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At Rymfire Elementary, Response to a Child’s Scar Comes Unglued and Leads to a Lawsuit

| September 7, 2016

melissa Canales scar

The scar on Melissa Canales’s 6-year-old daughter’s forehead, after it required stitches, which would not have been necessary, her mother says, had the medical glue not been removed at the child’s school. (Melissa Canales)

The evening of Aug. 23, two of Melissa Canales’s young children were playing when one of them threw a superhero toy at the other, who is 6 years old. The toy cut open her forehead. Canales took her daughter—we’ll call her Linda, though that’s not her actual name–to Florida Hospital Flagler, where she was treated with skin glue, a less intrusive medical adhesive that lets doctors avoid stitches or staples. The glue allows small wounds to heal and minimizes what visible scar may remain.

That was a Tuesday. On Wednesday, Linda went to school at Rymfire Elementary, where she attends first grade. Two siblings attend school there, too, in fifth grade and kindergarten.

When Linda got home that afternoon, the glue was gone from her forehead, she was bleeding, upset, and would eventually have to be taken back to the hospital, where she received several stitches. To her mother, what took place at school that day adds up to a quick series of inexcusable steps by school officials that harmed her daughter, left her as a mother uninformed about what had happened, and resulted in an unnecessary, larger scar on Linda’s forehead. “It’s going to leave her with a bigger scar,” Canales said, “on her forehead, the middle.”

“As a mom I’m beyond upset right now,” she continued. “They are leaving my daughter with a much more invasive scar than she should have had. I mean, I got a referral to a plastic surgeon, the whole nine yards.”

To Canales, the incident also reveals an improper protocol in place when a child gets hurt. She’s not letting it be: last week the district received notice that she was suing.

What took place, from Canales’s perspective and what her daughter Linda relayed to her, was this: around noon that Wednesday, Linda fell on the playground and hurt her knees. She got a student pass to go to the nurse’s office. The pass’ time stamp was 12:05 p.m. The pass includes a handwritten description of the complaint: “head cut opened up @ recess & she is bleeding.” Canales says that was not the case, that there was nothing wrong with the glue, and that Linda had hurt her knees, not her head.

Linda was not seen by the nurse, who was either at lunch, as Canales said, or off that day, as the school district’s attorney said. Either way, there’s no dispute as to who did see Linda: Danielle Sweeney, secretary to Barbara Sauvelpahkick, the principal. Sweeney, a 45-year-old Palm Coast resident, has been at Rymfire and an employee of the district since August 2012.

Under “treatment,” and in a handwriting different from that in the first portion of the pass, the student clinic pass states that Linda’s wound was “cleaned [with] anti-bacterial ointment & applied band-aid.” There is no mention of the glue.

“They are leaving my daughter with a much more invasive scar than she should have had.”

Was parent notified? The box for “No” was marked. Linda was sent back to class at 12:16 p.m., with two copies of the pass: the yellow one for her teacher, the pink one for her parent. The white one stayed with the nurse—or, in this case, Sweeney.

Whether that’s in fact the succession of events from the school’s perspective is not known beyond what’s in that document: Sauvelpahkick said she could not discuss the case, as it appeared to be heading to litigation, and referred questions to the district office, where Kristy Gavin, the school board attorney, did address the issue.

“I have not been brought in on the facts with respect to the minutiae of that information, I don’t know whether or not it’s accurate,” Gavin said of the referral slip. “I don’t know who drafted the pink slip, I don’t know whose handwriting anything is.”

Canales, however, was livid on several counts, not least over the fact that she was not contacted at any point, even though she says the school should—and was required to—contact her to inform her of an injury to her child.

“I spoke with the principal,” Canales said. “She told me that I should have had a call and that they are opening up a formal investigation and that she should not have done what she did.” She was referring to Sweeney.

Gavin agrees that a call home should have been made. “They do make an attempt to contact the home, absolutely. Now, I’m not going to say they’re always successful in contacting the home, they’ll then try contacting the alternative—they’ll attempt to reach someone,” Gavin said. “I could not state why it would or wouldn’t happen. It would depend on what the nature of the injury was. If somebody referred them down and the child said they were fine and they were sent back to the classroom, they may not make the phone call, they would send that slip back home to the parent. But it is protocol that a nurse will contact the parent when they have provided treatment.”

In this case, treatment was provided. But the nature of the treatment also upset Canales: she says her child was told the glue looked “tacky,” and that the glue was removed from the scar, causing the bleeding (and the eventual trip back to the emergency room), steps Canales says should never have been taken. Whether that’s in fact what happened is unclear, but what is clear is that Linda got off the bus without the glue mending her forehead anymore. (Canales specified that when she took Linda to school the morning after she was initially treated for the wound, she brought to school staff the after-care directions she had been provided at the hospital.)

kristy gavin

Kristy Gavin. (© FlaglerLive)

Gavin said not every school in the state has a nurse on staff. Rymfire does, but in this case she was off for the day, and it’s not unusual for other support staff or faculty to care for a child in the absence of a school nurse. What would normally happen, Gavin said, is that a child with a medical issue would be referred down to the nurse’s office, the nurse would “assess and evaluate the condition and determine whether or not it required further medical attention. Contact is made with the parent regarding the incident, either an administrator or the nurse will contact the parent, depending on the severity of the incident.” If the child has to be taken to the hospital, an administrator accompanies that child and of course parents have been informed.

