitivity training that she can go through. No parent - no person - should be treated like she treated me. I understand that she may not encounter people with disabilities often, but if nothing else, if a person with a disability gives her information regarding said disability, she should not ignore it. Had she listened, accepted that I cannot drive for medical and legal reasons, and not argued that I should put my daughter's life at risk and break the law - had she listened when I said "I need to call my husband; he may be able to come get her", and had she given me five minutes to do so - I would be much less frustrated and upset right now. The middle school nurse's reply when this situation arose in the past was simply "Okay." I don't understand why that's not what happened today.

Thank you for your time.


Unsaid: How dare she. And a lot of profanity.

You do not YELL AT ANYONE and make demands of them. Especially a person with a disability who CANNOT do what you are demanding and who is telling you that she is TRYING to work around that.

Because seriously. "I cannot do thing A. I am going to try thing B." "NO DO THING A." "I. Can't. But if you give me five minutes I can arrange thing B-" "NO DO THING A."

Insensitive disablist BULLSHIT.

Look. I'm epileptic. I was diagnosed in 2003, so I've had seven years to develop workarounds so we can all live a normal life. I work part-time because my anti-seizure drugs wear me out. I work one bus away from home so that when I do have a seizure - which only happens once or twice a year these days; this has been a banner year for brain 'splosions - I can still get to *work* during the six months that I'm legally not allowed to drive. We selected our house based on proximity to a hospital with a good neuro unit and buses that go to Cambridge and downtown Boston, so my life won't be unduly affected by my epilepsy before and after a seizure.

You have *no idea* the amount of *infrastructure* that goes into arranging my goddamn life around the epilepsy and my other physical issues. It is invisible to you because I do it damn well.

"Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal."
~~Albert Camus

It is rare that we run up against a situation that can't get handled immediately and smoothly without you even realizing that we've gone through more steps than the normal family. And if you just let me call my fucking husband, shit gets done. Why the hell is that such a problem?

It requires more work, navigating around disability. But I'm the one doing the work. So I do not get why that is such a fucking problem for anyone else.

So yeah, I'm livid right now. I sent the above, the pre-cussing section, to the headmaster, assistant headmaster, and Adam. I would *love* to see a response. I do dearly hope that the headmaster realizes that having an articulate, pissed-off disabled mom on his hands is a thing that needs dealing with. With a swiftness. I am not demanding firing. But if she doesn't get put in a disability-sensitivity training, I'll be going to our local newspaper.

And yeah this was supposed to be my writing day.

So. Yeah. HI.

* Still no response (as of 11:30).
* Background: Elayna has a history of mild morning malingering when I am home and can ostensibly pick her up. (How do I know? Because it only happens when I'm working 1-5. I've never gotten an "I don't feel well" call at the office.) This time, she genuinely isn't feeling well, but it's headache/fatigue/nausea, not chills and fever. Not that that excuses the way the nurse acted. Either way I'll stay home with her today, and go to Peer Supe when Adam gets home.
* When Adam checked his voicemail, got the "I am pissed off you deal with the nurse" message, and called the nurse, she was sweet as pie to him. He very much scans this as sexist - that the nurse will be aggressive and demanding with the mother, but has the attitude of "oh no, we cannot disturb the father at work!"
8th-Nov-2010 06:34 pm (UTC)
I'm sure this has been said all over the comments but there are at least LEAST! two major things wrong with this:

She kept trying to bully you into breaking the LAW! Hello!

She wouldn't let you enact your solution.

I have no idea why the hell she would be so hostile, and if I had been her, if anything, I would have apologized for inconveniencing you.

My next question is if this is how she deals with parents whom she is in theory on an equal power relationship with, how poorly does she treat the kids who have to view her as an authority figure?

My school nurse was awesome and would let me lie down and get me the heating pad when the cramps kicked my ass or I needed to hide from the bullies. This woman sounds like she lacks the compassion God gave Hitler.

I hope you have a positive resolution to this issue and I'm sorry it messed up your day.
8th-Nov-2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
That's despicable.
8th-Nov-2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
This is just so many levels of Not Okay. I'm glad that you wrote to the headmaster, and hopefully that will lead to some appropriate action being taken, but given that this woman is a nurse, I think it needs to be kicked a little higher up than that.

