Germ-phobia in the Schools

Readers: ntthyaadna
An Aussie mom presents us with a new school development — or at least one I hadn’t heard about.  I feel bad for the immune deficient kids, but being out in the world means they will be faced with germs everywhere. What if they take a city bus to school? No one sick is allowed on the bus?  And what about staffers: Are teachers allowed — or forced — to leave if they have a tickle in their throat? What a can of germs this opens up! – L. 

Dear Free-Range Kids: 

I have another bee in my bonnet about the level of over protectiveness and risk aversion at schools. This time it is in relation to illness and paranoia over germs. At least twice a term I am made to collect my child for no good reason at all. This week I was told she was sent to sick bay “because she had a cough”. She had been at school for less than an hour. In the 24 hours after I took her home, I heard her cough… twice.

I once was told to collect her “because the teacher thought she looked a bit pale”. If I ever try to question the school staff’s judgement, I get spoken to in a tone that very clearly shows that they think I am an irresponsible parent.

There are two reasons for sending kids home, it seems. One is the idea that they cannot cope with even the slightest level of discomfort.

The other reason is that they seem to be getting to protect all kids from all germs. They published following entry in the school newsletter at the start of winter:

Coughs and Colds in Canberra 
With the onset of colder weather we are noticing
an increase in the number of students coming to school
with coughs and colds.
We ask that if your child is unwell that you keep them home
to recover as we have students who are immune deficient.
Please remind your child about the importance of washing
their hands and general hygiene.

The biggest irony is that my daughter has been reporting that there hasn’t been any soap or paper towels in their toilets for the past 2 years.

One of the worst effects of this over the top policy is that my child occasionally plays the system like a pro. She knows that she just had to put on a sad face and make up some vague symptoms and she gets to go home instead of attending boring classes. And the school doesn’t allow me any defence.

I have called the department of education yesterday and the community liaison officer agreed with me that this is not workable. Next I will talk to the principal. I want to go back to a common sense approach, like we had in my school days. A child should only be sent home if they have a fever, vomiting or diarrhea or show signs of a serious infectious illness. If she didn’t see reason, I will lodge an official complaint with the department. My child has a right to be at school to learn and unless she poses a real risk to other kids. A bit of a cough or sniffle or looking a bit pale does NOT constitute a genuine risk. — A Mom Down Under 

Your city appears to have an extreme case of microbophobia.

Your city appears to have a case of microbophobia.


73 Responses to Germ-phobia in the Schools

  1. Katie September 8, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    It shocks me how we have created a society where kids get to run the show. There are germs everywhere and a little cough should not equal a kid being sent home. I remember going to school with a runny nose and all.

    Personally I think you should just refuse to pick her up or at least I think you should stall it out. Don’t answer the phone the next time they call. Tell them you were somewhere, that you couldn’t answer your phone and don’t call back for a few hours.

    But then again I don’t fully understand Aussie society, as from what I’ve seen here it seems like the most paranoid society about children on the planet, with even worse helicopterism than in the US (or States as the rest of the world calls us).

  2. Violet September 8, 2013 at 4:50 pm #

    Wow! It can take three weeks to get over a cold!

  3. Peter September 8, 2013 at 5:10 pm #

    The onset of cold weather does not increase colds. It’s the access to lots of other kids that increases colds. It is just accepted around here that the start of the school year means your kids are going to be coming home with respiratory problems for a couple weeks. To tie it to cold weather seems medieval, and for school officials display that basic lack of knowledge about how upper respiratory conditions are passed around is astounding.

  4. Kimberly September 8, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Honestly, I don’t trust parents’ judgement. My daughter is always telling me about kids in her class who complain about not feeling well at the beginning of the day, then barfs in the middle of class. Then, she gets it and has to miss school and I have to take an unpaid day from work. I also know from keeping children a few years back that parents dope their kids up with Motrin. I could tell they felt bad. I always bet myself five dollars that by noon, a fever would come, and it always did. They would say it was teething, which never actually involves a high fever. They would often be unreachable when I called too. They would also send them with a rancid case of the runs and say it was teething. When I was chained to the toilet a couple of days later, I always felt a sense of satisfaction that they were having to take that time off work they didn’t want to miss b/c I was now sick. I always keep mine home until she is fully recovered. Always.

  5. Kimberly September 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

    Peter-It is actually tied to cold weather. Forced heat and being inside all day can perpetuate the spread of germs. What is a small cold in you becomes pneumonia in me. And a small cold to you isn’t always perceived to be a small cold by others. When kids are coughing, wheezing, and can barely walk, it probably isn’t a cold anymore. Parents often underplay the illnesses of their kids, so they won’t have to take responsibility and keep them home.

  6. Puzzled September 8, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    I don’t know. Germ phobia is ridiculous, and overblown, and teaches bad lessons. On the other hand, in this particular case, it saves kids from being in school, and I consider each day in school to be a negative. So I’m split.

  7. Mike September 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    I’m a school administrator, and it can be a delicate balance. I don’t believe in sending students home for everything, but if we don’t call someone to let them know their child is sick then we get fussed at for not doing that. We don’t make students go home when they have a cold, but we request parents come when the child has a fever or is throwing up.

