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Ramsey Teachers Association v. Board of Education of the Borough of Ramsey

January 9, 2006


On appeal from a Final Decision of New Jersey State Board of Education, SB#21-01.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lisa, J.A.D.



Argued November 9, 2005

Before Judges Coburn, Collester and Lisa.

N.J.S.A. 18A:40-3.3, which became effective on July 1, 1999, provides:

A school district shall only utilize or employ for the provision of nursing services in the public schools of the district persons holding an educational services certificate with an endorsement as a school nurse issued by the State Board of Examiners, except for those non-nursing personnel who are otherwise authorized by statute or regulation to perform specific health related services. . . . No person shall be issued such certificate unless the person is licensed as a registered nurse . . . and meets all of the requirements prescribed by the board for a nursing endorsement. A school district may supplement the services provided by the certified school nurse with non-certified nurses, provided that the non-certified nurse is assigned to the same school building or school complex as the certified school nurse.

The issue raised by this appeal is whether the statute requires the physical presence in the school building or compleX of a certified school nurse at all times during which a non-certified nurse is regularly scheduled to perform duties supplementing the services provided by the certified school nurse. The State Board of Education (State Board) determined that physical presence is not required, stressing, however, that the non-certified nurse may not provide any services required by statute or regulation to be provided by a certified school nurse. We agree and affirm.

The facts are undisputed. For the 1999-2000 school year the Board of Education for the Ramsey School District (District) employed two full-time certified school nurses, who were assigned to its middle and high schools, and three part-time certified school nurses for each of its three elementary schools. Beverly van den Berg was the certified school nurse assigned to the Tisdale School, where she was regularly scheduled to be present between 8:45 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. daily. On October 14, 1999, the District hired Brenda Calabrese as a "school health aide" to work in the Tisdale School daily from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. Calabrese held a license from the State Board of Nursing as a registered nurse, but did not hold a school nurse endorsement.

The school health aide job description required the individual to hold a registered nurse's license. It provided that the individual would independently perform only those tasks for which he or she was authorized by statute or regulation. It further authorized the individual to assist the certified school nurse in performing those tasks required by statute or regulation to be performed only by a certified school nurse.

Thus, both van den Berg and Calabrese were registered nurses, with the same education and training in nursing and the same licensure. A certified school nurse additionally holds an endorsement issued by the Board of Examiners as a school nurse. N.J.A.C. 6A:9-13.3. That endorsement authorizes the holder to perform nursing services and teach in health-related areas in public schools. Eligibility for the endorsement requires, in addition to holding a registered nurse license, certain educational requirements in the school nursing field, in such areas as physical assessments, human growth and development, fundamentals of substance abuse and dependency, methods of teaching health and curriculum development, guidance and counseling, and school law, as well as student teaching, including experience in both a school nurse office and classroom. Ibid. The regulations also provide for another endorsement, school nurse/non-instructional, which does not authorize the holder to teach in health-related areas. N.J.A.C. 6A:9-13.4. This endorsement generally requires fewer additional education credits, and does not require credits in methods of teaching health, including curriculum development, nor student teaching.

Every board of education is required to hire at least one certified school nurse. N.J.S.A. 18A:40-1. The statute contains no requirement that the position be full-time. Pursuant to its rule-making authority, see N.J.S.A. 18A:40-3.6, the State Board requires each district to appoint at least one full-time equivalent certified school nurse. N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.1(e). The regulations further delineate those nursing services that must be provided by a certified school nurse and those that may be provided by a non-certified nurse within the scope of the license from the State Board of Nursing. N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.1(e), (f). For example, only a certified school nurse is authorized to instruct teachers on communicable diseases and other health concerns, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:40-3; to train, direct and supervise the emergency administration of epinephrine for school staff designated by the certified school nurse to serve as delegates, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:40-12.6; and to direct and supervise the health services activities of any school staff to whom the certified school nurse has delegated a nursing task. Ibid.

At no time did Calabrese perform services required to be provided only by a certified school nurse.

Each district must develop a "school nursing services plan," with standards and criteria prescribed for assigning certified and non-certified nurses to school buildings or groups of buildings. N.J.A.C. 6A:16-2.1(f)1. The plan, developed in consultation with the school physician, must be approved by the district board of education and ...

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