Sullivan schools see increase in eraser burns

Rick Wagner • Nov 22, 2012 at 9:07 AM

BLOUNTVILLE — Sullivan County’s school health services supervisor is warning parents of an increase in eraser burns among students.

However, school officials in neighboring Hawkins County and Kingsport systems have not reported eraser burns as a problem.

The activity is sometimes called the ABC test, sissy test, erasing or eraser burning.

It occurs, according to a flyer to parents from county school Health Service Supervisor Alisa Hearl, when students take an eraser on the end of a pencil or a separate hand-held one and “rub it hard, back and forth on their own skin or the skin of another student in a fast motion, in the same area in order to create a serious friction burn.”

Director of Schools Jubal Yennie said Hearl sent out the notice as a pre-emptive measure.

“We’re noticing more of it happening,” Yennie said Tuesday.

“We’ve notified parents to be aware of this before it becomes a serious issue,” Yennie said. “Since we’ve put the letters out, we haven’t heard anymore about it.”

Hearl, a nurse working for the school system and Sullivan County Regional Health Department, indicated eraser burns are making a resurgence.

“When this is done, it leaves an open and/or bleeding wound that can cause infection,” Hearl wrote in the flyer distributed in county schools last week. “This is not a new practice for teens; there have been trends for this type of behavior over the years.”

However, she wrote that school nurses and staff “are seeing these wounds on Sullivan County students in greater numbers.”

She said some students with these wounds on the top of their hands have admitted they were caused with an eraser, the result of a dare or allowing another student to prove “they were strong and wouldn’t give in” despite the pain.

“This doesn’t seem to be an attempt at self-mutilation but a joke or dare that is more dangerous than it appears,” Hearl wrote.

She recommended that parents who suspect or become aware of this type of behavior tell the students about the dangers.

For one, erasers may not be clean, the open sores can lead to infection and that even after a scab develops a pathway for bacteria and infection still exists.

Getting bacteria in the body can lead to staph or strep and the possibility of MRSA, tetanus or lock jaw and hepatitis and HIV.

Also, since not all scabs heal, she wrote that a permanent scar may result.

Vicki Johnston, a nurse who heads up health services for Kingsport City Schools, and school system spokesman Andy True said they were unaware of eraser burns being a problem in the city system.

“The school nurses have not reported any eraser burns to me this school year,” Johnston said.

Becky Little, director of health services for Hawkins County Schools, could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but Jennifer Winegar, executive administrative assistant to Director of Schools Charlotte Britton, said central office personnel had no indication eraser burns were a problem in the Hawkins system.

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