  8. Papilio September 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    “(gezunt)heights!” Cute but check your spelling 😀
    The z should be s (z is pronounced ‘ts’, s between vowels is ‘z’, t should be d (but d and b get devoiced in final position).

    Ontopic: total madness, as usual. I hope the moms all decide to give mud birthday parties during the summer (I imagine swim suits + sand/dirt/soil + water) to prevent allergies.

  9. forsythia September 8, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

    Scientifically speaking, a little cough is the worst. Viral loadings are highest in the first 24 hours of symptoms. That means they are MOST INFECTIOUS when they are just coming down with something.

    A little knowledge of the world is important to consider when having a reactive nostalgia-driven response to (in this case) a not unreasonable request.

    What is utterly stupid is that I do keep my kids home, but the school expects a doctors note for every illness – even when there is a flu epidemic and the doctor’s answering machine says DO NOT COME IN unless you have these complications!

    So I just sign notes with my own title, because I’m a Dr. too.

    So, keep your kids home early and there will be less illness overall. Let them go back after a day or so if they are up to it, because they may sniffle a lot, but they aren’t contageous.

  10. Papilio September 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm #

    “(or States as the rest of the world calls us)”

    Could you please define ‘world’ for this poor extra-terrestrial?

  11. Earth.W September 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

    Homeschooling has become so So SO attractive now.

  12. Earth.W September 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

    There are employers who expect you to rock up to work even if you’re about to die the next die. I lost a contract with a Brisbane based company because my eldest child(then about 18 months old) was in hospital and had an operation the evening before. Culture shock coming for kiddies on leaving school.

  13. BPFH September 8, 2013 at 6:10 pm #

    Oh, hell. I’d have been out for most of the spring and most of the fall, if this had been policy when I was in school. (“He’s got to go home, he’s sneezing!” “Well, no shit, dumbass, it’s called ‘hay fever.'”*)

    * My mother wouldn’t have said “no shit, dumbass.” I’m fairly sure she would have thought it, though.

  14. LTMG September 8, 2013 at 6:16 pm #

    Based on some of the reports I read in this website, it seems that in some parts of the world, in some school districts, too many people “who think they are in charge” are afflicted with cranial rectitis. That is a great shame since there seems to be no readily effective treatment for the condition that is legal. The condition keeps spreading, slowly but surely.

  15. Earth.W September 8, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    @Kimberely; It’s always a matter of a parent’s judgement but the employer’s judgement. Most aren’t happy if you take time off for a sick child. I’ve come across employers who refuse to employ people who have a child in their care for this reason.

  16. SKL September 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    This is not new, and I have certainly ignored this “rule” many times. I like to think my kids are “tough.” 😉 Granted, one of mine seems to have a weaker immune system. If there is a tummy bug going around, she’s puking all night. But as soon as the puking stops, she’s back to school. Her sister, who is obviously exposed to all the same germs, rarely gets sick enough to stay home.

    But last April, that nasty flu was going around, and my kids caught it at the worst possible time. It was the week of standardized testing, plus I had three “big meetings” at work (usually I work at home). I forced my poor kids to drag through it until Thursday, when my wimpy one woke with her third massive nosebleed in 8 hours (and I do mean massive – think violent crime scene). On top of the flu mess. Couldn’t send them to school like that. Couldn’t leave them home (they are 6) and I had important clients coming from across the country to meet with me that day. It was too late to find sick care for the day. The perfect storm! So I dragged them to work and made them sleep on the floor behind a desk until they felt better. I’m pretty sure I didn’t win the Best Mommy Award that day. 😛 My punishment was to come down with the flu myself and be sick for a month (but I didn’t get to miss any work!). The kids were back to school the following Tuesday.

    I always figure, whatever bug they may be spreading at school, they caught it at school in the first place. It seems a bit ridiculous to quarantine the bug after everyone has already been exposed.

    By the way, my kids bombed the standardized tests. 😛

  17. Steve September 8, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    Immune system strength can be weakened by stress and negative emotions. So the effect that a sick kid has on an entire class of students probably has less to do with the “bug” and more to do with the emotional state of the students.

  18. SKL September 8, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

    When I was a kid, we only had a school nurse on Thursdays. It was pure coincidence that I developed a sick stomach every Thursday and had to go to the nurse’s office. Pure coincidence. The nurse would call my mom and they would agree to let me walk home, where I would do whatever I wanted for the rest of the day. (Mom and dad both worked downtown.)

    Just picturing what a scandal that would be if it happened today. School sends sick elementary student walking home alone to an empty house!

  19. Earth.W September 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    I have never heard of a nurse at school. You get sick, the teacher sends you to Admin to be put in sick bay. Parent/Caretaker called to pick you up. No school nurses, they would never get any funding. Getting them to recognise and fund learning disabilities is a great enough challenge as it is now.

  20. Jessi September 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm #

    That’s ridiculous. If my child missed school every time he had a sniffle he’d NEVER be at school. Kids get sick.
    Last year my 11 year old was sent home by her teacher because she had a cough. No amount of my daughter telling them she wasn’t sick, it was asthma, would sink in. I finally had to go in and have the vice principal talk to the doctor via phone. THEN they let her take her inhaler to class so she could not be a bother. Because oh god, not an inhaler in class.. everyone will be huffing!!

