By Stephen Smoot
Last week, the Pendleton County Board of Education held its second meeting for the month of January. It included the reading of policies surrounding potential medical cannabis distribution and use for both students and adult professionals and volunteers on school property. Another policy pertaining to use of Naloxone was also read.
In September of 2022 came a new legislative rule establishing standards for nurses and other qualified personnel serving in the school system concerning medical cannabis distribution and use. The rule included exceptions for “the operating procedure of School-Based Health Centers. The rule covered all health care practices while focusing on “medication administration for students and the possession of medical cannabis by students in the West Virginia public education system,” as stated in the rule document released by the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office.
The policy read at the board meeting would mandate that school personnel who provide services “for students with special health needs” receive training in handling and disposal of bodily fluids, basic first aid, CPR, and confidentiality. Those needing “specialized health care procedures” must have a documented health care plan which will “guide the certified school RN’s care of the student.” Any related records “are considered highly confidential” and “must be maintained two years from completion of the student’s education.”
Two policies to further define the rules concerning medical cannabis came before the board for approval. First, came the reading of the approximately two-year old medical cannabis policy for school employees provided by the state.
The policy clearly states that “employees are prohibited from using, possessing, being under the influence of, and/or storing medical cannabis in the workplace.” State law, however, prohibits the county school system from issuing discipline to employees who receive legitimate identification and certification to receive medical cannabis.
Additionally, school bus drivers and others subject to drug testing by the U.S. Department of Transportation cannot cite legal use of medical cannabis as “a valid medical explanation for a positive drug test result.”
Rules and definitions governing student medical cannabis use come from the state’s Medical Cannabis Act of 2017. First, parents or guardians must “notify the school principal before medical cannabis can be administered on or in school property or at a school-related event.” Parents or guardians must also provide the proper documentation.
Additionally, the medicine must be given by a designated caregiver who is not school personnel unless that person is also a parent, legal guardian, or designated caregiver. Medical cannabis in “dry leaf or plant form” is excluded entirely and must be administered “outside of the view of other students.” Any information received by the school related to medical cannabis use and related personal information is covered under privacy laws and considered confidential.
The third drug related policy reading governing use of Naloxone or other “opioid antagonists” came from a request by the state health officer. It “establishes guidelines and procedures for the utilization of . . . Naloxone” by the school nurse or other “designated school personnel at Pendleton County Schools.”
According to the National Institute of Health, “Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose” by attaching itself “to opioid receptors and reverses or blocks the effects.” First responders usually equip themselves with the drug because it can immediately stop the drug’s effects and has saved countless lives in the process.
The policy read to the board allows school nurses to administer Naloxone in the school setting. It also sets protocols for storage, use, procurement, and follow-up with the victim and family.
Also shared at the meeting, the county school system is enjoying the benefits of rising interest rates. Interest earned on the checking account for the month to date as of the meeting totaled almost $11,000. The Pendleton County Commission and Town of Franklin have experienced similar good fortune from interest on their accounts.
The next meeting of the Pendleton County Board of Education will take place at 5:30 p.m. on Feb. 7.
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