Bermudian parent expresses concerns about allergens

A Bermudian Springs parent approached the school board on Tuesday evening demanding the district retrain its teachers after her child was allegedly exposed to allergens while in school in September.

Sarah Nickey, a parent of a third-grade student, told the board last month that her child had to be treated at two hospitals after being given a snack that contained allergens despite the child having a 504 plan.

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Nickey addressed Shane Hotchkiss, superintendent of Bermudian Springs, and asked that the entire district receive updated training.

“She is still experiencing aftereffects mentally and emotionally,” Nickey said. “I’m here tonight to ask what kind of training, reeducation and information was given to the teachers in the elementary school and the rest of the district.”

“I would like you to share with me what educational training was provided for the teachers,” Nickey said. “Have they received EpiPen training? Have the expectations for 504 plans been reviewed, including the specific 504 plans of every student in each building? What precautions have you put in place besides the ones I requested at that meeting for my own child? To my knowledge, only certain individuals were retrained, and the rest of the faculty received an email telling them to closely review IEPs, 504s and nurse alerts. An email is not retraining. I’m here not only for my own daughter but for every child in this district who has a health issue, 504 plan or IEP.”

Hotchkiss did not speak publicly regarding the incident, but said he told Nickey the elementary school staff, not all district staff, would be retrained.

“I believe I indicated that we would retrain the entire elementary school,” Hotchkiss told Nickey. “We’ve done other things district-wide.”

Hotchkiss said there are things “we can get better at. However, I also shared with you it’s a learning opportunity for the whole district, so we’ve done things in other buildings because obviously there’s things that we can do that are replicated across the building, not just with that student, that we can get better at,” Hotchkiss said.

He said he would speak privately with Nickey following the meeting.

Solicitor Brook Say was not addressed directly by Nickey and did not comment on the incident. During her report, she said her office “advised on various personnel and student matters.”

Last month following Nickey’s first complaint, Hotchkiss said answering reporter questions about the incident would risk maintaining confidentiality. He addressed the policy as a whole.

“What I can say is that the District has a policy and a normal protocol for supporting students under Section 504,” Hotchkiss said via email on Sept. 16. “For students with 504s, we evaluate them and on the basis of that evaluation and then draft a plan if they are eligible. The plans are reviewed by staff responsible for implementing them and are updated as need be. If there are concerns with the implementation, the team meets to address those concerns with the parent. We take seriously our obligations under Section 504 and always work with legal counsel to address concerns that arise.”

Other business

Board member Travis Mathna asked the board to discuss a district policy, but the issue was not placed on the agenda prior to the meeting. Over the next several minutes, the board discussed the proper procedure for handling the motion. Portions of the audio were difficult to hear or contained silence.

Vice President Matthew Nelson, who was leading the meeting in the absence of President Michael Wool, expressed confusion with the procedure.

“We also haven’t always done a great job – I’ve been here a little while, though, too, and I don’t always  understand even our own ideas of how to get stuff onto the agenda,” Nelson said.

Hotchkiss said that adding an item to the caucus agenda normally begins with an email to Wool. Adding items to the agenda ahead of the meeting is done in an effort to increase transparency.

Mathna said he would send an email to request that the policy be discussed during the board’s next caucus meeting in November.

The board approved one extracurricular contract for a varsity girls assistant soccer coach.

It also agreed to work with McClure Company to complete work at the high school and elementary schools using money provided through Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III.)

The board approved allowing the Eagle Singer and Steel Band to perform at a tree lighting event in York Springs in December.

The board will hold its next caucus meeting on Monday, Nov. 7 and its next regular meeting on Monday, Nov. 8. Both meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and will be held in the high school auditorium and are livestreamed through the district’s YouTube channel.

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Imari Scarbrough is a freelance journalist. She was a staff newspaper reporter for five years before becoming a freelancer in 2017. She has written on crime, environmental issues, severe weather events, local and regional government and more.

You can visit her website at ImariJournal.com.

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