The health and safety of children in the Buffalo public schools is being neglected. Erie County took over health services from the City of Buffalo about 40 years ago, and nursing services in the schools have slowly dwindled to the point that the majority of schools have a nurse only one day per week.
What happens to the child who becomes seriously ill or injured on one of the four days in the week that the nurse is not in the school? How are we to accomplish testing for lead poisoning in the schools without enough nurses? In addition, we have approximately three mental-health professionals per 4,000 children in the schools. Most of these counselors are tied up with special-education placements and, therefore, are not available to the 42,000 other children.
It is well known that there are serious problems with teen-age pregnancy and suicide, as well as drug and alcohol abuse. Without qualified people available for our teen-agers, we can only expect these problems to escalate and multiply.
Four years ago, New York State mandated that school fire alarms be hooked up to the Fire Department. There are still a great number of schools not hooked up. Getting to a phone to dial 911 is not the answer -- many of these schools do not have a phone in each classroom. It is no simple task to get a large number of people (let alone children) out of a smoky, burning building, and a quick response from the Fire Department is essential.
These issues are basic services that should not be negotiable parts of the budget but must be provided to ensure the health and safety of our children.