Parents question physical exams at Buffalo Schools

BUFFALO, NY - A group of parents who have children in the Buffalo Public School District are calling on the district to review school policies allowing what they call, "sexually invasive" physical exams.

The parents say they're concerned that the district and Kaleida Health, which operates school clinics, may not be following state health regulations.

Edie Harris has a daughter at Bennett High, who plays sports. Harris says last month her daughter was called down to the office for a physical exam, which are called tanner exams -- an assessment Harris approved, but says she was never invited to.

"Then she [the nurse] told her I want you to pull your pants down, so I can check your pubic hair, my daughter said excuse me," Harris said.

A school administered screening was also performed on Annette Jordan's son and daughter two years ago at MLK school. Jordan says her children were too young to have a screening and that she never consented to have the exam done.

"I feel awful as a parent, I feel like I let my kids down because I would always say I would keep you safe, but I wasn't able to keep my children safe from this woman and that was a total violation of their privacy and me as a parent," Jordan said.

Dr. Steven Lana is the medical director of the Buffalo Public Schools, who monitors health testing policy for the district.

"Regardless of the age of the child or the grade that they're in, it is the standard of care to perform a complete physical exam on a yearly basis," Lana said.

However, this standard, according to Lana is recommended and not mandatory.

Tanner exams show what puberty stage a child is in. According to the state education department, during a physical examination, it's best that another adult be present, that students should keep undergarments on and that assessments of a student's genitals should be made visually only when a student needs a high school waiver to play sports.

But, Lana says this is the minimum requirement and that students are recommended to be tested every year thoroughly.

"A complete physical is a complete physical exam, we ought not to omit or skip or put aside any part of the body," Lana said.

The parents also want to know whether the information gathered from the physical exams are being used for research studies, by Kaleida Health, without parental knowledge. Buffalo school says this doesn't happen.

The parents are raising concerns of whether other students in Buffalo schools are also being improperly examined as well.


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