  21. Earth.W September 8, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    While I think of it, there are things school staff must do no matter how much they disagree with it. Like putting treating harmless scratches to the skin with bandaides, amongst other rot. Such practices is making it very hard to get one our daughters out of her hypochondria stage.

  22. SKL September 8, 2013 at 7:10 pm #

    Well, a bandaid is a whole other matter. Kids will scrape themselves on purpose rather than be one-upped in bandaids by another kid. 😉

    I am a mean mother. In addition to not turning on our TV when there are better things to do (which is always), I don’t give bandaids unless they are truly needed (which is, like, once every two years). Therefore, my kids are that much more obsessed with bandaids. I keep telling myself it is a harmless vice . . . .

  23. JaneW September 8, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

    There’s definitely a balance. There are parents who will dump really sick kids in school, and that’s not good for anyone. There has to be room for the school to say, “This child is obviously ill, miserable, and contagious, she needs to be sent home no matter what the parents say.” Fever, vomiting, chicken pox rash, etc. If everyone stays home when really sick, then there’s less sickness and fewer inconvenient sick days overall.

    On the other hand, this school is obviously taking things much too far. There’s no reason for a child with a slight cold to have to stay home until every symptom of the cold is completely gone, nor is it practical. And of course, mild cold symptoms can be due to allergies or other non-infectious causes.

    And schools and workplaces requiring doctor’s notes for every sick day is really silly. It’s a burden on the doctor’s office and on the patient.

    My workplace has a pretty reasonable policy: If you are out for more than a week, you need a doctor’s note. (If you are sick enough to miss more than a week of work, there probably should be a doctor involved.) If you do certain specific things to make your supervisor suspect you’re abusing sick days, like getting conveniently sick for the hated seasonal meeting over and over again, they have the right to request sick notes. If you need a few days off for a virus, you just call in.

  24. Eliza September 8, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    As a teacher working in Australia, I can assure readers of this site that a majority of teachers, especially the ones I know do use common sense when sending kids home from school. Yes there are times I have got it wrong, sending healthy kids home as well as leaving it too late and keeping sick kids at school (usually these kids have been sick all over their desk and carpet before allowing them to go home). Some injuries or illnesses are obvious, such as the child who fell of the monkey bars and complained that his wrist was a bit sore as I observe the wrist was clearly Brocken. Most times though it is observation throughout the day, and a note home to parents explaining what happened or a note home saying the child was coughing excessively, had a headache or complained they were very tired today.

  25. Abby September 8, 2013 at 7:59 pm #

    SO many kids have allergies. If we send everyone home at so much as a sniffle, there would be no one left in school.

    Ironically, I believe that our fear of germs is actually hurting our immune systems. We avoid germs (or at least we make ourselves think we’re avoiding them) like they’re all out to kill us, and we sterilize and sanitize everything. This is making it impossible to develop immunities to pathogens as well as enjoy the benefits of friendly bacteria in our environment.

  26. Kimberly September 8, 2013 at 8:00 pm #

    The school is being silly and playing into the kids hands. I might have pink eye. Went to the doctor today tested negative but the eye was really irritated, and wouldn’t clear up after being washed with saline or anti-red stuff. Doctor is thinking that the negative might be because I had been rinsing my eye (thinking it was allergies because my eye felt gritty).

    The doctor put me on antibotic eye drops. Technically I won’t have been on them for 24 hours, but I’m going to school on Monday. It will have been 22 hours when school starts. I follow universal precautions and wash my hands regularly. Also I don’t touch my face.

    On the flip side we once had a family keep their kids home several days, because they had been exposed to a usually minor virus. Except 2 of the kids had pregnant teachers, and this virus is linked birth defects. One of their kids was in a grade with 2 cancer patients, who were immune compromised.

    My sister was a kid that went from running around fine – to crash and burn with 104 fever in the span of an hour. The school nurses and teachers learned to take her serious if she stopped playing and said she was sick.

    I often got sent home for noncontagious issues. Sometimes it would be go home, take a bath, cool off, put on topical medication – then go back to school. (I have a skin condition and my elementary school’s Ac was very weak. The heat would send me into orbit with painful itching (think fire ants under your skin biting).

    I know my students pretty quick. I know when Andrew puts his head down – he is probably very sick (had a burst ear drum). But if Ivan does the same thing he gets in trouble.

    The parents that dope kids they know are sick up so they can get away with dropping them off – tick me off. You have a kid make arrangements to deal with illnesses.

  27. Busymom September 8, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

    One of the problems with our society is that we continue to try to fix things and make them worse! By not exposing kids to any germs they will have poor immune systems and will get sick every time they are confronted with anything. I am a teacher and I believe if your child is sick they should be home BUT I do not believe that every cough or not feeling good is a reason to be sent home. Plenty of things can make you cough (I have GERD and I cough in relation to this daily)and there are a number of reasons, other than illness, to not feel good. We need to teach children how to not expose others (cough into your elbow and wash your hands) and then get on with our lives.

