Pact set on school blood drive

Published May 3, 2007

BROOKSVILLE - Seventeen-year-olds will soon be able to give blood again in Hernando County high schools.

Two weeks ago, the School Board banned minors from participating in school blood drives after hearing from a parent who said his 17-year-old gave blood without his knowledge and "almost died."

But after hearing Wednesday afternoon from a LifeSouth Community Blood Centers representative, the board decided to adopt a permission slip system instead.

Under state law, 17-year-olds can give blood without parental permission, but parents have the right to object in writing.

"His main concern was having the opportunity to object, " said Ed Downey, district director for LifeSouth, referring to parent Paul Nazar. "We fully agree with that and we understand that."

He said high school blood drives, which LifeSouth has been running in Hernando since 1989, account for a critical 10 percent of the region's blood supply.

Board members seemed satisfied with the permission slip compromise, particularly after agreeing that students whose weight seemed close to the 110-pound minimum should have their weight confirmed by a school nurse.

But later that night at the regular School Board meeting, Nazar told the board that wasn't enough for him and other parents.

"I think permission slips are a step in the right direction, " he said. "May I suggest that you get a notarized permission slip to make sure parents have actually signed it?"

While superintendent Wendy Tellone said notarizing a form might result in a decrease in blood donations, board members decided to go along with Nazar's suggestion in order to minimize the risk of another incident.

"Please understand, we do not take this lightly, " Chairman Pat Fagan told Nazar.

Under the new policy, both 17- and 18-year-olds will have to bring a signed, notarized slip every time they give blood on school grounds.

Tom Marshall can be reached at tmarshall@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1431.