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Foul language, moral dilemmas, and tears: SC school nurses pushing through another difficult year

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 6:26 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - South Carolina school nurses would have never thought there were things they missed about the 2020-2021 school year.

But from kids getting sick with COVID-19 in addition to non-coronavirus-related illnesses and injuries, to quarantining and contact tracing, to being at the center of the heated school mask debate, the start of the 2021-2022 year has been strenuous.

“What the nurses want is respect and to be treated with respect and kindness. This is a complicated situation for everybody. And there are people on both sides of the fence,” said DHEC’s State School Nurse Consultant Victoria Ladd.

“Some folks on both sides are being exceptionally verbally abused to nurses and other school staff.”

Ladd said what she’s hearing from school nurses across the state is concerning.

“I talked to a nurse who has decades of experience doing this, and she has parents calling her a liar and using foul language and she said she is in tears and just didn’t know she can continue. And this is someone who would never consider thinking that way,” Ladd said.

And while some school nurses are facing fights from others, some are having some internal debates because of the restrictions on mask mandates in schools.

“We are seeing that school nurses are put in positions of having to decide ethical quandaries. They are put in moral situations. They want to do what’s best for the children but they feel that’s not the situation we are putting them in,” Ladd said. “I had a nurse who asked me if her license is at risk because of some of her school board’s decisions.”

Governor McMaster has repeatedly told reporters he believes whether a child wears a mask should be up to that child’s parents and not the school district. Leaders of the SC House and Senate have also not said they have any plans to return for a special session to repeal a temporary state law restricting mask mandates in schools.

Ladd said a mask mandate would reduce the number of children who need to be in quarantine because of a possible COVID-exposure.

“If we had all children wearing masks for example and the children are within 3-6 feet...If they are all wearing masks and a positive person is in the room. Nobody would quarantine. Only that positive person would go home to isolate,” Ladd said.

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