I'd recommend sending an explanation of what happened this morning (either the letter above or a new custom-tailored letter to) Michael E. Bearse (michael.e.bearse@state.ma.us) at the Massachusetts Board of Nursing and Barbara Hedstrom (hedstrom@msno.org) who is the DESE liaison for the Massachusetts School Nurse Organization. You can also call the nursing licensure office at DESE at 1-781-338-6600.

You have *no idea* the amount of *infrastructure* that goes into arranging my goddamn life around the epilepsy and my other physical issues. It is invisible to you because I do it damn well.

This. I can totally relate to this.
9th-Nov-2010 12:24 am (UTC)
Yup. This is where I would go. This isn't just an angry letter, this is a license affecting incident.
8th-Nov-2010 07:55 pm (UTC)
That's just insane. Yes, she needs to be hit with a clue-by-four. I encourage you to pursue this.
8th-Nov-2010 08:05 pm (UTC)
No, no, no, no. I can't even. Headmaster had better get her in sensitivity training, because. I cannot even believe the idiocy of this woman. On the one hand, I want the chance for you to ream her out in public. On the other hand, you need the energy for so many more important things!
8th-Nov-2010 08:07 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry that happened to you. No one deserves that - least of all us disabled people who have serious limitations. Ugh. Huggles you. I hope that writing some of that and venting a bit will calm you down - that and a HUGE FUCKING APOLOGY from the school with them taking steps to ensure that this never happens to someone else.
8th-Nov-2010 08:32 pm (UTC)
Oh. my. god. That kind of behavior from anyone is unacceptable. That kind of behavior in front of a child, from someone who deals with children on a regular basis, and whose job description generally requires at least a modicum of kindness and sympathy, is bloody unforgivable.

P.S. I am so stealing that quote and posting it everywhere.
8th-Nov-2010 08:33 pm (UTC)
This is amazingly shittastic. I don't even have the words.

I hope the headmaster deals with it appropriately.
8th-Nov-2010 09:11 pm (UTC)
o.O WTF? Looking forward to updates on this situation (and hoping they'll be positive.)
8th-Nov-2010 09:19 pm (UTC)
How absolutely vile of her. May she get the comeuppance that she rightly deserves.
8th-Nov-2010 09:24 pm (UTC)
WOW. Just W.T.F.

As a teacher, I a familiar with the Morning Malingering Syndrome (MMS) that you speak of in regards to E. I also know that most schools are wanting children to STAY in class as much as possible, so letting her sit quietly for a few then sending her back to class should not have been unreasonable. I hope this nurse get the correction she deserves and an apology from the school is forthcoming.

Sorry you went through this.
8th-Nov-2010 10:27 pm (UTC)
I wonder how many parents she's treated in such a manner, people who don't have your...I don't think there is a word for you, actually. Possibly in German. I'd feel a tiny bit of pity for this woman who knows not who the hell she's just fucked with, but she's really got no business being a nurse.
8th-Nov-2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
Seriously? That nurse needs to be straightened out big time.
9th-Nov-2010 01:01 am (UTC)
I got *one* of those phone calls when Kritter wasn't feeling well. It turns out it was a substitute nurse. Because official policy? The kids can even walk home. A parent does *not* have to come pick (even a sick) child up directly. I learned that *after* I left work early one day on a day I technically didn't have the liberty to, but said nurse was insistent. Kritter looked at me like I was nuts because we both remember her being allowed to walk home other times - but this time nurse was *insistant* that I absolutely *had* to pick her up.

When I asked the nurse what was up with that on a later date, she was *very* confused and apologetic, because that was NOT policy. Looked up the date, and she was not there that day.
9th-Nov-2010 02:53 am (UTC)
I think it would be safe to assume any delay in getting back to you is because the headmaster is chatting with lawyers to figure out how badly folks messed up the situation and how to Properly Respond.

That being said, I'd go ahead and report the nurse to the organizations mentioned in replies above. If she's not the regular nurse, then she (like, oh, so many Catholic priests) moves around a bit which makes it difficult to create an institutional record on her. Upset folks figure "oh, she's not the regular one" and let something slide. This mess should not slide.
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