Homestead Teacher on Staph-Infected Student: Too Little, Too Late

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Joanne Linardi isn’t buying the Miami-Dade Public School’s response to the reporting of a teenage student infected with a nasty, deadly germ. Linardi has been a teacher for 30 years, 22 of them at Homestead Senior High School as a tenth grade biology instructor, so she is accustomed to district officials reacting to a problem only when the media exposes it. “Someone always has to raise a stink before they address anything,” she says.

Linardi claims school administrators are not taking enough precautions to prevent the possible spread of MRSA, an antibiotic resistant strain of staph infection that most commonly occurs among student athletes. “The teachers received a letter this past Friday,” Linardi grouses. “But no one has notified the parents of the children.”

According to a report released this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19,000 people in the United States died after contracting MRSA in 2005. Five states, including Florida, have reported an increase in MRSA cases at public schools. A Virginia student died after the infection invaded his internal organs.

This past October 16, a female student at Homestead Senior was sent to the principal’s office for getting into a fight with another student, Linardi says. The girl’s mother was called to pick up her daughter, who was suspended for the remainder of the week. When she met with an assistant principal, the mother revealed the child had been diagnosed with MRSA.

District spokesman John Schuster confirmed Linardi’s account, adding that maintenance workers scrubbed down the eight rooms on the student’s class schedule, including desks, chairs, computer keyboards, and anything else she may have touched. “We contacted the county’s health department,” Schuster explains. “They have not advised any further action.”

As of Monday, the student had not returned to school, Schuster insisted. Linardi disputed that claim. “She was back,” she says. “One of her teachers refused to go into her classroom because she was there. The girl’s condition needs to be checked out to make sure she is no longer carrying the bacteria.” --Francisco Alvarado

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