In the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest public school system in the United States, there are fewer than 400 nurses serving over a thousand schools distributed across roughly 900 campuses. That means many schools have a nurse on-site only once a week.
“We have no confidentiality in many of our offices,” said Stephanie Yellin-Mednick, a school nurse in the San Fernando Valley. “At one of our schools, the nurse works in a hallway. Or under the stairwell. A closet.” This makes it impossible for nurses to perform basic duties like helping students cope with possible pregnancies, neglect, or child abuse. “It’s very difficult to deal with child abuse when you have an office full, to try to close the door to talk to a child — let alone if you don’t have a door,” Yellin-Mednick said.
Yellin-Mednick is one of more than 30,000 members of United Teachers Los Angeles who walked off the job on Monday to demand better funding for LA’s public schools. In addition to more nurses, counselors, and librarians, UTLA is asking for better pay and smaller class sizes, along with several non-economic demands such as stronger regulations for charter schools.
The school district says meeting all of these demands would force it into bankruptcy, and while it has offered some improvements in funding, UTLA has rejected them as insufficient.
The walkout in L.A. is the latest in a wave of teachers’ strikes across the country. But whereas most of last year’s strikes hit Republican-controlled states, this one is taking place in the largest city in one of the bluest states of all.
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