  28. Jenn September 8, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    I find that this happens at some schools in more affluent areas. My children go to a school were it is an upper middle class community. Most families are dual income, and where mom is university educated but choose to give up her career to stay at home. Most families have the option where if their child is a little under the weather, someone is home for them. I get called once a week to pick up my kids from school about things like: bee stings (when it was really a mosquito bite), gagging on food (my daughter is a picky eater and will gag on food she doesn’t like suddenly), scrapped knees, coughing, tummy complaints and wetting their pants (there’s a change of clothes in their cubby for a reason!).

    I teach full time at a school in the same town but my school is very low income. We call home for vomit, diarrhea, head injuries, fever and obvious illness. When my students tell they are unwell, I’ll try to gage how unwell they are by asking if a bathroom trip or drink of water or a small snack will help (90% of the time it does- especially the snack since many of our kids come to school without breakfast and rely on our breakfast/snack program). I feel as a mom, I can often tell when a kid is really sick, faking, hungry or in need of a BM! As a mom, I know it’s hard to get that call at work that you need to go get your sick child so I try to make sure that the child truly is sick.

    I think the reason for the discrepancy is that the parents at my children’s school tend to lose it when their child isn’t 100% and the school hasn’t called them. The parents tend to overreact to every little thing and when their child is unwell, the world must stop for them. Perhaps that’s the case at this school?

  29. Joanne September 8, 2013 at 11:54 pm #

    I agree with you 100 percent. We have the same thing here in the states. My daughter has allergies so she commonly displays symptoms of having a cold. She hasn’t gotten sent home yet, buti have received the letters that you have received as well.

  30. Meagan September 9, 2013 at 12:10 am #

    I wonder how they cope with kids who suffer from asthma and allergies. My son ALWAYS has a bit of a cough and/or stuffy runny nose.

  31. Stephanie September 9, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    I have a friend whose son’s life can be threatened by a minor cold, due to how his lungs developed, as I recall. He also has multiple food allergies, although they’re getting better.

    Know how they handle flu season? They follow their doctor’s advice and keep him home. They don’t make the school take ridiculous steps to protect him. It’s not easy on them, as he’s one of two kids and they end up keeping both home and essentially homeschooling for part of the year, but they make it work. They’re highly protective when he needs it, and fought with the school to get the accommodations they need for him, but they don’t expect anything unreasonable.

    I can’t imagine my kids’ school trying this. They get cranky very quickly over missed days. Telling parents that they have to keep their kids home over minor colds, but total days out of school per year must be under 10 (or there will be consequences) just wouldn’t work at all for many elementary students, especially the younger ones.

  32. KLY September 9, 2013 at 2:14 am #

    Funny, I had to show up at the school, one day last year, and invoke the phrase “Explosive Diarrhea” – plus still argue a bit – to get the nurse to sign off on an excused absence for my daughter. The attendance policy is draconian. If you miss more than [whatever limit they’ve set] within the fall semester (you know, cold and flu season), you cannot have any absences without either a doctor’s note (because we all have the time and money for that, every time the child gets sick), or you have to show up at the school before classes start, *each morning the child needs to be out*, and get the nurse to sign off on it. Which means you have to get your sick child up, dressed, and drag them up to the school and then argue with the nurse in charge to get them to concede that the child who can barely hold her head up and is coughing constantly might legitimately need to go home. Now that she’s shown up at school and coughed germs throughout the hallways. They will sign off if your child has a fever above their arbitrary line, which does no good if your kid (like mine – she takes after me) runs a lower-than-textbook body temp normally and doesn’t reach that line unless something is “ER visit” serious.

    Failure to comply with this policy can and will result in truancy citations which involve fines that start at about $200 (and which can possibly include jail time).

    I *am* immunosuppressed. Having had all sorts of cautionary things drilled into my head for most of my life, the policy here hits all of my red-flags as the *worst* thing to do. It pretty much forces kids to stay in school sick or return before they are actually recovered. Their policy makes the fact that we recently has a frickin’ measles outbreak in our county all that much more worrisome, because of course people can get exemptions from the vaccination policies.

    Common sense is *definitely* needed in this area. This is one of those things where, unless there are some HUGE red flag patterns at work, they *really* need to let parental judgement be the guideline.

  33. Bjarney September 9, 2013 at 3:30 am #

    A cough or sniffle can be a sine of a allergie. are the fone to send all kids home withs has allergie.

  34. sam bridgham September 9, 2013 at 5:03 am #

    Sorry to hear Australian schools are like this also. So much of it seems to stem from a fear of criticism.

  35. Melanie September 9, 2013 at 6:05 am #

    She must be an American in Australia, because Australians use “mum” not “mom”. Neither my son’s child care centre nor my daughter’s primary school have this culture; both are very sensible when it comes to coughs and colds.

  36. Lin September 9, 2013 at 7:04 am #

    @Kimberley,that is exactly the kind of attitude that I get from the school’s staff and it honestly offends me. This assumption that I must be one of those parents who would not care about sending a truly sick child to school. I would never do that! Fever, vomiting, diarrhoea or obvious unwellness and she stays home without question. But I have taken my child to the doctor pretty much every time she got sent home – because I need a certificate for work – and not ONCE have they found her to be genuinely ill. The last time, when she was sent to sick bay after only an hour at school was on a Monday after I had kept her home in Thursday and Friday because of a fairly moderate cold. A cold, not a flu or a tummy bug.