Even if it’s a case of a headache and the child is given a Tylenol or something similar, a call is made to the parent.

But Gavin said there’s more in play than just the injury to the child: Canales and Sweeney have had run-ins before. Calanes herself, Gavin said, “indicated that she’d had a run-in with this employee and that this was not the first time.” When that happens, parents are asked to file formal complaints documenting what issues they may have had with an employee. No such complaint was filed previously or as a result of the incident involving the glue. But Canales said the afternoon of the incident, when she rushed to school to speak with staff, she was given the run-around.

The next day Canales kept Linda from school. She made two stops. She took her to the hospital again, where Linda received several stitches and was prescribed an antibiotic. Canales also went to Chiumento Selis Dwyer, the Palm Coast law firm, where she met with Ron Hertel and others. They took her case. By that Friday, Gavin had received the required six-month advance notice that Chiumento Selis Dwyer would be filing a lawsuit on behalf of Canales and her daughter.


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20 Responses for “At Rymfire Elementary, Response to a Child’s Scar Comes Unglued and Leads to a Lawsuit”

  1. Honestly says:

    Omg! People are so darn sue happy. First off if that injury was glued than maybe her mother should have made her stay home for a few days for it to heal. Instead of sending her to school kids trip fall have accidents. Can’t blame the school for everything.

  2. r&r says:

    If Peggy is still the nurse there she’s great and should not be held responsible. Did the child do something to cause the glue to fail? If Peggy put the glue on she would be confident that was the right thing to do.

  3. Rick G says:

    2 things here… why did Ms Canales send her little girl to school the day after she received the cut forehead? I am sure that it must have been quite sore and we’re talking about 6 yr olds here not older possibly more responsible students. Finally why in the heck doesn’t each school have a nurse on staff?? Hundreds and possibly thousands of kids in one facility and the powers that be don’t think there would be a time when a nurse is necessary? We have substitute teachers why not substitute nurses as well. The real underlying crime is that we live in a state that gives only cursory attention to the educational process and don’t make their priorities in line with a quality education and a safe environment in which to educate these kids.

  4. Truth says:

    There are so many things wrong here, and sadly the schools med treatment is the least of them. 1st FL Hospital Flagler is by far the worst hospital I have ever seen, and they used glue to cut cost and get them out faster. If the cut came unglued that easy it was big enough to use stitches from the start. 2nd the glue should have been covered before the kid went to school. 3rd the form may have said knee but I am sure when they checked the kid out they could tell where the injury was. And if they treated the head the put head. And if the kid had hurt their knee the parents would be screaming about that too. But we have to figure the knee was fine. 4th the stitching will not leave much of a mark if it was small and originally closed with glue. And I will not even start on the fact her kid was hurt by her kid while under her watch to start with. This is all about free money, so so sad!

  5. woody says:

    Canales perspective?what does that mean?Not all mistakes should end in a lawsuit.There would been a scare anyway maybe now more noticeable who knowes.If it where my child I wouldn”t be happy but I would not sue.

  6. The Geode says:

    This is the first time where I agree with ALL the comments. To bad we live in a litigious society filled with people whose only purpose is seemingly to procreate and shirk personal responsibility.

  7. Veteran says:

    School will lose this one. Failed to notify parents. End of story!

  8. AmericanPride says:

    As someone who has firsthand experience with this glue being used on cuts, I know that the glue does NOT just fall off 24 hours after application. I’m not saying the school removed the glue, but if the child had picked at the glue, it would take quite some time to completely remove it. I think their needs to be a full investigation into why there was no substitute nurse on hand, and why a school administrator was allowed to act as said nurse. Sadly, the child will have a pretty hefty scar to deal with as a result.

  9. CM Davis says:

    The stand-in for the nurse wasnt blind, just sounds as if she didnt realize that bleeding aroud an open or partially open wound indicated there is still a problem- This wound looks deep- Im more surprised that the Dr or medical attendant didnt staple or at least sew up the wound in the first place- The parent could consider the medical attention given questionable.

  10. Notbuyingit says:

    As a mother, I can understand the mothers point of view. Not being notified was poor judgment on the part of the school, and because of that, they opened themselves to the lawsuit. Having someone step in for the school nurse is fine – as long as that person has at LEAST basic first aid certification. Now, I wonder why, if the glue looked “tacky” did they not also notify the mother? I do not agree with the comments that the child should have been kept home. Unless the doctor specified it, there is no reason to keep a child from school because of a slight injury like this. I know I wouldn’t have. When we send our kids to school, the school assumes responsibility on the parents’ behalf for that child’s safety and well-being. Too many times we accuse parent’s of neglect, for NOT being involved in their children’s lives – yet here is the school NOT INVOLVING the parent at all, not even with a phone call or notification. Children need their education, and the school is to act as the parents surrogate while they are in school. Failing to notify the mother was a gross error on the school’s part, and they need to tighten up their procedures to ensure this does not happen again. Maybe the lawsuit will get their attention.

