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Oct. 18, 2015
Issue 40
School-Based Health Care
Schools may claim Medi-Cal reimbursement for 'free care' student health services

School districts will be able to bill federal Medi-Cal insurance for health services to Medi-Cal enrolled students even if schools provide those same services to all other students free of charge, under the terms of a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Schools traditionally have offered certain health services, such as hearing tests, at no charge to all students, a practice known as "free care." Until now, schools have not been allowed to bill Medi-Cal if services were provided at no cost to all students. In a December 2014 letter, the federal Centers for Medicaid & Medicare announced a rule change that allows Medi-Cal billing for services typically provided to students at no cost, which can also include diabetes management and asthma care.

The new California law, which originated as Senate Bill 276, authored by Lois Wolk, D-Davis, requires the California Department of Health Care Services, which manages Medi-Cal, to seek federal reimbursement for all Medi-Cal covered services for students enrolled in Medi-Cal.

The law, which is expected to increase federal reimbursements to schools, was sponsored by the California School Nurses Organization. The group stated that access to additional federal reimbursement would allow schools to be more active in managing chronic student health issues and could lead to more school nurses being hired.
School Lunch
USDA and School Nutrition Association respond to EdSource Today story on school lunch regulations
Students eating lunch at at Henry Haight Elementary School in Alameda. Credit: Jane Meredith Adams/ EdSource Today

The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the national School Nutrition Association both responded to an EdSource Today story about the opposition of the California School Nutrition Association, a chapter of the School Nutrition Association, to the federal requirement that a half a cup of a fruit or vegetable be served in every school lunch.

In a comment posted on the story, Patricia Montague, chief executive officer of the School Nutrition Association, an organization with 53,000 school food service employee members as well as food industry members, wrote that the fruit or vegetable rule had "backfired."

"Offering a rainbow of fruit and vegetables and encouraging students to take them is a recipe for success, but forcing every student to take one, whether they intend to eat it or not, has frustrated students and spoiled what should be a positive, healthy choice," Montague wrote.

Matt Herrick, director of communications for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the federal school lunch program, responded to the story in an email.  "Let's break this down -- what is half of a cup?" Herrick wrote. "It's five broccoli florets; or, six baby carrots; or, four strawberries; or, 16 grapes; or, half of a banana. Doctors, parents, teachers and nutrition groups all agree that our children's future must be our top priority, and we must stay the course with healthy meal standards for our kids, including fresh fruits and vegetables."

Montague stated that the schools are not adequately reimbursed for the cost of meeting healthy school lunch standards. "Many schools that have worked for years to improve menus have been forced to bring juice and canned fruit back to the menu because they can no longer afford fresh fruit," she wrote.

Herrrick stated that it is a myth that it is too expensive to serve healthy foods. "A USDA analysis suggests that last year, schools saw a net nationwide increase in revenue from school lunches of approximately $450 million," Herrick wrote.

Montague referred readers to a School Nutrition Association position paper and Herrick directed readers to a USDA fact sheet on the implementation of the healthy school lunch program.

Teachers' unions say no to McTeacher's Nights
California and national teachers' unions are speaking out against McTeacher's Nights fundraisers that put teachers behind the counter at neighborhood McDonald's to serve their students.

Sponsored by local McDonald's restaurants, McTeacher's Night fundraisers have been held in California and across the country for more than a decade. Most recently, Vena Avenue Elementary School in Arleta, in the San Fernando Valley, held a McTeacher's Night on Sept. 30, according to its website, and Dearborn Elementary Charter Academy in Northridge held a McTeacher's Night on Oct. 15.

Schools hand out fliers with the McDonald's logo, teachers wear McDonald's tee shirts as they serve up fries and burgers and at the end of the evening, the schools get a percentage of the sales for the night.

The National Education Association, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and other teachers' unions are calling for an end to what they said was the "exploitative practice" of McTeacher's Nights.

"It is wrong to enlist teachers to sell kids on a brand like McDonald's whose core products are burgers, fries, and soda," they wrote in a letter to Steve Easterbrook, chief executive officer of McDonald's. "Marketing junk food to children is a harmful practice."

"Transforming teachers into McDonald's marketers is particularly egregious," the letter said, in light of a 2014 study in Clinical Pediatrics that found that fast food consumption during fifth grade predicted lower levels of academic achievement in eighth grade, even when controlling for income level, physical activity and TV watching.

McTeacher's Nights are promoted in Southern California by the McDonald's Operators of Southern California, which has created a video interview that juxtaposes a Southern California teacher, a former PTA president and a McDonald's nutrition consultant.

