The North Carolina legislature ratified a bill that mandates and standardizes vision screenings for all schoolchildren.

This bill replaces a law passed in August 2005 that required comprehensive eye exams for children before entering school. After that law passed, the North Carolina School Boards Association and several parents sued the state. They argued that the law was unconstitutional because it required parents to pay for an eye exam, which effectively denies children a free education. A superior court judge suspended the law in March.

Certainly we would have preferred the mandatory eye exam bill, as exams are the gold standard of care, says optometrist Max Raynor, president of the North Carolina State Optometric Society. But this bill was a good compromise for all parties and especially for the children of our state.

The new vision screening bill (H2699) includes these stipulations:

         Standardize and make more comprehensive the vision screening required for all children entering kindergarten. 

        Require written parental notification that a vision screening is not equivalent to, nor does it take the place of, a comprehensive eye examination by an eye doctor.

        Require a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor for children who fail the initial vision screening.

        Provide financial assistance for low-income families unable to afford an eye examination or subsequent medical treatment.

The bill calls for the formation of a 10-member commission, including four O.D.s and two ophthalmologists, which will determine the screening standards and help implement the program.

At press time, the bill awaited the governors signature to become law.

Vol. No: 143:08Issue: 8/15/2006