In-school health clinics: A COVID checkmate.

In school healthcare clinics have taken root in American schools in the past 10 years.  What used to be a nurse’s office where students went to get a band-aid, Tylenol, or pepto has started taking shape as full healthcare facilities.  Partnerships have sprung up between school districts and clinics.  The idea has been sold to school boards to make pediatric health care more accessible especially to the most vulnerable students. 

In my Kentucky district, a Nurse Practitioner (NP) rotates between schools and sees children for ailments, offers diagnoses, and even prescriptions as needed. 

My first experience with the in-school “Care Clinic” was when my son was in fifth grade.  I got a call from the school nurse telling me he was complaining of his ear hurting.  It wasn’t an emergency, and it would have been very difficult to leave work, so I was talked into letting the NP take a look at him. They suspected it was an ear infection.  A half hour later, I got a phone call that his ears (and exam) checked out fine.  When I got home that night, I was able to speak with my son and look at him with my own eyes.  I knew immediately what had happened; he ate strawberry jam at lunch.  Strawberries made his ears bright red and hot.  Had I been able to see my child I could have avoided the bill that was to come two weeks later.  The experience left me with an uneasy feeling about school-medical staff treating my child for ailments when I’m not in the same room, let alone a different town. 

After that incident I refused to sign any consent forms regarding the school nurse, including consent to treat even a minor headache.  This, was no doubt, an inconvenience for both myself and the nurse, because I’d have to be contacted with each child’s trip to the nurse and I would have to email my permission to administer appropriate treatment. 

Recently our school board approved a plan to create a full-fledged health and urgent-care clinic in each school, complete with the addition of more NPs in partnership with a local pediatric practice.  This is also fully funded and requires no insurance or co-pay on our part.  My oldest son, the only of my three children still in public school, started high school this week and brought home those familiar forms for consent to treat.  I read through them and found them to be just vague enough to be alarming. 

The most alarming of the consent agreements: 

I consent to the care for my child, involving routine diagnostic tests, procedures, and medical treatment as ordered by the Care Clinic Nurse Practitioner.   

I understand no guarantee has been given to me regarding the results that may be obtained for my child’s care.

Then, finally, this tricky one at the end:

I understand every effort will be made to contact me before my child visits with the nurse practitioner. However, if I cannot be reached, I give consent for my child to be evaluated and treated by the nurse practitioner.

Let’s break these down. “…no guarantee has been given to me regarding the results that may be obtained from my child’s care.”  My first thought was pregnancy tests and abortion.  Now, I’m not accusing the district of moonlighting as an abortion clinic.  However, with the next consent statement: “If I cannot be reached, I give consent for my child to be evaluated and treated…” One must wonder how far they will go?  Who draws the line?  

The last two pages of the consent forms were, of course consent to vaccinate, one for the flu shot and one for Covid shot. Even if you want to vaccinate there is no detail about which vaccines they administer, nor are there any informational handouts about the vaccines and their side effects.

Then, my thoughts turned to the on-going talk and push to vaccinate the younger population.  What if I don’t sign the vaccine consent form, but do sign the form for the NP to treat my child.  Then, the nurse assesses my child and finds their lack of vaccination to need treatment. 

Well, at least they must call parents, according to this consent document.  Right? 


Signing that document gives the NP permission to treat in the event parents could not be reached.  Maybe they’ll play fair and attempt to call, but would you leave that to chance?

After doing some digging about other in-school clinics across the U.S., I happened across this little gem of an article by Devin Miller with American Academy of Pediatrics, published August 13, 2021 on

Washington, D.C. — Late Thursday, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Medical Association (AMA), the Washington, D.C. chapter of the AAP, the Medical Society of the District of Columbia (MSDC), and the Society of Adolescent Health and Medicine (SAHM) filed an amicus brief in support of the District of Columbia’s Minor Consent Act, a public health law protecting minors’ access to medical care. 

D.C.’s Minor Consent Act permits minors capable of informed consent to obtain vaccines if they so choose in specific circumstances.  The standard of care for physicians is to involve parents in medical decisions for their minor children, including vaccines.  But, occasionally, parental involvement is impossible, impractical, or even harmful.  The brief highlights situations in which “[m]inors may be effectively independent, such as when they are married, in the military, or unaccompanied and homeless.  A minor’s guardian may be unable to participate in a minor’s care due to work, illness, or other issues in the home.”

Minors may also have reason to believe a parent would punish them for wanting to get vaccinated or for seeking other medical treatment like mental health services.  When such situations arise, the brief argues that minors should be able to access potentially life-saving care.

Parents are losing their rights over their own children.  Whether it is signing a consent form mistakenly thinking it’s merely giving permission for the school nurse to administer band-aids or arrogant pediatricians advocating for legislation to allow children to make life altering decisions (vaccines, birth control, pregnancy termination, hormonal sex-change therapy, etc.) on their own—or our rights as parents are being stripped from us.  Our children are now pawns and they are being played.

Bio: Vanessa Hurst is a self-taught homeschool graduate. She has worked in publications since 2005. She was an investigative reporter for The LaRue County Herald News, served on the Site-Based Decision Making Council for her children's former school, and currently serves as publications and research manager for a history museum in Kentucky.