  11. Americansoldier says:

    After reading all the nasty comments on the Facebook page it just makes me wonder what if? What if it was your child? What if someone was coming at you like these people are doing to this family? First and foremost the glue should have never been removed from the school Secretary and I’m sure others can relate that unless your some how CERTIFIED to handle these situations in a nurse’s station well you shouldn’t be putting your hands on another child. Now even if there was problems in the past with this lady it still stands that there was no phone call made to the parent or parents that’s a obvious. Maybe this will teach the school a lesson or two on how to handle a certain protocol if there hasn’t already one been made. Is this woman still working for the school? Is she still around other kids that so.ething else can happen? I’m sure she wasn’t trying to protentionally trying to hurt “linda” but she defently used bad judgement. Plus for people like ourselves in this vile community that are bashing this family on only knowing one side is just wrong. Everything is public knowledge why don’t others look at how many suits have been brought against our school districts….

  12. upyours says:

    I laugh reading these comments!!!

  13. Sonni Quick says:

    You are joking aren’t you? This indicates she is sue happy? I’m appalled at your comment. If you have or had children it is obvious how you would have handled this. The woman at this school is completely in the wrong and no child should be left in her care where decisions of appropriate medical action needs to be determined. It is she who went against the care the hospital provided and determined that care was inappropriate. Is she a nurse? Did she have the knowledge and authority to further damage this child? Especially since aftercare of the wound was provided by the mother to the school. And no call to the mother? She should be fired for negligence. The school should be responsible for any and all medical bills and sued for the emotional anguish this child will endure going through plastic surgery. Maybe it will cause them to use appropriate action in the future. Your suggestion of the mother keeping her home one day would not have healed her injury. She wasn’t sick. Why should she miss school? You didn’t think before you wrote your comment, did you?

  14. Sonni Quick says:

    Did you read the article? The nurse wasn’t there that day. So no, she isn’t responsible. She didn’t apply the glue, the hospital did. Maybe you should actually read the article before you comment.

  15. Sonni Quick says:

    Rick, most schools across the nation had their nurses cut years ago along with art and music classes, libraries and guidance counsellors.If you live in a nice white neighborhood you might have these services. This school is lucky to even have a nurse. Lower income and black schools don’t have any of these amenities. Do a little research. All children deserve to have this at their schools, but they don’t. An on call nurse? Not likely.

  16. Sonni Quick says:

    Truth – the use of glue on a cut is appropriate and has been used for years, and yes it leaves less scarring and less chance of bacterial infection. I had back surgery last year and had two three inch incisions on spine. The incisions were closed with glue which wears off in a few weeks. Glue also allows showers . This was done at one of the top hospitals in Pa – Penn State Hershey Medical Center. Glue is not used because the hospital is too lazy to do the job right – they use glue because it is best for the patient. Research it, if you know how to use Google.

  17. Sonni Quick says:

    CM Davis – staple the forehead?? Wow! You really wanted to cause more pain and scarring? This woman removed the glue because she said it “looked tacky”. Once closed and glue applied there is no more bleeding! The bleeding was caused because THE WOMAN PICKED OFF THE GLUE!

  18. Carol S. says:

    Well this is the problem in a nutshell. No one understands that being a nurse takes specialized knowledge. The person covering did first aid and that seems to be all that could be expected from her. She is not a nurse. A nurse would have likely cleansed and steri-stripped the wound and called the mother. She still may have ended up with sutures under the best of circumstances, but the care would have been different because a nurse would have known how to handle a previously glued wound. Also, this glue does not remain tacky. It is like super glue and it dries. Tackiness may have been from wound oozing.

  19. Carol S. says:

    By the way. I am a school nurse.

  20. Rhoda says:

    I can only say listen up folks. Many of the comments are certainly valid. Bottom line – we are failing as a nation. We are failing in many categories, our school systems are obviously huge because our children spend most of the waking hours there and has turned into a place where we have put the burden of raising our children for us. Wake up America- we expect so much but aren’t taking more responsibility as parents/citizens than we should be. We can pay just about any other profession decent salaries,but I can tell you our dedicated teachers are not one of those. Each state and even each school district is different . Bottom line- we are supposed to be this great nation, and we were at one time. But with the attitudes of many, our parents to polititions, have eroded the mere values that started this great nation. We idolize celebrities, our children are being brainwashed by the media and their cell phones, we have those that want to twist the Consitution around to suit them,we want to deny prayer,we ask to have history changed by removing a confederate flag,or asking the have a statue of the Ten Commandments removed,we vote for candidates that want to give to those who don’t want to contribute and most want. I can go on forever but do you get it? Most have forgotten 9-11. I’ve always said, let every citizen spend just a little time in a thirds world country-maybe even a communist nation, then return to US soil, and see if they aren’t changed. Folks, we are heading toward demise, so I suggest we all step up to the plate and be a part of the solution rather than part of the problem. May God prevail and God Bless America!

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