    I have read the education department’s policy on exclusion from school because of illness and the common cold is not on the list of valid reasons. Let alone an occasional cough after all other symptoms have gone.

    And that wasn’t the worst one. Often they call me because my child tells them she is not feeling well. They don’t ask said child any questions, don’t check her temperature or anything sensible like that. As soon as she is home, she is perfectly fine.

  37. S September 9, 2013 at 8:30 am #

    They also check kids out at daycare and try to send them home all the time. My coworkers are forever running out to get their kids who are basically fine, losing all their paid time off. Daycare loses kids and still gets paid. Rip off

  38. lollipoplover September 9, 2013 at 8:39 am #

    Our stay home from school rule is a fever or vomiting. My kids rarely miss school as I promise them a hooky day at the end of they year if they have no sick days. Coughing and post nasal drip (ask any allergy or asthma kid) are annoying but not dangerous. Yes, if it’s a virus it can spread but don’t they teach coughing in the arm and washing hands in school? Unless this nurse sees symptoms of whooping cough or croup, there is no reason to send this child home.

    And try a spoonful of good local honey for that cough, it works wonders.

  39. Jen (P.) September 9, 2013 at 9:36 am #

    I wonder if the way schools are funded has any effect on this phenomenon. Here (and I think in much of the U.S.), a significant portion of a district’s funding depends on “average day’s attendance,” which would seem to act as an extra incentive to have kids present (not that there aren’t other reasons too, of course). If a kid goes to the nurse with a cough he gets sent back to class with a couple of cough drops unless he also has a fever or some other more serious symptoms. Heck, under the standards the school in the article is following, my kids would have missed most of the school year so far because of hayfever. Ridiculous.

    No question it’s a balancing act because many parents do (intentionally or not) send their kids to school sick. But the school nurses I’ve encountered are pretty adept at identifying the ones who shouldn’t be there. And around here they would not routinely send kids home for the reasons described in that piece–no matter how much the kid begged!

  40. Tryna Zeman September 9, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    I work in Family Practice and frequently use a letter from the CDC website : which specifically states children with a mild cold should NOT be excluded from attendance. After being in medicine for over 20 years I am the OPPOSITE of a germ-a-phobe!

  41. Lark September 9, 2013 at 10:02 am #

    Well surely parents are sending their sick kids to school because the parents don’t have good or sufficient leave policies at their own jobs, right? Honestly, if I were under the gun and people were getting fired for taking too much time off, I’d be doping my kid up with Motrin and being “unreachable” too, because my first responsibility to my family is to make rent and put food on the table by staying employed. And I used to work at a place that gave very, very little PTO, you had to earn it as the year went along, it did not roll over and you were fired – bam! – if you went over. So if you had a kid with a serious illness in, say, February, you were in pretty deep trouble because you had earned all of one day of PTO. (I actually quit that job because I’d had a long illness myself, used up all my PTO and would have been fired if I’d had any kind of emergency at all.)

    (It always strikes me as hilarious that employers tell people “oh, don’t work sick, you’ll just get everyone else sick” but if you take too much sick time (even if you’re earned it) you’re considered a bad employee. One or the other, because I can’t choose whether or not I get a cold!)

    For immunocompromised children – would it be possible to develop classroom-specific plans? Surely not every class is going to have an immunocompromised child? And if there are multiple kids in one grade, could they be put in one class together (even being moved during the school year if an immunocompromising illness/medical treatment began) and have some specific extra hand-washing and sanitizing procedures? Certainly it’s really important that immunocompromised people be able to be out in the world, but there has to be a technical fix that doesn’t involve shutting things down for everyone else.

  42. Buffy September 9, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    For those saying a cough is the beginning of something terrible and the beginning is when they’re MOST INFECTIOUS, come on. People have already mentioned allergies, and hasn’t anyone had a tickle in the throat? Swallowed a drink of water wrong?

  43. Susannah's mom September 9, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Actually, for reasons science doesn’t fully understand, “winter months” do indeed bring about increased rates in some diseases. It’s thought that perhaps the germs live better in lower temperatures, but at the same time this seems to occur even in areas where the temperatures don’t really change much so it’s a bit of a mystery.

    There are also diseases that tend to spread more rapidly in the summer – polio was a “summer” disease.

    I’m not totally sure I disagree with this policy (although of course not carried to insane extremes). I was often dreadfully sick as a kid and probably needed vitamins or chicken soup or something. MANY times I was sent to school miserable, unable to learn and spreading disease to anyone within range. My parents sent me to school because that’s what parents did in the 70’s and I’m sure it was more convenient for them to do so.

    As a parent myself now, I have been faced with some absolute rudeness in terms of people bringing visibly sick children to various functions when it was totally unnecessary. Not school, but things that were optional like church, playgroups, family get togethers and so on. If your child was vomiting 15 minutes beforehand or has snot running down their nose and all over their sleeves, is it not just common courtesy to keep them home???

