School Nurse Sues Over Being Fired For Taking Student for Pregnancy Test And Abortifa - page 10

BANGOR, Maine, May 4, 2005 (LifeSiteNews.com) - School Administrative District 27, Portland Maine, is fighting a lawsuit brought by a former school nurse. Lola Charette was fired for taking one of... Read More

  1. by   punnit_square
    Quote from sbic56
    The story in the local paper has alot more detail about the case.

    http://pressherald.mainetoday.com/ne...oolnurse.shtml

    School nurse who helped girl get birth control sues over firing

    A veteran school nurse who was fired after taking a teenager to an off-campus clinic where she got a pregnancy test and a "morning after" birth-control pill is suing the superintendent in federal court.

    Lola Charette said she was unfairly fired from her job at Fort Kent Community High School because she followed the law and protected a student's right to confidentiality. But officials at School Administrative District 27 say she was terminated for violating an unwritten policy that prohibits students from leaving the school without parental permission.

    The case, which shows what can happen when a health-care provider's legal responsibilities clash with the community's sensitivity about teenage sex and birth control, is moving forward in U.S. District Court in Bangor after surviving a motion to dismiss.

    Charette wants to regain her job with back pay and is seeking money damages from the district, said her lawyer, David Webbert of Augusta. School officials put her in an impossible position, Webbert said.

    "She is a sacrificial lamb. She follows the law, which she has no control over, and gets fired in the middle of a school year," Webbert said.

    Central to Charette's case is Maine's confidentiality law, which prohibits a health-care provider from divulging medical information without the patient's consent, even when the patient is a minor. Charette asserts that she would have violated that law if she had followed Superintendent Sandra Bernstein's order to inform the student's parents about her visit to the clinic.

    According to notes taken at Charette's dismissal meeting that were quoted in Charette's complaint, Bernstein said the nurse had violated "community norms" and said, "If it was my daughter, I would want to know."

    Bernstein could not be reached for comment, but the lawyer representing her and the school district said Charette was fired for breaking school rules - not for protecting a student's constitutional rights.

    "Confidentiality was never an issue at all," said Melissa Hewey. "She was terminated for taking a student off grounds without a parent's permission. It doesn't matter if it was for birth control or to get a tattoo."

    Charette had worked as the K-12 school nurse in SAD 27 since August 1982. On Jan. 22, 2003, she was approached by a female student who said she thought she might be pregnant.

    The girl said she was anxious and could not concentrate in school or study for her exams. Charette helped her make an appointment with a local clinic for a pregnancy test.

    Charette said she tried to convince the girl to tell her parents and family doctor about the appointment, but the girl refused. She also would not give Charette permission to talk to her parents.

    School nurses, like other health-care professionals, are bound by confidentiality laws even when the patient is a minor, said Wanda Miller, executive director of the National School Nurse Association in Castle Rock, Colo.

    Miller said most state legislatures created the protections in the 1980s in response to concerns that children with sexually transmitted diseases were not seeking medical help because they didn't want their parents to know they were sexually active. As a result, diseases were spread, and treatable conditions went untreated.

    "It's also an issue in pregnancy," Miller said. "You don't want a pregnancy to go on for five months without any health care, because there can be consequences for the fetus."

    A school nurse who violates state confidentiality laws could be sued by the patient and could lose his or her nursing license, Miller said.

    The Fort Kent student told Charette that she needed a ride to the appointment. Charette borrowed a school vehicle and took the girl to the clinic. While there, in addition to the pregnancy test, the girl received a dose of a "morning after" contraceptive, which can allow women to avoid pregnancy if taken shortly after intercourse.

    The next morning, the girl asked Charette for a ride to a follow-up appointment. She had another girl with her, who also had an appointment. Charette again borrowed a school vehicle, signed the girls out and took them to the clinic.

    When she got back to the school office, the principal's secretary told Charette that one of the girls had thrown away a cardboard package for "Plan-B," a brand name for the contraceptive.

    Charette was called in for a meeting with Bernstein three days later. According to notes of the meeting quoted in court documents, Bernstein told Charette she had informed the girls' parents.

    "We don't tell any student that anything is confidential," Bernstein is reported to have said during the meeting. "Can you imagine how the parents feel?"

    According to Charette's suit, Bernstein said Charette's actions violated "community norms."

    Charette was fired the next day. According to a letter dated March 3, 2003, Bernstein wrote that she was terminated for "exercising poor judgment" in assisting students in obtaining "medical services without notifying the parents or the administration."

    This, Bernstein wrote, "resulted in the District losing confidence in her performance and judgment."

    Hewey, the district's lawyer, insists that Charette's misjudgment was leaving school grounds without permission, not the controversial nature of the trip. She acknowledged the school had no written policy about off-campus medical appointments but said it was a well-established rule.

    Webbert said that argument is implausible.

    "Oh, sure. You fire someone after 20 years over a policy that is so unimportant nobody ever bothered to write it down?" Webbert said.

