Teacher union rep worries students are using doctor notes to break COVID-19 quarantine

Tuscaloosa County Schools concerns

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - A spokesperson for the teacher’s union in the Tuscaloosa area said that students who are supposed to be under quarantine are returning to school sooner than they should. He believes they’re using documentation that school leaders cannot say no to.

“We see a lot of those kids coming back to school the next day with a doctor’s note saying that they can return to school,” said Rick Bailes, the Uniserve Director for the Alabama Education Association in Tuscaloosa County. He says there have been cases of this in the Tuscaloosa County school system.

Bailes claims schools are not in a position to turn down students with doctor notes saying its alright for them to return to school.

“We are not saying doctors are doing anything out of turn. What our biggest fear is doctors don’t know the kids have been sent home for quarantine.”

He believes doctors are being told to write these notes so students can return to school before they’ve completed time in quarantine.

“Our numbers are still going up in the county,” Bailes continued.

As of Monday, the Alabama K-12 COVID19 dashboard listed Tuscaloosa County with the most positive cases of any school district with 82 confirmed cases. He admits they have not seen any positive cases that can be traced back to a school. Bailes wants more interaction between schools, parents and doctors so people who could be contagious don’t return to school to quickly.

“I think there’s a failure to communicate across the board. There’s a broad perspective that no one knows exactly what we’re dealing with. And a lot of people want their kids back in school,” Bailes explained.

“When a student is identified as a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case in our schools, the student and their parent/guardian will receive a letter,” Terri Brewer The Director of Public Relations for Tuscaloosa County Schools, said in a statement when WBRC asked for a comment about Bailes claims.

Part of that letter reads as follows:

“If your child tests negative for COVID-19 during their quarantine, and has a release from their medical provider, he/she may return to school if the release clearly states that along with the negative test, the medical provider is aware of the possible exposure and has cleared the student to return to school.”

Brewer explains the intent behind that part of the letter.

“It is our intention and expectation that students who are determined by our schools to be close contacts of a COVID-19 case will follow Alabama Department of Public Health guidelines and quarantine for 14 days. The statement above references an instance where there may be HIPPA-protected information, between a student and their medical provider, that the school is not aware of, but would allow them to return to school before the 14-day quarantine period ends. An instance such as this may exist, but would be rare. The purpose of the statement in the letter is to let a student and their parent/guardian know that a negative COVID-19 test alone, even accompanied by a doctor’s release, will not allow a student to return to school prior to the end of their quarantine period. The release from the physician must state that the physician is also aware of the possible exposure, and is still clearing them to return to school, before the ADPH-recommended quarantine period has ended. Again, a situation like this should be rare, but TCSS has been advised by the Alabama State Department of Education that our school nurses should accept a physician’s release in this instance.”

You can read the full statement from Tuscaloosa County Schools by clicking here.

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