North Carolina law currently requires only kindergarteners to get physicals in order to enroll in public schools — but a bill moving through the General Assembly could soon require health assessments for all newly enrolled students in grades K-12, and failure to do so could mean some kids miss out on classroom instruction.
Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston) introduced the bill, HB 13, to Senators in a health committee Tuesday, explaining that the most common feedback he received from constituents about requiring physicals for all students was “you mean we’re not already doing that?”
There’s a presumption that other states also require their students to get physicals when they enter kindergarten, said Torbett, perhaps serving as a rationale for why the state doesn’t currently require health assessments from new students entering higher grades.
If students don’t get physicals within sixty days of the first day of school, the proposed law would bar students from going to school until fulfilling the proposed requirement. Language in the original proposal left the door open for those absences to count as suspensions on a student’s record, but House lawmakers amended the bill to avoid that scenario, including language that would allow students to make up coursework and tests during their time away from the classroom.
Senator Gladys Robinson (D-Guilford) questioned what processes would be put into place to work with parents who may have trouble understanding the proposed law.
“In some cases, parents are illiterate,” said Sen. Robinson. “What is in place in the school system to get out to that parent to make sure…that parent can read it and understand and then follow up?”
Legislative staff said there are currently a number of opportunities for follow-up with parents of kindergarteners who fail to comply with the proposed law, but did not identify ways in which the state works with those who are illiterate or non-English speaking.
Approved by the Senate Health committee, the bill will next be considered by members of the Senate Education/Higher Education committee.