Kentucky Law Requires Vision Examinations for School Children

As part of the Early Childhood Initiative, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted HB 706, effective July 15, 2000.

One section of HB 706 requires (and was clarified in KRS 156.160, Section G) that all children 3, 4, 5, or 6 years of age entering public preschool, Head Start, or public school for the first time to have an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist no later than January 1 of the school year.

Two common childhood eye problems, which are not usually detected by parents and are not readily apparent, are strabismus and amblyopia. It is estimated that 3 - 5 percent of all children have either strabismus or amblyopia. This new required exam will pick up on these two common conditions, and if detected early enough, can be reversed.

For a list of Eye-M.D.'s (ophthalmologists) in Kentucky, use the Find An Eye MD function of this site or contact the KAEPS office, using the e-mail address provided below.

FAQs About the Law

  1. Why was this law passed? In studying early childhood development, the Kentucky General Assembly identified problems with vision as an important factor limiting children's abilities to learn and succeed. Up to 13 percent of children birth to 5 years of age have some type of vision condition. This increases to 25 percent of children above age 5. This provision of House Bill 706 is an effort to ensure that Kentucky's children have their eyes examined in their early years.
  2. Will the screening by a pediatrician or other medical professional meet this requirement? No, HB 706 requires a vision examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
  3. What is the difference between a screening and an examination? An examination is much more extensive than a screening. Many eye conditions that can impact a child's ability to see and learn can be missed during screening. Specialized equipment and the professional specialty training of the optometrist or ophthalmologist enable him or her to make definitive diagnosis of problems and prescribe treatment.
  4. Can the examination be done at the Health Department? Not generally. Health Departments generally are not equipped nor do they have optometrists or ophthalmologists on staff to do a complete eye examination.
  5. What happens to children of families who do not meet the January 1 deadline? Are there penalties for non-compliance? Will these children be able to return to school? The intent of this requirement is to catch vision problems early rather than to exclude students due to failure to obtain the vision exam. Like the requirements for school physical examinations, the law requiring the eye exam prescribes no penalties for parents. Local district policy should determine how parents or guardians will be given the guidance and assistance needed to get the examination. School health coordinators, Head Start programs, Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, local Health Departments and local ophthalmologists and optometrists should be enlisted in the effort to see that all children receive the required eye exam.
  6. If a child's eyes are examined as a toddler, will that meet the requirement? Any complete eye exam done any time prior to the child's entry into school will meet the requirement. The exam needs to be reported on the Kentucky Eye Examination Form for School Entry. If a child has had an eye exam prior to 3 years of age, it is recommended, but not required to have another eye exam at 5 years of age to determine whether vision has changed.
  7. Are eye exams required for the children of adults enrolled in family literacy programs? Preschool and kindergarten children whose parents are enrolled in family literacy programs will need the eye exam if their enrollment in the public preschool or public school is part of the program design. An infant or toddler whose family is enrolled in a family literacy program not affiliated with a public school will not need the eye exam to participate.
  8. When a child attends a private preschool but receives support services from a public school teacher, does that child need to have this exam? What about a child on home-based services? Children not attending public school do not need to have the school vision exam (or the physical exam), until they begin attending public school.
  9. What about children who come from private schools and enroll in public school? Because they are considered new enrollees in public school, students who come from private schools and enter public school at ages 3, 4, 5, or 6 will need the eye exam.
  10. Are vision exams performed by ophthalmologists and optometrists outside the state of Kentucky acceptable? Will it be required that out of state ophthalmologists and optometrists use Kentucky's form? Parents who are enrolling their children in Kentucky schools may choose to use ophthalmologists and optometrists outside Kentucky to perform the eye exam, but the exam must be reported on the Kentucky Eye Examination for School Entry. This is similar to the procedures for the physical exam reporting.
  11. If a student age 3, 4, 5, or 6 enters public school during the school year, when do they have to comply with the eye exam requirement? If a family enrolls their child age 3, 4, 5, or 6 after the beginning of the school year but before January 1, they would have to get the eye exam by January 1 of that school year. If the child enters after January 1, the family has until the following January to comply.
  12. Is there financial assistance available to help pay for these exams? Yes. Medicaid and Kentucky's Child Health Insurance Program (KCHIP) cover these services, as do many private insurance plans.
  13. What are the resources for families who do not have Medicaid or KCHIP or insurance, to pay for eye examinations? The Early Childhood Initiative (HB 706) has set aside funds to assist children who are neither Medicaid nor KCHIP eligible, or whose families do not have the resources to pay for the cost of the eye exam. Family income must fall between 200 percent to 250 percent of the poverty level. Contact your local Family Resource and Youth Service Center (FRYSC) in the public school for assistance in this process.

Kentucky Mandatory Vision Screening Exam Form
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