Student with epilepsy returns to classroom after being forced to stay home

Published: Mar. 14, 2023 at 5:40 PM EDT
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To put it simply the past five months have been nothing short of frustrating for 9-year-old Jack Alvarez and his family.

His mom, Jessica Lopez said it started two years ago when jack was diagnosed with epilepsy, a condition marked by seizures.

His family told WFLX that they went from infrequent, to now at least one a day. Lopez said in Alvarez’s case, they can be brought on by stress or frustration.

His mom said before his condition got worse, he was assisted by a student aide, and added those services ended in October.

Lopez provided documents that shows since then they’ve been waiting for an available trained medical professional who could be with Alvarez around the clock when he’s at school in the event of a seizure.

“I understand that, because I am the mother. It is scary, I know, but I understand they are the teacher, they are not a nurse," Lopez said. "Jack, needs somebody more professional. The teachers are for teaching, they are not for taking care of the epilepsy.”

In the meantime, the wait has caused the entire family distress.

Lopez said she lost her job to stay home with Jack everyday treating his epilepsy and doing her best job to teach him.

“I am the mom, but I love my son. I want to help him and we’re alone, but I need to be strong," Lopez said. "I need to help my son. That’s the life and I do it every day with him, I want to help him.”

The family provided paperwork backing up claims Rolling Green Elementary School staff only provided Alvarez one hour of direct digital instruction a week on top of take home work.

They also provided a current Individual Education Plan for Alvarez, agreed upon by the Palm Beach County School District, showing a long list of daily accommodations to assist in learning. His mom said for five months the district and the school didn’t deliver.

“Really, really, really, we’re getting zero from the school,” Lopez said last week, “That is the point. I’m thinking the school they know the condition the medical condition. Why aren’t they providing the services? I don’t understand. Until now, I don’t understand.”

In the absence of a regular teacher, Alvarez ’s sister, Yessica Alvarez, a high school senior said she helps organize a curriculum for her little brother with YouTube.

Lopez said the change has had a great impact on Alvarez’s social life.

“Every day he asks me for his friends,” she said, “and I say, 'Jack we’re waiting for the nurse,' and I don’t want to lie to him, it’s the truth.”

Last week, WFLX tried getting answers from the Palm Beach County district as well and asked the following questions:

  1. Why is it taking five months to get jack back in school?
  2. Why isn't the school doing more to keep him on grade level?
  3. And where are all the nurses?

As WFLX continued to dig, the school district responded stating in part:

“It’s important to note that the school district has processes in place to ensure students who require the assistance of a nurse receive that support.”

The district stated they can’t provide specifics about Alvarez’s case but stressed their, “…unwavering commitment to providing an equitable education to all students, including the student to whom you are referencing. The District has worked with and will continue to work with, this child's family.”

Last summer, WFLX reported on the school nurse shortage in the Palm Beach County School District, with even Superintendent Mike Burke chiming in.

"We had schools that went without an RN," Burke said.

While they wait for a break Alvarez and his family worry, he may have to repeat third grade after missing so much direct classroom instruction.

“We don’t want him to go through this,” Yessica Alvarez said. “We want him to go to school have an education. He wants to learn, how to read books, how to talk with people, how to have fun at school and have an education.”

Just like any other kid.

A week after WFLX’s initial emails to the district about Jack, his family told WPTV, they were able to find a nurse to pair him with, allowing him to attend school in person. Mom provided us with photos and videos and said he is beyond excited to be back in the classroom.

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