    The real issue, Webbert said, is whether Bernstein had a right to fire Charette for helping students get contraceptives and protecting their privacy. Even if you have strong feelings about teen sex and birth control, Webbert said, "You can't fire someone for doing her job."
    From my understanding, you cannot violate policy if it is not in writing. School needs to decide: she was fired for taking the girl off school property during school hours without parental permission OR because she took the girl to get an abortion and "if it were my daughter I'd like to know about it". You can't have it both ways. I am a parent, so I am understanding of the parents point of view, but once again, big business (in this case the school district) stomp on the little one to cover their own butt and trip over legal loopholes while doing so.
  2. by   sbic56
    Quote from punnit_square
    From my understanding, you cannot violate policy if it is not in writing. School needs to decide: she was fired for taking the girl off school property during school hours without parental permission OR because she took the girl to get an abortion and "if it were my daughter I'd like to know about it". You can't have it both ways. I am a parent, so I am understanding of the parents point of view, but once again, big business (in this case the school district) stomp on the little one to cover their own butt and trip over legal loopholes while doing so.
    That's right. The nurses suit is based on the lack of a written policy. They didn't "need" one until things became political and the super felt the heat. There was no abortion. The girl had rights to birth control. Ultimately, there is no case and the nurse should never have been let go.
  3. by   fab4fan
    Deleted due to misreading original post.
    Last edit by fab4fan on May 15, '05
  4. by   fergus51
    This girl wasn't pregnant. For a pregnancy to exist, a fertilized egg has to have implanted. You can't declare a pregnancy 72 hours after unprotected sex. The law is clear though that this girl had a right to confidential medical care regardless of her pregnancy status.
  5. by   IMustBeCrazy
    I predict the school nurse will win her case, and punitive damages.

    As others have stated (agree with it or not), the school district's 'policy' of not removing students from school grounds without permission was not in writing. As Charrette's lawyer stated, "It was so important that it wasn't written down?"

    Secondly, this was not an abortion. The girl apparently had unprotected sex in the last 72 hours, and was taken to Planned Parenthood and qualified for EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION:

    Emergency contraceptives contain the hormones estrogen and progestin (levonorgestrel), either separately or in combination. FDA has approved two products for prescription use for emergency contraception - Preven (approved in 1998) and Plan B (approved in 1999).

    More information on the Plan B product can be found on the following website:

    http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopag...planBQandA.htm
  6. by   ocdgirl2000
    I think she should not have transported the student but could have arranged transportation for the student.The policies and procedures of her Nursing Department within her school setting should have delineated where she was able to provide information, services, and referrals.The law in that state and county should have also delineated what she could and could not do.If she followed all legal policies,practices and procedures, then her nursing management should have backed her up.If not then they should have fired her for breaking policy and procedures.The principal has no say in the practice of nursing.I have run across the same weakness in our school health system which is why I finally had to leave.Nurse managers politically support school staff and not their own nurses who have to actually deal with the health issues that arise.It places the needs of the teachers and principals before the needs of the children and families.I find it to be the most corrupt and convoluted nursing management in our field.
  7. by   CHATSDALE
    not directly involved in this case but you know how nurses love to exchange stories
    this friends dtr had an abortificant and was given instructions about what to do incase of heavy bleeding;;;;guess wwhat she had to go tothe same hospital where her mother worked
    someone outthere help me with this..another thing that i heard about this was that they used an ice water lavage..[intrauterine]
    .is this helpful??seems kinds priimative to me
  8. by   Spidey's mom
    Quote from schooldays
    In my opinion the nurse should be fired for taking a student off campus without parental permission, regardless of the other issues. But I also think she overstepped the line as a nurse. A minor is cognitively immature, and is therefore specially protected by the law. By taking the girl out of school and transporting her to the clinic, the school nurse was inappropriately influencing her to make a particular medical decision. If there was any question that the girl was being abused, neglected, or denied appropriate medical care by her parents, child protective services should have been brought in. One could even argue that if a child is poorly supervised to the point that she gets pregnant, she is being neglected, and court mandated family therapy, parenting classes, and follow-up by a social worker are in order.

    I may think the nurse deserves to lose her job, but that doesn't mean I have a particular outlook on the girl and her ending her pregnancy. I think the nurse could have given the girl information and left her to it. It would be the clinic's responsibility to decide whether parental consent was needed. The whole situation could have been handled much more confidentially that way.
    Good points . . . .what if the nurse had taken her to a prolife pregnancy center instead of Planned Parenthood and encouraged her to NOT take emergency contraception because God gets to decide about pregnancy and it would be better to have the baby and then give it up for adoption?

    Also, I really like the points you make in getting CPS involved or at least some family therapy . . and I also wonder, what about the male involved?

    Still convinced this nurse was wrong for taking a student off campus.

    steph
  9. by   fergus51
    Honestly Steph if the girl asked to go to a prolife center and the nurse took her, I ould care less.
  10. by   Spidey's mom
    Quote from fergus51
    Honestly Steph if the girl asked to go to a prolife center and the nurse took her, I ould care less.
    Hopefully this will not be offensive to you but I wonder if because I have a teenaged daughter and you don't have kids yet, this may be making a difference?

    I know I thought alot different about some things when I didn't have kids. I really think it changes your perspective on things. Of course that doesn't mean the same will happen to you. You may still say "I couldn't care less" why she was taken off campus.

    And if anyone takes my daughter off campus (to anywhere) without my knowledge, they are in trouble with me.

    I think I'll do a little survey today - just have folks read the story and ask their opinion.

    Gotta do something - I'm falling asleep here.

    steph
  11. by   Spidey's mom
    Wow, so far it is 2 to 2 . . . .

    steph
  12. by   snowfreeze
    I believe the nurse made a decision she felt was correct under the circumstances. I am also sure there are other facts we will never know.
    Mother of a teen girl, survived two other teens who are now adults.
  13. by   fergus51
    Quote from stevielynn
    Hopefully this will not be offensive to you but I wonder if because I have a teenaged daughter and you don't have kids yet, this may be making a difference?
    :chuckle Not offensive at all Steph. I'm closer in age to a teenager than many parents, so I probably identify with them more. I can remember the frustration of being practically an adult but having people think I couldn't make decisions for myself. I would prefer a teenager get the health care they need rather than avoid it just to keep their secrets from their parents. And I admit, I did leave school a few times without parental permission Despite that, I turned out ok. (Don't tell my mom anybody)

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