LIVINGSTON - The Livingston Parish school system has stopped collecting certain medical questionnaires from employees after teacher unions raised questions about how the information will be used, officials said.
The school system’s personnel department gave the questionnaire, known as the “LA OWCA Second Injury Board Knowledge Questionnaire,” to all employees at the direction of the School Board, Superintendent Bill Spear said.
On Sept. 1, the board followed the recommendation of its attorney and voted unanimously to suspend the collection of the questionnaires until the policy committee has a chance to decide how to handle the information. The district has about 3,500 employees.
The system stopped collecting the forms in August after the Louisiana Association of Educators raised some concerns in a letter to Spear, he said.
“We have members out in Livingston who were concerned because they got this form,” said Michael Walker Jones, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Educators.
“They called us,” he said.
The three-page questionnaire asks respondents to disclose their medical history.
On each page of the questionnaire, there is a space for the employee’s direct supervisor to sign it as a witness.
That made it a privacy issue, said Mona Icamina, a representative of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers.
“It’s an issue when you have to hand it to your principal or immediate supervisor,” she said.
The statement that the supervisor signs gives them the authority to review the information provided by the employee on the questionnaire.
“A physician is bound by the Hippocratic Oath,” Icamina told the School Board in a prepared statement.
“School principals and supervisors are not bound by a similar oath, and therefore they should not have access to this kind of confidential information,” Icamina said.
The questionnaire violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, Icamina told the board.
“You can end this controversy tonight by suspending and ultimately rescinding this requirement,” she said.
Board member Buddy Mincey said the questionnaire was part of the board’s attempts to save money.
“We are not trying to invade anyone’s privacy,” he said. “As a board, we have a financial responsibility.”
The board pays into a fund known as the Second Injury Fund, Spear said, as part of the Louisiana Workers Compensation program.
In order to collect money from the fund, employers must be able to prove they knew about an employee’s pre-existing condition before the worker’s compensation claim was filed, he said.
“We can’t know about pre-existing conditions unless employees fill out the questionnaire,” Mincey said.
School system Human Resources Supervisor Rick Wentzel estimated more than 90 percent of the employees returned the forms before administrators stopped collecting them.
A flier faxed to at least one school on Aug. 24 encouraged teachers to refuse to turn in the form, and if they had, to ask that it be returned.
“It has been brought to LAE’s attention by the Livingston Parish Association of Educators (LPAE) that the Livingston Parish School Board made an attempt to mandate employees to disclose certain medical information,” the flier reads.
“We understand your concern about providing access to such sensitive information, and therefore have taken legal action on this matter,” the fax reads.
The fax encouraged employees to request the form be returned immediately if they have submitted it.
The school system has not returned any forms, Spear said.
The fax has the LAE logo at the top and encourages readers to join the LAE, but Jones said it did not come from the LAE.
“That sounds like a local recruiting flier,” he said.