During the IEP (Individualized Education Plan/Program) process, parents are rarely informed of the specific nature of the role of the school health nurse. There is enough vagueness to the role that MCPS can use the opinions of the nurse to counteract the recommendations of a child’s physician.
According to the County Government Administration, School Health nurses are employees of the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services but acting “under the direction” of the MCPS IEP team when they participate in the IEP process. During this process, the County Government Administration states that they have no authority to direct the actions of school health staff in the IEP proceedings.
The school health assessments are designed to be narrowly focused on whether or not health care needs can be met in the school setting and what level of nursing support is available by School Health Services. The nurse is not supposed to make recommendations on program or school placements for students. Furthermore, the County Government states that the school health nurse should not be relied on to provide “expert” opinions on the student’s overall medical condition.
So, who is it that ensures that appropriate limits are maintained by the nurses during a disputed IEP process, especially when MCPS disagrees with the recommendations of a child’s physician? The use of a School Health Nurse as a MCPS expert witness in a due process procedure, guided by the MCPS attorney, seems to blur the role and causes confusion for the parents and the administrative law judge. Clarification of the role conflict is definitely needed. In my grandson’s due process hearing, the nurse, in my opinion, was inappropriately allowed to challenge the recommendations of a minimum of three, attending, pediatric specialists.