    While I am a free range parent, there are ~some~ times when I think a little caution is justified. I do think there are some (good) parents who ‘work the system’ if they can’t miss work and have nowhere else for their kids to go. Not intentionally but it’s perhaps human nature to underestimate the level of your child’s ability to spread germs around if it benefits you to do so. It doesn’t seem wrong for the schools to say, “no, we’re not a free babysitting service, we’re here to provide education and if your kid is ill s/he needs to be at home.”

  44. pentamom September 9, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    “(because we all have the time and money for that, every time the child gets sick), ”

    And because dragging a vomiting child to the doctor so she can vomit all over the waiting room and the office and then be told, “It’s just a virus” is SO constructive and conducive to her recovery and to public health.

  45. Warren September 9, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    Have gotten these calls and insist on speaking with my kid on the phone. Then 9 times out of 10 she stays at school. My kids were never ones to fake it. They never asked to go home it was always the school. I just told them they were out of luck. That my daughter, and myself determined she is fine to stay at school, so she is staying. I won’t be coming to pick her up, end of story. They never took it any further.
    As for this doctor’s note required for days off sick thing, not a chance in this lifetime, am I going to waste my doctor’s time for most things, and I am not paying 30 bucks for a doctor’s note.

    All you people have just got to say NO, I AIN’T GOING TO DO IT!

  46. hineata September 9, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

    Find this fascinating, and would love to know where exactly the school is. Immune deficiency is, according to the immunologists my Midge is under, very rare. In our city of one hundred thousand, she is the only child being treated for immune deficiency, and we haven’t heard of any adults receiving treatment either. Immuno-suppressed kids, such as those receiving certain types of cancer treatment, are probably more common, but of the kids I’ve known who have had such treatments, they are kept at home until strong enough to handle the inevitable school germs.

    Midge’s school is very good about letting us know if there are any nasty things going around (eg they had whooping cough cases last year) and she just goes on preventative antibiotics and carries on. Beyond that, what can be done? There are always germs around, and the world can’t revolve around these kids, who are pretty darn rare……Certainly my other kids and me bring Midge into contact with many of the same germs she encounters at school, so why should school make special provisions for her? (Beyond the aforementioned warnings to us, which are very useful and greatly appreciated 🙂 ).

  47. Jenna K. September 9, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    This is so silly. Colds can take three weeks to get over. My son had pneumonia over the summer and he is still coughing. Our school has a policy that to have an excused absence, we have to have a doctor’s note. I’m not taking my child to a doctor if he has the stomach flu or a simple cold. Tack these two policies together and you might as well home school.

  48. Warren September 9, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Why are the school demanding notes from doctors?

    Who gave them the authority to do this?

    And why are parents complying with it?

    I do not understand grown adults that allow themselves to be pushed around. It is really puzzling.

  49. SKL September 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    Don’t even get me started on how not helpful it is to take a kid to the doctor for anything less horrible than strep throat.

    I took my kids that time they got the flu, because I had heard strep was also going around and we all had symptoms of that. It was difficult to get an appointment as their office closed before my business meeting was over (the client actually told us to please leave as my kids were getting so miserable). We just got a strep test for the girls, nothing more, and my out-of-pocket was about $100 despite the fact that I’m on an HMO and took the girls way out of the way to the HMO’s own office. Had we needed to go to urgent care after hours, it would have cost me a lot more. Times ain’t like they useta be. (They never bothered to give us the results of the strep test, but we all got better, so I guess it wasn’t that.)

    I have never been asked for a doctor’s note for the girls. If they ever do ask for a note when I haven’t taken them to the doc, I will just ignore the request. Are they gonna throw my kids out of school for that?

  50. Aimee September 9, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    When my son was in elementary school one of the classroom teachers was having chemo for breast cancer. If that isn’t immuno-suppressed, I don’t know what is. But she kept working, coming in all the days that she felt well enough to do so (which was quite a lot). She set a powerful example to the kids, that she didn’t just call out sick (she certainly could have) – she came in and taught them.

    I’m a little pale today, maybe I should go home from work?…. oh, wait, I overslept and didn’t have timme to put on much makeup LOL

  51. pentamom September 9, 2013 at 3:14 pm #

    “For those saying a cough is the beginning of something terrible and the beginning is when they’re MOST INFECTIOUS, come on. People have already mentioned allergies, and hasn’t anyone had a tickle in the throat? Swallowed a drink of water wrong?”

    Ate too fast? Burped and had a bit of reflux? Even getting a bit underhydrated can cause a slight cough.

    A persistent, even if mild, cough might be a sign of infectious illness. Every coughing sound that a kid makes, is not.

  52. Julie September 9, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    Our school–public elementary school in CA–has a fairly reasonable policy, for once. Kids need to stay home if they’re vomiting, have diarrhea, or fever. Or if they’re otherwise obviously ill–such as snot buckets running from their nose. The hardest part is the fever rule, which is that the kid has to be fever-free (without fever reducers) for 24 hours. So, if your kid’s fever broke at 8pm the night before, he’s still home the next day.

    No doctor’s note necessary until the 10th absence.

