An act that would amend Mississippi law to require a comprehensive eye examination for all students prior to entering or enrolling for the first time in a public school was introduced at the end of January.
“Considering that 80% of learning is through vision and that nearly two out of three children do not receive any sort of preventive vision care prior to starting elementary school, Mississippi optometrists began a discussion with legislative leaders, which led to legislation requiring all children who fail a school screening to have a face-to-face eye examination before January of their first-grade year,” Ryan Wally, OD, legislative chair for the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA), told Primary Care Optometry News.
SB 2685, known as the Mississippi Vision for Better Learning Program, requires that a child entering the first grade whose eye screening indicates a need to have a face-to-face comprehensive eye examination be completed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist by Jan. 1 of the child’s first grade year. The House’s counterpart bill is HB 1322.
“In 2015, Mississippi legislators passed a bill requiring all third graders to take (and pass) a reading assessment in order to move on to fourth grade,” Wally said. “At the same time, the MOA partnered with the Mississippi Vision Foundation to offer no-cost eye examinations to any child who failed the third-grade reading test. In that case study, 88% of students who failed the test had some form of undetected vision issue.”
A school principal, director or other person in charge at the school shall collect evidence of the child’s face-to-face comprehensive eye examination as provided by regulation of the state board of education or a signed request by the parent or guardian of each student opting out of the face-to-face comprehensive eye exam, according to the legislation. A face-to-face comprehensive eye exam performed prior to a child’s initial enrollment in a public school is also satisfactory.
The act would take effect on July 1, 2019.
“Our children depend on us to give them the necessary tools to succeed in school and in life. Comprehensive eye examinations to ensure students see clearly and comfortably is one of the most important steps to help them realize their full potential,” Wally said. – by Abigail Sutton
Disclosure: Wally reports no relevant financial disclosures.