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District Drops Insurance Policy, Students Left with Bill

Courtney Cameron

As a consequence of budget cuts finalized in spring of 2016, Paterson (N.J.) Public Schools has dropped accident insurance that previously covered accidental injury to students and student-athletes while on school grounds or attending school functions.

By dropping insurance, families of student-athletes such as Quashawn Muhammad and Azmir Ivy, both injured on the football field, are now solely responsible for the hundreds of dollars in medical bills they’ve been receiving for their care.

Khadija Davis, mother to Muhammad, was not aware of the changes in policy until she arrived at the hospital and was asked to provide her own insurance information. “These students should be covered in some type of way,” Davis told The Record. “I’m fortunate in that I have insurance. But there are some people that don’t. It’s bad enough that we already work so hard. The last thing we need to do is take money away from just living to pay for something that should be taken care of by the school, and something that was already in place for years. It’s about the care of the students. When the team wins, I know the school gets accolades because of the fact the kids won a championship. But when it comes to the overall well-being of the child, that’s secondary.”

Terry Corallo, spokesperson for Paterson Public Schools, told The Record that an official notice was distributed to parents explaining that the district no longer carries accident insurance to cover students. The signed form was required prior to participating in any sport or extracurricular activity. “As a district, we take safety seriously. We have doctors on contract, and they are present at all games. We also have well-established relationships with medical providers who will work with our students’ families who have insurance as per the Affordable Care Act or Medicaid,” Corallo said. However, for students such as Muhammad, who was removed from the field in ambulance, emergency care does not fall under that umbrella.

Benjie Wimberly, State Assemblyman and former football coach at Eastside High in Patterson, takes a very negative view of the school having saved $400,000 at the expense of student safety. “This doesn’t make sense,” Wimberly said. “Savings and safety are not two things that come together when it comes to children in any school district. I think legally, this is something that has to be questioned.”

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