Should NYC Schools Talk to Kids About Ebola?
NEW YORK—It was a stressful Monday for Della Brown from the Bronx. Right when she got back from work, she learned a 5-year-old boy from next door was taken to the hospital with Ebola-like symptoms.
“It’s real scary,” she said. “My daughter plays with those kids in that building.” If she knew, she wouldn’t have sent 9-year-old Mywish to school that day.
Yet that decision may have been made more on instinct than knowledge.
Even though the city had been preparing for Ebola for months, there has been no system-wide school outreach to inform students and parents on the facts.
The first such effort was an email to parents on Monday, at 10 a.m.. The city’s Education Department sent out a factsheet about the Ebola outbreak in Africa as well as a brief guideline on what parents should look out for.
If a child was in Liberia, Guinea, or Sierra Leone in the past three weeks, and develops symptoms like fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, or lack of appetite, the parent shouldn’t send the child to school, should call 911 and explain the “affected individual’s symptoms and travel history,” the fact sheet states.
“Health care will be provided across the city with no questions asked about immigration status and regardless of ability to pay.”
But that’s too little too late for Brown. Schools should have talked to parents sooner.
And not only parents, school staff should have talked to the children, Brown said. Two Bronx children, brothers from Senegal, were severely beaten on Friday by other children calling them “Ebola.”
Mywish said a girl at her school was intentionally coughing in other children’s faces.
But nobody at the school has talked to Mywish about what Ebola is and what are the actual risks. She was just given a letter with the fact sheet on Monday to pass on to her parents. “Make sure to give it to your parents because it’s serious,” Mywish was told.
In the letter, the department states school nurses have been instructed to look for Ebola symptoms among students. Principals are getting weekly updates on the situation and guidance from the central office.
The boy from next door tested negative for Ebola, the city’s Health Department announced in the evening. That was a weight off Brown’s chest. The news spread fast, welcomed with sighs of relief among the neighbors.