In a statement, McDonald's USA defended the fundraising practice, according to National Public Radio. "McTeacher's Nights are all about community, fun and fundraising," the statement reads.
School Discipline
Expelled 6th-through-12th-grade students from Tuolumne County are now being served in an intensive program aimed at rebuilding trust in school educators while improving academic skills.  The Tuolumne Learning Center program was designed by teachers, school psychologists, special education teachers and a licensed marriage and family therapist.

During the half-day program, staff address student emotional issues as they arise in the classroom. About half the time is spent on counseling and half on instruction, according to The Union Democrat
Anti-Bullying
Click on photo to play video of actor Maulik Pancholy talking about the "Act to Change" anti-bullying campaign.

October is National Bullying Prevention Month and the White House Initiative on Asian American and Pacific Islanders, in partnership with the Sikh Coalition and the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, has launched a new public awareness campaign to address bullying, including in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

About 1 out of 5 students report being bullied during the school year -- and half of Asian American students in New York City public schools reported biased-based harassment, according to the website for the campaign, known as
Act To Change.

"Unfortunately, many AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) youth who are bullied face unique cultural, religious, and language barriers that can keep them from getting help," the campaign said in a statement.

Resources to help students are available at www.ActToChange.org in English, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Punjabi, Urdu and Vietnamese.

What should students do when they see other kids being bullied? Act to Change offered many tips, including this one: "Let them know that what happened to them is not funny and that you're there for them."

The campaign includes videos of actor Maulik Pancholy, basketball player Jeremy Lin and other well-known individuals talking about being taunted for who they are.

"I was the perfect storm of nerdy, gay, and Indian American," Pancholy said. "But now, I've come to find that those very things that were sometimes used as fodder against me are the things I love the most about myself." 

He added, "It's okay to be weird, but it's not okay to be bullied."

Home to the largest number of American Indians in the country, California is now the first state in the nation to ban the use of "Redskins" as a school team name or mascot.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the ban into law, marking a victory in a more than 50-year national campaign by Native Americans to remove race-based team names from schools and sports groups. Many Native Americans and school climate advocates consider "Redskins" a racial slur.

School Sports
Cheerleading 2.0: A new official sport awaits regulations

Now that cheerleading is an official high school sport, according to a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, school coaches and athletic directors are waiting to see the official regulations that will govern competitive cheer in California for the first time.

Practice times, player eligibility and length of the athletic season have yet to be specifically determined for competitive cheer, which is defined by the law as a sport in which teams participate in direct, head-to-head competition with one another using an objective scoring system. Some coaches worry that the new rules will drastically constrain the way they run their squads.

The California Interscholastic Federation, a state sanctioned organization that governs high school sports, has until July 1, 2017 to develop guidelines and safety standards for the sport.

In addition, the the federation will apply to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to seek a Title IX compliance designation for competitive cheer. Title IX, the 1972 federal law banning sex discrimination in educational programs, requires schools to have proportional representation in sports.
 
The law, which moved through the Legislation as Assembly Bill 949, was authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, a former high school and collegiate-level cheer athlete.

The bill's co-author, state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, said in a statement, "I thank the Governor for signing this important measure to address the lack of safeguards in cheerleading that results in too many injuries. Don't let the stereotypes or uniforms fool you - cheerleading is a real sport and deserves the same attention, safety requirements and respect that all other sport teams receive."
Upcoming Webinars
Positive behavior strategies and reducing asthma triggers

Presence Learning, a San Francisco-based company that provides online special education services for students, continues its Real School Climate Change Webinar Series with a presentation on restraint and seclusion in schools, the history of school discipline codes and how to implement and sustain positive behavior support plans.

What: Positive Behavior Strategies: The Real Road to School Climate Change

Who: Daniel Crimmins, author of Positive Strategies: Developing Individualized Supports in the Schools and Michael Gamel-McCormick, co-author of Young Children with Special Needs.

When: Tuesday, Oct. 20, 10 to 11:30 a.m. PT
Register here.

In this presentation, the national School-Based Health Alliance will address how school-based health center staff can help students recognize and address asthma triggers at home, school and in the community. Asthma is the leading cause of school absences due to chronic disease, the School-Based Health Alliance said.

What: Engaging School-Based Health Centers in Reducing Environmental Asthma Triggers

Who: Anne Kelsey Lamb, director of Regional Asthma Management and Prevention at the Public Health Institute and Janine Y. Saunders, senior project director at the California School-Based Health Alliance.

When
: Tuesday, Oct. 20, 11 a.m. to noon PT
Register here.
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 39: School climate push increases from federal government
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 38: Updated information on the new school vaccination law
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 37: CDC asks coaches not to 'insult' players for reporting injuries
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 36: Rethinking Discipline: New tools for educators
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 35: Oakland schools receive $8 M for discipline reform

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