Thursday, November 18, 2010

School insurance company prevents parents from testing syringe that poked their son

"[The principal] invited the Kuertens to pick up the needle for possible testing, but George Hills [insurance] Co. claimed the needle first."

I have long thought that insurance companies and their lawyers do a great deal of harm to schools, but in this case, I must admit that there was really nothing to be gained by testing the syringe eight days after the needle stuck the students. Viruses are unlikely to survive that long.

But why didn't the school turn over the needle right away? Who spread the bogus story of the syringe being used to water plants?

Needle poke turns into big problem at L.A. charter school
April 19, 2010
Howard Blume
Los Angeles Times

When 6-year-old Kristopher Kuerten pricked himself with a syringe found at his school, his Redondo Beach parents had no idea they would end up locked in a complicated dispute over the needle.

The school's insurance company seized the needle and won't release it, saying no lab is willing to test it. The family is worried about their son's health and wants the syringe tested.

The incident, which happened at Goethe International Charter School, underscores the unusual problems that can be especially challenging for a school with no support from school district bureaucracy. Charters are independently managed, a freedom considered crucial to their success. But it also means they function outside of long-developed procedures.

Goethe, which shares a Marina del Rey campus with a Los Angeles Unified School District middle school, offers German-language immersion.

Kristopher hasn't experienced any medical problems, and experts say his risk for infection from HIV, hepatitis or other pathogens is low. But his parents are unhappy about how matters were handled.

During a school day in February, a classmate apparently found a syringe in an electrical box and gave it to Kristopher. The prick probably happened when he played with the syringe during the after-school program. A staff member attended to the minor wound.

Jean and Thomas Kuerten said they learned what happened from Kristopher.

School Principal Luci Fowers declined to discuss the matter, but in an earlier e-mail to the Kuertens, she wrote that after-school program workers, who aren't employees of the school, "had been [given] misinformation about the use of the syringe to nourish plants apparently from one of our interns."

Fowers added: "No one from our [permanent] staff was on our campus at that time nor were we informed about the incident until we returned from the weekend."

At a Los Angeles Unified School District school, the nurse or a designated staff member would have provided first aid and notified the parents and the needle would have been placed in a "sharps container," said Connie Moore, the district's director of nursing.

At Goethe, the principal was out ill for a time, and it was not until eight days after the incident that she alerted the parents that the syringe was not for plants, according to e-mails from the school provided by the family.

She invited the Kuertens to pick up the needle for possible testing, but George Hills Co. claimed the needle first.

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