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  • Carlotta Rother

Health Justice Club Fights for Safer Schools

Brady Woodhouse (‘25) testifies at a DC Budget Oversight Hearing/ Credits: HJC via Instagram

Many Walls students regularly go to the nurses office seeking care only to find nobody there. The frequent vacancy of the nurse’s office is a result of the fact that  DC follows a nurse-cluster program, meaning that a DCPS nurse is split between four schools. Nurses are unable to establish meaningful connections with the students at all these schools, and students are often left alone when they are met with medical issues during school hours. 

DCPS schools require that there be two unlicensed medical practitioners present in school buildings at all times in order to provide students with basic medical care and support. The Walls Health Justice Club was created to help students who have been placed in a vulnerable position by DCPS’s nurse-cluster system. 

Recent data from the CDC reveals that approximately 40% of school-aged children have some form of chronic health issues, underscoring the critical need for healthcare resources within schools.

Yet, in a survey conducted by the Health Justice Club, a staggering 52% of students were unaware of the identity of the unlicensed nurse practitioners within our school. This alarming gap in awareness leaves students vulnerable in times of crisis, with no designated healthcare professional to turn to for immediate assistance. 

The Health Justice Club is focused on “enhancing the nursing capacity of DC schools and promoting student health in the face of a nationwide nursing shortage,” according to the President and founder of the Health Justice Club, Brady Woodhouse (‘25). The club’s main goal is to ensure the presence of a nurse in every DCPS at all times. 

Recently though, the Health Justice Club has faced difficulty achieving their goals given the ongoing strain on the DCPS budget. 

Given financial constraints, the club is pursuing alternative paths to achieving their goals. Woodhouse explained that these alternatives “include advocating for DC’s entrance into the Nursing Licensure Compact, which would allow for a broader selection of nurses from the metro area to work in DCPS schools without difficulty…also supporting opportunities for nursing or health education and internships to young students.” 

The members of the Health Justice Club have attended one DC Council meeting and two budget hearings since its establishment in February. 

Students used the events as an opportunity to testify about how they have been personally impacted by the way DCPS distributes nurses. 

Lucy Cosgrove (‘25) explained in a personal statement that, “I am one of the many students at my school who suffers from… Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome… The needs of my condition,” she said, “has caused me to miss a lot of school since I do not always feel confident in the safety and health measures that my school can offer under the nurse-cluster system that DCPS schools currently use.” Cosgrove’s testimony demonstrated that without readily available medical assistance, some students feel unsure about coming to school sometimes as there may not be a nurse available,  leading to increased absenteeism, impacting academic performance.

The Health Justice Club has begun to expand its reach beyond Walls High School, with a new branch established at Washington Latin Public Charter School. 

The Health Justice Club has already made impressive strides toward their goal of expanding healthcare access within DCPS. 

On May 9th the Committee on Health released its recommendations for DC’s budget Fiscal Year—the Committee proposed a 2.5 million dollar budget increase, which included, for the first time, a section of the budget for students' health. 

The Health Justice Club will be hosting a summit on June 14th from 6pm-8pm at 100 M St SE, Suite 600, Washington DC, for students, staff, parents or anyone else who is passionate about the nurse shortage. Together, attendees will work towards a future where every school, in DCPS and beyond, can have a full-time nurse. 

HJC Members pose for a photo at the DC City Council Building/ Credits: Health Justice Club via Instagram


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