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TN girl suspended from school for smelling bad

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A Washington County, Tennessee 2nd grade student has missed at least 24 days of school this school year, all because of what is described as her foul odor.

The school system has suspended the eight year-old multiple times since October because of that bad smell.

"They just say it's a foul odor," her mother Krystal Hensley said. "She takes a bath every day, but they ask her when the last time she took a bath was and she don't remember. She's been to the doctor and it's not a medical problem. They send her home at least once a month. You go to school to learn, not to be sent home."

The issue has become a major problem, not only for Hensley and her daughter, but for the girl's teachers and fellow students.

"We have made repeated attempts to address a foul odor that (name) has been {emitting}," the first suspension notice provided to us by Hensley said. "This is not being resolved. Other students and teachers are complaining, saying that they can not focus on school activities. We are taking this action because this is disruptive to the school program. If corrective measures are not taken then suspensions will continue."

Those suspensions did continue. The student was suspended two more times in October, twice in December, once in February and then again last week. The school system listed a variety of reasons why: "Did not bathe yesterday or today, Could not remember the last time she took a bath, and sleeps in clothes."

Her mother disputes all of that. Regardless, the girl is missing out on school due to something that is apparently beyond her control. It appears she may very well be falling through the cracks.

Washington County Director of Schools Ron Dykes would not talk about a specific child or case, but he did explain how these kinds of situations are generally handled by the district.

"Sometimes children are raised in environments that are very close to being classified as neglect and sometimes are actually placed in that category," Dykes said. "When children appear to be dirty or have excessive body odor generally the teacher will have a conference with the child or ask the nurse or guidance counselor to discuss the issue with the parent to determine the possible cause. There are rare instances when a medical problem is involved, but more often than not it is simply poor hygiene and the child is living in troubling conditions. Perhaps the electricity or water service has been terminated for non payment of bills. There are times when we involve DCS, but generally the conversations with the parents will discover there is a need to assist with finding a funding source or agency that can help the family thorough social services."

According to Dykes, a child is only sent home in "rare" situations when a family refuses to use proper hygiene or refuses to require the child to use proper hygiene.

"In those cases, they are very extreme and to be quite frank the odor is so overpowering and extremely offensive to other children and adults so some sort of home bound program is used or the child will be removed temporarily from the school until the family complies," Dykes said.

Hensley says the Department of Children Services did investigate at one point.

"We do not currently have an open case," DCS Communications Director Molly Sudderth said.

That said, DCS can close a case with or without recommending services. Those services could include everything from medical to psychological services and even financial assistance.

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