  53. Merrick September 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Aside from the sick day issues…

    I have to go through a hassle EVERY year to inform teachers that my youngest cannot have hand sanitizer on his hands. (It inflames his eczema, one year his wrists were horrible until I realized that they were putting sanitizer on him twice a day.)

    They give every student “a squirt” at least once a day sometimes more!

  54. Phil Washington September 9, 2013 at 4:06 pm #

    I think some parents take this too far. As a construction worker I am around hazardous chemicals and other sealants all day and I make sure to disinfect my truck daily with my pressure washer. I think that many parents skip this step and don’t wash or treat their “work” clothes like they should. This would clear up alot of the problems with “germphobia”

  55. bluebird of bitterness September 9, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

    I can see both sides on this. When my first child (now 34) was a baby, I tried doing day care in my home to earn a little extra money. The woman whose child I babysat would bring her to my house when she was sick and contagious, along with bottles of medicine and tubes of ointment and instructions for me to give her child two spoonfuls of this medicine every three hours and apply this ointment to her lesions every two hours etc. I was young and inexperienced back then, and I was genuinely shocked that anyone would even think of bringing a child with a contagious disease to my house and exposing my baby to her illness. Now that I’m old and cynical, this kind of behavior no longer surprises me, but I still think it’s incredibly rude. (If the woman had had no other choice, because she risked losing her job if she took a day off to care for a sick child, I could almost excuse it; but that was not the case.)

    On the other hand, sending kids home from school if the teacher thinks they look pale or if they happen to sneeze is ridiculous. Surely there’s some common sensical middle ground between the two extremes. And as for those children with compromised immune systems, why can’t they wear a mask over their noses and mouths to protect them from airborne germs? Wouldn’t that make more sense than kicking all the other kids out of class and sending them home?

  56. AnnMarie September 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

    LOL, that’s at least one thing our school does right. Nutmeg has only been sent home after throwing up twice in a day. (If it’s just once and she says she’s okay, she’s stayed.) And even this time, they called and *asked* my husband if he could come get her, not that he had to.

  57. Katie September 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm #


    Yes, and too many people discount this. We would be a much healthier society if we stopped worrying about germs and well just stopped worrying so much overall therefore strengthening our immune systems.

  58. Donna September 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    “If they ever do ask for a note when I haven’t taken them to the doc, I will just ignore the request. Are they gonna throw my kids out of school for that?”

    Not throw them out, just give them an unexcused absence. Doesn’t matter if your kids are only out a few times a year but can be a major issue if your kids come close to the limit of absences every year.

  59. Warren September 9, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

    @ ALL OF YOU

    Where are your kids going to school, Nazi Germany, the old USSR?

    Doctor’s notes, excused vs unexcused absences, limits on absences, truancy fines and jail time?

    If your school boards and gov’t are treating you this way, you are all sheep. Holy Crap on A Cracker, take back your lives.
    The only time there is a problem up here is when the school calls and asks if why your kid isn’t in class and you don’t know. Then once they turn 18, if they are still in high school, they don’t even call. You are considered an adult, and can excuse yourself from class, or sign for days off.

    I cannot believe the power you give school boards. You know what, you deserve what you are getting.

  60. Donna September 9, 2013 at 7:09 pm #

    @ Warren –

    Outside of the doctor’s notes(which I have never heard of beyond extended illnesses or excessive absences), none of this is new. You are the only person I’ve met on the planet who believes that that he can send his children to schools outside the home and still control every single aspect of that process (talk about helicopter, sheesh). Most of the rest of us understand that, even if a school was a democracy (which it isn’t), we are still but ONE vote out of how many students are in the school and the school does have a right to have one set of rules and not 1500. We can fight to change the rules (for which we need still a majority) but we can’t just demand that there be no rules for our children.

    Yes, there are rules as to how many absences a child can have in school and still pass the school year. They have existed for generations. As long as the level is reasonable and exceptions allowed for special situations, I have no problem with this. I have a serious problem with the zero tolerance that seems to be moving into this area though.

    Yes, there is a difference between an excused absence (illness) and an unexcused absence (skipping school, suspensions). Has been for generations. I have no problem with this either. I don’t think doctor’s notes should be required to prove a child was ill unless absences become excessive and would fight my school district on that, but otherwise this is fine with me.

    Yes, there are LAWS mandating education and failing to comply with those LAWS means that you and your children can be arrested. Think whatever you want about such laws; they aren’t changing anytime soon since I don’t see “no more mandatory education” being a popular campaign proposition.

  61. Kimberly September 9, 2013 at 9:19 pm #

    Ridiculous.. When I read these stories I’m even more grateful that my kiddo goes to a school that uses common sense! When she was sick earlier this year, I only got the call to get her when her fever spiked. She also got in the bus line for the YMCA instead of her regular bus once. No one freaked out, they merely called me and told me what happened. I went and picked her up, we all had an “oh kids” chuckle, and that was that. Sheesh.

  62. Warren September 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    And like I said, you are all sheep for allowing this.

    Truancy here is not something any normal parent has to worry about because of illnesses, or just taking you kid out of school for sports, trips, or the hell of it.

    The fact that anyone will comply with doctor’s notes, school nurses having authority, the threats of arrest and or fines, is absolutely ridiculous. You are allowing others to have authority beyond your own, over your children.

