RICHMOND — After an at-school bathing incident early this week at Central Heights, Theresa Long said she’s hoping for a rule change and perhaps even a new law. School officials said simple miscommunication is to blame for the mother’s anger.

Long’s 4-year-old daughter, Kira, came home from preschool at Central Heights Tuesday and told her she had been given a bath, Long said.

“She got off the bus at 4 p.m. and said the nurse made her take a bath,” Long said. “She kept saying something about the big sink and I don’t know exactly what that means, but they did not let her clean herself and made her take off all her clothes and her panties.”

The school nurse had called Long earlier Tuesday to say her daughter had a sore throat, Long said, and also that her daughter had drooled on herself and would be put into her spare change of clothes while her dirty clothes were being washed. 

“Around 3 p.m. on an unrelated manner, I get a call from Ann Collins [Central Heights Elementary School principal] because there was a problem with my son and she brought up my daughter,” Long said. “Apparently there was reports of some sort of smelly issue. I called the nurse back to see if she knew if something was going on. I told [the nurse] what was told to me [by Collins] and she said she didn’t notice anything but maybe a little food in her hair and drool and that she was put her in change of clothes, washed her [dirty] clothes and was back in them — end of conversation between me and the nurse.”

Upset, Long said, she immediately called the school superintendent, as well as the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, to meet her at the school Tuesday evening to get answers about the incident.

“The main reason [for the bath] was that the little girl came to school and she smelled terrible,” Jim White, Central Heights superintendent, said. “[There was] an odor of what was identified as feces and she had food caked in her hair and on her face. It was one of those situations where the little girl needed to be bathed.”

No school rule was broken by the nurse bathing the child, White said. In addition, the incident did not violate any law, White said, concurring with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s assessment of the situation.

Rick Geist, Franklin County undersheriff, said the school district and sheriff’s office followed correct protocol and no further investigation was warranted.

“The deputy [who responded and met with Long, White and other school officials Tuesday evening] looked into it,” Geist said. “At this point, we’re not taking any action. If there is anything I would say that we needed to look into, that we would, but based on information we’ve got too, we’re leaving it at that because we don’t have anymore to go on unless something would arise out of it.”

Long said the meeting with school officials and the sheriff’s office, which also included her ex-husband on speaker phone, was disheartening.

“In the meeting, it’s found out that no legal standards were broke because there was no intent to do any harm,” Long said.

The problem seemed to lie in the miscommunication of what “cleaned up” meant to Long and to the school nurse, White said. 

“[The nurse] said she was going to clean her up and I guess from the mom’s stand point, I guess that was OK,” White said. “The nurse talked to [Long] and said she was going to clean her daughter up. Did [the nurse] say she was going to give her a shower? No. We have younger children that have soiled themselves that have to be cleaned up and we have a procedure. We had two people there, the nurse and the classroom aid observed. The nurse washed the girls’ hands, feet, hair and handed the little girl a wash cloth with soap on it to wash other parts of her body.”

Her daughter left the house clean, Long said, but being a 4-year-old, it wouldn’t surprise her if she had gotten dirty in a short amount of time.

The girl went back to school Wednesday afternoon, Long said, but she’s not giving up on ensuring the matter doesn’t happen again.

“I don’t understand how this can be allowed and that there isn’t a rule already,” Long said. “I want to do everything in my power to bring awareness to the parents and make a new policy put in place and push for a new law.”