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Real Deal: 4th Grader Asked to Take NYS Test from Hospital Bed

Updated: Thursday, April 10 2014, 02:00 PM EDT

BETHLEHEM--A local 4th grader, hooked to medical machines and IV's, undergoing pre-brain surgery screening was asked to take a New York State test from his hospital bed last week. 

Joey Furlong is a 4th grader in the Bethlehem School District.  He has life-threatening epilepsy and his seizures can only be stopped with medication so his parents are considering brain surgery.  In order to get to that point though, Joey needs to go through a series of tests which is what he is doing right now at the Cohen Children's Medical Center on Long Island. 

"He is currently in the hospital where they are withdrawing his seizure medications and they have him hooked up to an EEG, so essentially his head is attached to the wall and he has an IV in his hand and he's wearing a pulse oximeter in case something happens with his oxygen levels," says Tami Furlong, Joey's mother.  Basically, doctors have to wait until he has another seizure to monitor what is going on in his brain before they can do surgery. 

"Thursday morning a woman walked into his room with a piece of paper that had his name on it and told my husband that she was a teacher from the New York City School District and that she was there to administer the 4th grade New York State test to my son," Furlong tells CBS6.  The family was shocked. They had already made arrangements with the Bethlehem School District for Joey to make up the exam if he was back in time, so someone asking him to take it from a hospital bed, never even crossed any of their minds.

A spokesman from Bethlehem Schools says the first the district heard about Joey being asked to take the test in the hospital was when they got a call from the Furlongs after they had been visited by the teacher.  The district tells CBS6 it did not share any information about Joey's absence with the NYS Education Department or the hospital.     

A spokesman from Cohen Children's Medical Center says under NYS law, the hospital must offer school instruction to any child who spends more than three days in the hospital and that includes standardized testing.  The Medical Center has five full-time New York City School Teachers on staff who get age and grade information from patient records and offer their services to families.   Tami's husband was in the room when one of the teachers came in talking about the test but she wonders what would have happened had he not been, "I would like to hope she would not have taken his arm that has an IV and oximeter on it and put a number 2 pencil in it, I would like to hope that she would wait to talk to the family," she says.

The hospital says the teachers will wait to first speak with a parent and a family can refuse or ask the doctor to be medically exempt which is what happened in the case of the Furlongs.  "It just floored me that somebody is sending teachers to sick kids and expecting them to take a New York State test, to me that is just outrageous," Tami says.  

According to the NYS Education Department, students who are incapacitated by illness or injury during the entire test administration and make-up periods and have on file, documentation from a medical practitioner that they were too incapacitated to be tested at the school, at home, or in a medical setting are considered "Medically Excused" and are considered to have "no valid test score". 

Real Deal: 4th Grader Asked to Take NYS Test from Hospital Bed

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