Ick, Ick, Ick.
4:43 p.m. - 2004-10-08

I had just walked into the gym for morning assembly on Wednesday when the school counselor approached me. One of my students, a little girl, trailed behind her with her head down and hands rubbing her face.

"Have you seen this?" the counselor asked, pointing to massive welps and tiny blisters covering the child's face.

"Oh my god...no, I haven't. I noticed a little spot near her eye yesterday, but I had no idea that it would morph into something like that. What is it?"

"I think it's poison ivy, but I'm not sure. She needs to go to the nurse, and they need to send her home for a couple of days until it heals."

I looked back at my line full of seventeen squirming children and sighed.

Apparently the counselor realized the delimma, and she volunteered to take the kid up to the nurse after the assembly was over.

Thirty minutes later, an aide brought her back to my room.

"Did you know that poison ivy isn't contagious?"

The look on my face after she made that statement must have explained it all, because she gave a wry laugh and said, "Hey, that's what they told me in the office. The nurse and the vice principal said it wasn't contagious and that she had to come back to class."

"They said what? Oh, no. No. Absolutely not. I'm highly allergic to poison ivy, and it IS contagious. I can't have her back in my room."

"Well, call the office and tell them that."

So I did. I made my point very emphatically, stressing the fact that I only have to LOOK at the shit to break out. And this little girl was covered--COVERED--in it, and I absolutely did NOT want to catch it.

"Mrs. Dreamer, poison ivy isn't contagious from person to person. You have to come into direct contact with the plant to get it. We can't send her home unless it's hindering her work."

It was then that I chose to be a smart-ass to my higher ups for the very first time.

"Not contagious, huh? Well then, I'd like for you to explain to me how I've caught it from other people before. Seriously Mr. J., I can't be in the same room with this student."

"Mrs. Dreamer, I'm sorry, but there isn't any other option. We can't send her home. According to the nurse, it isn't contagious, so she'll have to stay."

I glanced over at the little girl, who was clawing at her face with both hands. I was immediately stricken with disgust--for the school administration, for the nurse, and more than anything, for a mother who would send her child to school in that condition--and came very close to flat-out telling him that.

"This child is scratching her face off. It's already interfering with her work. Someone has to come get her."

"We've spoken with her mother, and she said that she already put medicine on the rash. That's all we can do."

"Yeah, well, whatever. I guess I can seat her over in the corner by herself for the rest of the day, because I'm not going near her."

(Turns out I was sort of wrong. Poison ivy isn't contagious after the sap from the leaves has been washed off. Of course, the fact that this particular child probably hadn't had a bath in a week or more sort of negates that idea.)

A few minutes later, the phone rang again. Someone was there to pick the kid up.

Maybe I need to start standing up for myself more often, huh?


This afternoon, the nurse called me.

"Is J. (the poison ivy child) in the room?"

"No, J. hasn't been here since they came and picked her up two days ago because of the rash on her face."

"Oh. So they did pick her up. I wasn't aware of that."

"Is there something wrong?"

"Well, her sister has been in and out of my office for the past few days with the same symptoms, and it just seems to be getting worse. I've been monitoring it, and I don't think it's poison ivy."

"Oh really. What do you think it is, then?"

"Um...I'm pretty sure it's scabies, and that IS contagious. Pretty highly contagious, actually."

Of course, I had absolutely no idea what scabies was, so I made the mistake of asking.

"It's...well, it's a little mite that gets underneath the skin and causes a profuse rash that's incredibly uncomfortable and itchy. I've checked to make sure that the family has Medicaid, and I'm sending a note home saying that the family can't come back to school until they've received medical treatment."

Again, I couldn't refrain from being a smartass.

"Oh, no, don't do that! Be sure and send her back to my room!"

The woman paused, as though she wasn't sure whether I was kidding or not.

"We had the same problem a couple of years ago with one of these children...the mother doesn't get them medical attention, she doesn't feed them, they come to school dirty and unkempt..."

I replied, "Yeah, and they're starving to death and wear the same clothes for weeks at a time. And they smell of urine and feces all the time. Don't you think that someone should call Social Services or something?"

Her answer? "Well, I sent that note home..."

Stupid fucking crack-headed worthless piece of shit parents make me want to wring their goddamn necks. This woman should be put in jail.

Poison ivy. Scabies. Lice. Malnutrition. Green snot bubbles. Ringworm. I have to deal with these things on a daily basis, and just the thought of it makes me want to go scald myself in the shower with a tub of antibacterial soap.

Fucking. Gross.

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I am: so very many things. A mother, a wife, a dreamer, a lover of animals and babies, a friend. I've been called a bitch, but if that's what you call someone who stands up for what they believe in and refuses to settle, then I guess the title fits.

loves: my family, horses, a full night's sleep, puppy breath, my daughter's laughter, thunderstorms, bubble baths, makeup, soft sheets, David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, wine, massages, the written word, and sour straws.

dislikes: closed minds, depression, pimples, extreme heat, math, panic attacks, black licorice, doing laundry, white chocolate, gin, Bush.