School Health Services Update: January 30th, 2019

Dear Colleagues,

Included in the email below is a new American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement that recommends among other things that pediatricians avoid writing excuses for school absences when the absence is not appropriate.  Both excused and unexcused absences contribute to chronic absenteeism and pediatricians must partner with schools to encourage school attendance.  This may be the time for you to work with your local pediatricians and educate them as to how they should be encouraging school attendance and not provide notes for absences that they have not deemed appropriate.  Please also note that this policy statement encourages families to share health concerns with their child’s school nurse.

This year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health marks its 150th Year! DPH will celebrate its “sesquicentennial,” in 2019 with a series of events and a new logo to be used throughout the year. Massachusetts has a long and distinguished history as a public health pioneer. America’s first board of health was established in Boston in 1799, with Paul Revere as president. In 1869, the Massachusetts State Board of Health, now DPH, was established, later merging with what was called the “Board of Health, Lunacy, and Charity.” It published the first manual of public health laws, required mandatory reporting of dangerous diseases, and established the nation’s first Food and Drug Laboratory, among other landmark achievements. “We’re proud to celebrate our first 150 years,” said DPH Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH. “Marking this year enables us to acknowledge our many “firsts” and our continuing accomplishments. It also encourages us to think about how we are working now to improve public health today and for the next 150 years.”  MDPH School Health Services is pleased to join the celebration and also recognize the contributions of DPH to our mission and our programming.  We will be collecting information related to contribution of school nurses to public health in Massachusetts at our March Statewide Meeting on March 13th.  To learn more about the history of public health in the Commonwealth, view the list of public health milestones or visit

Note that our new racial equity resources for schools have been posted to our webpage! You can find them here. Feel free to share! 

Please stay warm and safe….and please check on your students that they are warm and safe at home and on their way to and from school as well – over the next few days as the bitter cold descents upon our region.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Iowa Child Care Weather Watch Index,  it is attached to this email for your use in decision-making concerning “safe” temperatures for children.
Thank you for all you do…every day!
Mary Ann and the School Health Team

Making people feel important (and safe) is precisely what a leader is paid for — because making people feel important motivates them to do better work.” — Mary Kay Ash, entrepreneur


Congratulations to Alicia Arnold, BSN, RN, NCSN, School Nurse in the Framingham High SchoolTricha Plourde, BSN, RN, NCSN, School Nurse in the Fitchburg Public Schools and Heidi Williams, BSN, RN, NCSN, School Nurse at Montachusetts Vo Tech in Fitchburg who have both achieved their recognition of their competence as nationally certified school nurses!
And congratulations to Wanda Nunes MSN, BSN, RN, Supervisor of School Nurses for the New Bedford Public Schools, who has been awarded her MSN degree in Nursing Leadership!


Being absent from school too often, excused or not, can put a child’s academic achievement—and future health—at risk. A new policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in the February 2019 Pediatrics, “The Link Between School Attendance and Good Health” (published online Jan. 28), recommends health care providers promote good school attendance as preventive medicine. 

Defined as missing too much school for any reason, chronic absenteeism starting as early as preschool and kindergarten has been linked to poor educational and health outcomes, according to the AAP. Research shows that missing school a lot, whether from excused absences or truancy, makes students less likely to do well academically and more likely to drop out. This, in turn, puts them at risk for unhealthy behaviors by the time they reach their teens, and poor health as adults.

The report highlights proven measures to improve school attendance, including increased hand washing, school-located influenza vaccination programs, access to school nurses and counselors, and on-site medical, oral health and nutrition services. The AAP encourages pediatricians and their colleagues caring for children to promote school attendance. Among the AAP recommendations:

  • Stress the value of developing strong school attendance habits as early as preschool. Ask about the number of school days missed in the past month at every visit, when appropriate.
  • Document children’s medical needs for an Individualized Education Program or 504 Plan when needed for access to services that optimize learning opportunities.
  • Encourage families to share health concerns with their school nurse. 
  • Provide firm guidance on when a child should stay home sick and when a child can attend school. Lice, for example, is not a reason to stay home from school.
  • Avoid writing excuses for school absences when the absence was not appropriate. Encourage patients who are well enough to return to school immediately after their medical appointments.
  • Advocate for policies known to promote school attendance. These include programs that avoid suspension and expulsion and promote a positive school climate.

Additional Information:


Please see the updated advisory concerning invasive meningococcal disease among people experiencing homelessness.

In January 2018, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) reported that two people experiencing homelessness in Greater Boston had been diagnosed with invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) serogroup C. Since that time, there have been three additional cases of IMD serogroup C among people in this population, and one additional case in a person with close connections to the homeless community. The most recent onset was December 2018. Cases have ranged in age from 33-59 and five of the six have been male. None of the cases appears to have received quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (MenACWY) prior to becoming ill.

Clinicians should maintain a high index of suspicion for IMD, particularly in individuals experiencing homelessness or with links to that population.


