LREA Strike Denies Nurse Entry To School


Art by Mary Ruth Taylor

    Nurse Patricia Brown knew there was a teacher strike when she arrived at school on November 14th. She assumed the picket line would be at the school’s front—and even if it wasn’t, the protestors would let the nurse through. 

Nurse Brown planned to enter through a side door of the building. Wearing her usual lab coat and badge and wheeling her supply cart, she couldn’t see the crowds when she first arrived. But when Nurse Brown stepped into the street, she was met by a red sea of protestors. The crowd chanted loudly as she approached, and she was increasingly aware of the hovering media presence.

      Nurse Brown was surprised, but not disturbed, and knew she had to continue. Students inside the building were relying on her. Substitutes can’t replace nurses. She proceeded to walk up to a group of picketers and gently explained her position. 

“I’m the school nurse, and I need to get through to take care of my students,” Nurse Brown said.

      Instead of responding, they avoided eye contact and locked arms tighter. Their chants continued.

“Hold the line.”

      Not discouraged, she thought if she walked further down the line, certainly someone else would let her through. 

      She adjusted her lab coat and made sure that her identification badge was visible, then once again tried to explain her situation. 

      “I didn’t have harsh feelings; I appreciate what they’re doing, but I was surprised. If one of those people had a son or daughter in the building that needed care, they would have understood how important it was to hold [off on] political goals for a moment and make an exception,” Nurse Brown said. 

  She eventually made it into the building, but not before being denied passage twice more by the picketers. Nurse Brown wheeled her supplies completely around the line and entered through the front doors. The media captured her initial attempts on video, which was widely shared on social media. 

It turned out that her services were indeed needed. Although she and Nurse Jennifer Stalls thought that it would be a quiet day, it was the opposite—there was even a significant emergency for which they had to call an ambulance.

 It was imperative that Nurse Brown enter the building in a timely manner; there was a student inside, newly diagnosed with diabetes, and she was the only person present and qualified to administer his insulin. 

“The people involved were very sincere about their participation in the strike and that is not an issue with me,” Principal Nancy Rousseau said. “In a situation like that, it is important to recognize that as long as we have children in the school we have to have medical support. I personally was involved in a call with MEMS that day about a student who had to be transported to Children’s Hospital.”  

     Rousseau explained that another student also had to go to the ER that day because of a possible broken arm.