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Archive for Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Teacher in blood-drawing controversy resigns

October 4, 2006

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— A Salina high school teacher suspended two weeks ago for allowing students to reuse the same instrument to draw blood from their fingers as part of a class project resigned Tuesday, school board officials said.

Supt. Rob Winter said teacher Terri Nicholson "asked to be released from her contract" and the school board accepted her resignation. He wouldn't say whether she would have been fired if she hadn't resigned.

Nicholson couldn't be reached for comment.

The teacher, who taught anatomy and physiology classes at Salina South High School, was suspended Sept. 19 after school officials discovered that she had allowed almost two dozen students in two different classes to use the same lancet, or small pin, to draw blood.

Students told The Salina Journal that several of them had told Nicholson they didn't think using the same instrument was safe. Roughly half of the students had their fingers pricked.

The district sent home letters explaining to parents what had happened. District officials also volunteered to pay for two series of blood tests, including HIV and hepatitis, for all of the students in the two classes.

Nicholson was in her first year teaching in the Salina School District, but she had worked for 17 years at St. John's Military School in Salina.

Winter said it could be difficult to replace Nicholson because anatomy and physiology are considered upper-level courses and teachers are limited.

"We're going to go to work on that, making sure we have a qualified instructor," he said. "We do have people on staff who are qualified to teach that and, with some juggling, it can work."

Real blood hasn't been used on the college level for decades because of both safety concerns and convenience, said Art Neuburger, chairman of the biology department at Kansas Wesleyan University.

"If it's done properly, using separate lancets, and dispose of them properly in a bleach solution, there's really no risk; that got to be such a hassle," he said.

Some alternatives to real blood include simulated blood and commercially prepared, ready-to-use microscope slides, he said.

It has not been standard procedure for several years to use real blood in the Salina school district, Winter said, adding that officials will review the incident to see whether any changes are needed.

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