1.  Vaccinate persons experiencing homelessness with quadrivalent meningococcal vaccine (Men ACWY) to protect against invasive meningococcal disease. Please note, vaccination with Men ACWY does not supplant the need to also continue vaccination efforts in this population for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, influenza, and other diseases as appropriate. 

2.  Be alert for illness compatible with meningococcal disease among persons experiencing homelessness, including atypical presentations of mild, subacute, or chronic symptoms.

3.  Immediately report all suspect cases of meningococcal disease to the MDPH at 617-983-6800. Suspect cases in Boston should be reported to the Boston Public Health Commission at 617-534-5611. Do not wait for laboratory confirmation to initiate antibiotics or to report a clinically suspected case.

4.  Obtain blood and CSF cultures prior to administration of antibiotics to enhance detection of Neisseria meningitidis, unless this will result in undue delay of treatment.

5.  Ascertain and document all close contacts of any suspected case, if possible, so that antimicrobial prophylaxis can be considered.

For questions about invasive meningococcal disease and recommendations, please call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Division of Epidemiology and Immunization line at 617-983-6800 (available 24/7).

For more detailed information and recommendations the full advisory can be found here or on the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Immunization Program Advisories and Alerts page.


To meet the needs of School Administrators, Curriculum Directors, Health Educators, and Classroom Teachers in grades 3-9 DESE is partnering with DPH to offer optional free opportunities: 1) 2-hour Introduction Sessions on LifeSkills Trainings© (LST) for School Leaders; and/or 2) 1 daylong Certification LifeSkills Trainings for Teachers and other personnel across the state. A cross-walk with research has documented that the evidence-based components of this program have been linked to many skills related to academic achievement. Fortuitously, these free programs also enhance social and emotional learning, and effectively help prevent prescription drug misuse and other drug use. DPH provides complete Teacher and student materials and will reimburse schools for the cost of Substitute Teachers to enable Teams to become certified to deliver the program. To register or link to the non-competitive one-page Request for a Substitute Teacher Funding please visit You are invited to forward this invitation and ask each individual participant to Register soon for one/both of these free options around the state. A flyer with more information is attached.

In addition,  LST is offering a Research Opportunity for a new High-School level program. If you feel it is a good fit with your goals please see the attachment for more information.


 Your participation is needed!   The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, The John C. Stalker Institute for Food and Nutrition and the Department of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University are conducting a survey to gain a better understanding of the perceived enablers, factors that help, and barriers, factors that hinder, the successful implementation of school wellness policies in Massachusetts’ schools. 

We know you are busy but this small investment of time will help inform the development of school wellness-related activities, programs, and resources for school districts throughout the Commonwealth.  If you belong to multiple organizations it is possible that you may receive the survey several times.  Please, only fill out the survey once.
The following is a link to the survey:

Massachusetts School Wellness Needs Assessment Survey Link

Thank you in advance for your participation and your commitment to creating school environments that promote students’ health, well-being, and ability to learn.  If you have any questions about the survey or your participation please contact, Cathy Wickham


You’re invited to a free training at the Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County (CAC), facilitated by Jacquelyn Lamont, Director of Youth Safety and Outreach at the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County
989 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215

Driving Directions: We are located within the Family Justice Center of Boston, next to the Match School at the intersection of Commonwealth Avenue and Babcock Street.
Parking: Click here for parking options near the Family Justice Center of Boston.
Public Transportation: The “B” (Boston College) line Pleasant Street and Babcock Street stops are both less than one block away from the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Participants will learn about:

•          What are kids posting and how can it affect their future?

•          What kinds of pressures do kids face?

•          What are the risks associated with commonly used apps, sites, and games?

•          How can kids reduce their risk through the Stop, Block, and Talk framework and by applying safety settings?

•          How common is sexting? What is sextortion and how does it happen?

•          What is the law pertaining to these issues in MA?

Register Now!

We look forward to seeing you on March 5th.
Mary Beth Dawson, Outreach & Training Manager
Children’s Advocacy Center of Suffolk County 


As of January 1, 2019, administration and oversight of the Massachusetts Medical Use of Marijuana Program was transferred from the Department of Public Health (DPH) to the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), a change that is mandated by Massachusetts law, Chapter 55 of the Acts of 2017, AN ACT TO ENSURE SAFE ACCESS TO MARIJUANAAs Chapter 369 “An Act for the Humanitarian Medical Use of Marijuana” allows for the controlled use of medical marijuana in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Although students and school staff who legally obtain a medical marijuana “registration card” from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health are allowed to possess and consume certain quantities of marijuana, doing so is not permitted under federal policy.

Marijuana is classified as a Schedule I drug according to the Controlled Substances Act. Thus, the use, possession, cultivation, or sale of marijuana violates federal policy. Federal grants are subject to school district compliance  with the Drug Free Communities and Schools Act, and the Drug Free Workplace Act among other federally-funded programs. (The district is also subject to the Controlled Substances Act).  Each school district will need to seek its own legal counsel as to how to manage this on its campus as this remains prohibited by federal law.

