Mother keeps diabetic child out of school

A first-grader in the New Bedford public school system with diabetes isn't able to go to class this year after budget cuts led to the elimination of a full-time nurse at the Winslow School.

Squeezed for cash, like most cities and towns, the New Bedford City Council cut the school system's budget by $8 million from last year: About 250 full- and part-time positions across the board were cut.

When 6-year-old Hannah Walsh was in kindergarten last year at Winslow School just a few blocks from her house, a full-time nurse helped her with monitoring her blood glucose for her Type 1 diabetes.

"It's very critical. A nurse in any school is very critical," said Grace Walsh, Hanna's mother.

Because of the New Bedford school system budget cuts, the nurse's position at Winslow is only two days a week, part-time.

"I don't understand how it's even legal, you know. I don't understand how a nurse cannot be at a school at all times. Anything could happen. A nurse is not just there putting on Band-Aids," Walsh said.

Faced with the fear of Hannah going in to diabetic shock, or worst case, a coma, Walsh and administrators at Winslow pulled her out of school.

"She wants to go to school, and she's not allowed to go to school," Walsh said.

"There are 17 elementary schools in New Bedford. Nine have full-time nurse coverage. Those being the largest, 500-plus students, and house specialized programs (for those that need medical assistance)," said Dr. Heather Larkin, a New Bedford school spokeswoman.

Winslow has 300 students.

Larkin went on to say that it's offered for Hannah to go to another school with a full-time nurse, but Grace Walsh has a 9-year-old boy at Winslow too.

"That school's fun and I miss my friends," Hanna Walsh said.

"Cutting nurses? You're putting every child in danger. There could be any allergy that comes out that nobody's aware of. Anything could happen in a public school with part-time nursing. It's not fair for any child," Grace Walsh said.

The superintendent's office reached out to the Walshes, requesting a meeting Friday. The Walshes declined, saying they're meeting with the mayor on Monday.

Meanwhile, Walsh is home-schooling Hannah until they come to a resolution.