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Why teachers take so many sick days

As the school nurse at a Baltimore County elementary school, I read Dan Rodricks recent column on sick days with some agreement and much outrage ("This looks a lot like playing hooky," Nov. 13).

Mr. Rodricks seems have forgotten that many educators are women and that at least some of the 35 percent of teachers who took 10 or more sick days during the 2009-2010 school year may have been on maternity leave.

There are also many instances of faculty having to have surgery that cannot be delayed, taking sick days to care for elderly relatives or children, and being sick themselves.

Moreover, consider how many teachers may also be single parents who do not have a support system to share the burden of child-rearing. Mr. Rodricks should be able to understand how this can occur.

I can personally attest to having seen teachers coming to school sick and having to send them home because they were contagious. School staff work in the midst of the biggest pool of communicable germs around, and we are exposed to them day after day, year after year.

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've called parents at work to ask that they come pick up a child who was sent to school sick — and then have to fax a note to the parent's boss before they are allowed to leave work.

In the meanwhile, the sick child has been on a crowded bus and in the classroom and has spread their illness to several dozen others.

What would help with the problem of the "overuse" of sick time? Allowing all workers at every pay level to have personal and family sick days so that sick children don't have to come to school.

It's unfair to put all the blame on educators. Spread it out to include the employers and companies that make many of us choose our paycheck over the health of our families.

Jill S. McGuirk

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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