If you choose to accommodate legally recognized Massachusetts medical marijuana users in your district, a student must obtain a registration card (for children under the age of 18, this requires two physician signatures, one whom is a board-certified pediatrician) from the Cannabis Control Commission; the “care-giver” (this may be you or another staff member in the school since it is not considered a medication) in turn must also be registered with CCC; this information can be found on the website at:


The Injury Prevention Program at Boston Children’s Hospital has recently introduced a Stop the Bleed program to educate and empower community members to respond to emergencies, how to recognize life threatening bleeding, and what to do to control bleeding until EMS arrives. A person with life-threatening bleeding can die in 5-10 minutes, so quick and knowledgeable bystanders are important to victims’ survival. Participants of the program will become familiar with the ABC’s of bleeding control, how to use a tourniquet, wound packing, and compression. Our 1-hour course targets after-school program counselors, teachers, school nurses, and high school students. Please reach out to the Injury Prevention Program at 617-355-7332 or email if you are interested in bringing this program to your school or organization.


See below for two scholarships for LGBTQ+ youth and allies with upcoming deadlines. Please forward to your network of MA youth who are making a difference! Follow the links for each scholarship for more information and to download each application.

Elsie Frank Scholarship

•          What: Each year Greater Boston PFLAG (GBPFLAG) awards scholarship funds to one Massachusetts high school senior who has demonstrated leadership in improving their school’s climate for LGBTQ youth. This scholarship honors the late mother of Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank. The scholars funds are for up to 4 years of consecutive enrollment in a 2 or 4 year college or technical/vocational school in the next academic year.

•          Due date: Applications for Scholarships to be awarded for 2019 are now being accepted. All applications are due on February 28, 2019. 

•          Who should apply: All Massachusetts students entering a 2 or 4 year college or technical/ vocational school in the next academic year, identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or straight are welcome to apply. People of color and trans youth are encouraged to apply.

•          How to apply: Complete application. Please email Aspen with any questions at or call the office at 781.891.5966.

Marc E. Lewis Youth Scholarship

•          What: FLAG (Friends, Lesbians, and Gays) Flag Football will be awarding up to $5,000 to a graduating Massachusetts high school student or students who will be attending a two- or four-year college or a post-high school career school in the 2019-2020 academic year. The scholarship will be awarded to a student who has made high school and/ or community sports programs safer for, and more inclusive of, LGBTQ student-athletes, as either a role model or ally.

•          Due date: Friday, February 22, 2019

•          Who should apply: In line with the mission of our organization, students of all athletic skill levels, achievement, and contributions are encouraged   to apply. 

•          How to apply: Please complete application and return to the specified address. Please send any questions to

Thank you for passing this information to the deserving youth in your life!

All the best,
Sam Thomasson-Bless
GBPFLAG Program Manager


CDC and the Association of Immunization Managers (AIM)are happy to announce that nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award. AIM joins CDC this year as a new partner on the Award.

The CDC Childhood Immunization Champion Award is an annual award that recognizes individuals who make a significant contribution toward improving public health through their work in childhood immunization. Each year the Award honors up to one person from each of the 50 U.S. states, eight U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States, and the District of Columbia. 

Please visit the CDC for information about award criteria and nomination. The nomination form includes detailed information about the award criteria, eligibility, and process. Please be sure to read this carefully, particularly page 6, which includes a specific checklist of activities/associations that could exclude a nominee. Click here for the form.

If you know a qualified immunization champion, please nominate him/her. We urge you to think about a person in your practice, agency, or community whose everyday commitment to immunizations helps to protect Massachusetts children from vaccine-preventable diseases. Please describe and provide concrete examples of how the nominee goes above and beyond to promote or foster immunizations in his or her community among children 0-2 years old. A nominations committee at MDPH will select one outstanding candidate for CDC consideration.

Completed nominations should be submitted by February 8, 2018, to Pejman Talebian, Director, MDPH Immunization Program (305 South Street, Jamaica Plain, MA, 02130; )

The following links provide additional helpful information about the award and National Infant Immunization Week:

•             Information about award criteria, eligibility, and process, including the nomination form

•             2018 Childhood Immunization Champion winners

•             National Infant Immunization Week website

Please let me know if you have any questions about the award or the award process.



EOHHS Region


Office Phone

Cell Phone








Cynthia Tomlin

978-567-6250, ext. 10142



Jill Connolly

781-848-4000, ext. 7841 



Shanyn Toulouse




Ann Linehan



Diane Colucci


Therese Blain


Mary Ann Gapinski, MSN, RN, NCSN
Director of School Health Services
MA Department of Public Health
250 Washington Street – 5th Floor
Boston, MA  02108