Health maintenance and improvement
for vulnerable populations:
From needs to rights
Roxbury is an urban secondary school with a vibrant mix of students from a range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Within the past five years, Roxbury has received a large number of students who arrived as refugees. Several of the teachers have become concerned about the health and welfare of the students in this group. Some have noticed that these students often come to school without lunch or do not have any money to purchase food at lunchtime. Additionally, there has been concern about inappropriate behaviour in the classroom when some of the boys attempt to solve conflict through loud arguments and, in some cases, threatening behaviours. Finally, some of the teachers have heard that there are cases of active TB among some of the newly arrived refugee communities.
The school has asked the diversity unit in the state health department to advise them on how to approach these problems. The school has won several awards for their policies on inclusion and diversity but the teachers now feel a little overwhelmed about not being able to cope with these new students, and they are also grappling with their own fears about being exposed to communicable diseases. Some parents in the school community have also expressed concerns, asking that students with infectious diseases be excluded and those with aggressive behaviours be expelled. Although the teachers have usually adopted a supportive approach to all students, they are feeling under increasing pressure from the larger community to act in their interests.