    That either makes you weak and fearful little people, or just plain freaking dumb.

    Why would anyone allow a school, a board or anyone challenge your parental authority?
    Why would anyone allow a school, a board or anyone tell them how to raise, and take care of your kid?
    The more I read about the states, the more I realize that you all are lying to yourselves and everyone else.
    You are not the land of the free and the home of the brave.
    Land of the controlled and home of the weak, is what it is.
    All those issues people fought and died for, just to have the power slowly given back to the gov’t. The Founding Father’s if not dead already would die of shame, watching you now.

  63. Warren September 9, 2013 at 10:03 pm #

    Oh and by the way Donna, if a student completes the work, the assignments, tests and exams, and finishes with a passing grade, they pass. It is that simple. At least up here it is.

    But then again, there seems to be more common sense up here as well.

  64. dccdmom September 9, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    My son is immune compromised due to medications he takes for chronic illness. He once ended up having a 2 1/2 hour seizure and being airlifted to a specialty hospital for a 5 day stay from the common cold. I totally get the germ phobia thing. That’s part of why I homeschool him. That way I have quite a bit of control over what he’s exposed to. I would never expect hundreds of other children to have to follow the same protocols we follow to keep my son safe.

  65. SKL September 10, 2013 at 4:27 am #

    It’s futile to keep mildly sick kids home after they are already showing symptoms. By then, the germ has already spread around and that’s probably how your kid got it in the first place. Most of the damage is done before anyone knows their kid is sick.

    Mild fevers often go away after the kids have been up and about for a little while. And as for snotty noses, I’d have to quit my job and homeschool if I couldn’t send Miss E out with a runny nose. She has one more often than not. So do I, for that matter.

    I don’t know how a school can successfully teach a group of kids when they are randomly absent every time they get a little bug or just don’t feel super awesome.

    As for bringing a sick kid to a home daycare, expectations should be discussed up front. Many people are willing to watch a mildly/moderately sick kid. My nanny took my pukey kid to her house a couple weeks ago and let her sleep in her guest bed. That’s part of the benefit of not using group care. Most babies will be fine if they get exposed to everyday illnesses. Obviously if you have an immune-compromised kid, you do what you need to do to keep your kid safe from germy kids.

  66. DutchMom September 10, 2013 at 5:30 am #

    Wow, what a difference! Just last week, my daughter (5) came down with chickenpox. The teacher’s response when I mailed her? If the kid feels OK, she can come to school. There are more kids out sick with cp and since it’s already contagious before any symptoms appear, the other kids are likely already infected anyway. Gotta love the common sense approach! (I do still have to keep DD home from daycare (before/after school) though, which I understand: can’t risk her infecting the little babies.)

  67. Andy September 10, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    @DutchMom Chickenpox is once in a lifetime disease. You get it once, you are protected forever. Plus the sooner the kid gets chickenpox the easier it is. It is not really comparable to flu or viruses that mutate and going through them provides only little protection against future strains.

    Chickenpox is also highly contagious long time before first symptomes, so it is really true that others are probably alrady sick.

  68. pentamom September 10, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    I direct the attention of interested parties to page 9:

  69. pentamom September 10, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Dang! That was an Ohio city called Toronto.

    Okay, here’s the actual Ontario law:

    Truancy results in a fine of $200 to the parents or guardians. I would assume that the penalties for non-compliance with court orders would be the same as in the U.S.: eventually, jail time.

  70. Warren September 10, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    As usual pentamom, in your target fixation to prove me wrong. Damn you girls are so fixated on me. You missed what constitutes violation. Refusal to make a student attend, or habitual non attendance. Not sick days, not any normal life incidents, but outright refusal and habitual.

    So go back,learn to read, and stick to what you know, which isn’t much.

  71. Warren September 11, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    It is not helicoptering to handle the issues that are beyond my kids ability or authority to do.

    You all have such a hard time with a strong, aggressive personality. Really must hurt sitting on the fence and doing nothing.

    You wonder why school issues are getting so bad………..because sheep like you in the past have hid behind the pick your battle mantra. So keep doing it, and watch it get worse. Stand by and do nothing? Keep your yap shut, as you do not have the right to complain afterward.

  72. JaneW September 11, 2013 at 2:37 pm #

    @Andy: You say, “The sooner a kid gets chickenpox the easier it is.” That’s true up to a point, and that point is age 1 or 2. In infants, it can be quite a bit nastier than in preschool or school-aged kids, and also infants are less likely to develop permanent immunity. Had a cousin who caught it as a newborn, three weeks in the hospital.

    Besides, there’s a vaccine for that, now. In our day, deliberately getting exposed in childhood made sense as a way to prevent the much nastier adult form, but now there’s no need to endure either one.

  73. Warren September 11, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Yes an unproven vaccine, for a fairly minor virus. Go ahead, and get it. My kids didn’t. They got their immunity the old fashioned way by getting chicken pox. According to our doctor, it is actually healthier in the long run to get the chicken pox, than to get the vaccine.
    As you build the immunity to the chicken pox, you are also exercising and strengthening you natural immune system.