The Philly schools are pushing back on the accusation that a sixth grader who died of an asthma attack last month did so because budget cuts meant there was no nurse on duty at her school:
The child’s medical emergency occurred at her home, said Fernando Gallard, spokesman for the School District of Philadelphia, and not at the school in West Philadelphia. He said if a child has an attack in school, an adult will respond.
“You see that a child is not breathing, you will call 911,” he said. “That’s the same situation you will have in any location, a mall a school, a day-care center.”
I hear the drum, Fernando, but don’t piss on my shoes and tell me that it’s raining. Yes, this child was still breathing, I’m sure laboriously, at school. But she was sick enough that someone from the school apparently drove her home, and she stopped breathing while her dad was driving her to the hospital. Would the school nurse have recognized the seriousness of the situation, administered medication, and called an ambulance even if the kid wasn’t breathing? We will never know, but my guess is that inner city school nurses are pretty damn good at recognizing and treating the onset of an acute asthma attack because they see a lot of asthma.
I don’t know the rules in Philly, but I suspect they are a lot like New York State. Up here kids can’t carry medication with them at school unless there are very special circumstances. Parents are encouraged to have the nurse take care of their child’s meds because the nurse won’t lose them, they won’t end up in the hands of other kids, and because the nurse has the training and judgment to determine if the kid needs medicating. So, to address Fernando’s stupid example, if a kid is at a mall and they’re having an asthma attack, they can pull their inhaler out of their pocket and use it. At school, they’re supposed to go to the nurse’s office. It’s been that way for at least 18 years here. You can imagine how yanking nurses out of schools used to relying on nurses to dispense meds would endanger students’ lives.
Replacing school nurses with calls to 911 is just extra stupidity. Just like the Republicans’ rejoinder that everyone has health care because they can go to the emergency room, the 911 solution is the most expensive possible way that government can intervene. In addition to the lives they save, think of the thousands of 911 calls school nurses prevent every year.
By the way, what happened with school nurses in Philly is happening in all kinds of ways across the country right now. The only place where you can discontinue government services without planning and expect everything to go hunky-dory is in movies, books and the tee-vee. In the real world, when you send the CDC or the NRC home, you’re taking a big fucking risk.
here in my part of texas kids above 3rd grade are allowed to carry their own rescue inhalers. it might be because we have so many ozone action days every year because of the level of pollution coming from a cluster of cement kilns in this county which poisons the air in a 5-6 county area.
Since we can’t afford cops and nurses, or teachers for that matter, maybe we should just put all the kids into prisons to start.
Even here where we have a lot of private money flowing into the schools, the school nurses tend to be part time – many split their day with another school. Ms Martin sometimes works the front desk at our local K-6 and she’s relied on to deal with some of this kind of stuff. She knows all of the reported medical conditions of all of the kids, and she’s really good at it in spite of not having a medical background, but nobody thinks it’s a good solution. But she’s triage. She decides whether to send the kid back to class, call mom, or call 911 if the nurse isn’t on site.
She’s requested that the front desk staff get kind of a light EMT training. More than basic first aid, but less than a school nurse needs. The district just doesn’t know which way to go on liability here. My argument is that even if it doesn’t lessen the liability risk, it will lessen the risk that a mistake will be made which leads to liability.
In California there haven’t been nurses in the elementary schools for about 30 years. I don’t know the exact date they disappeared, but I don’t remember seeing one in 1984. Probably soon after Jarvis got his way and Proposition 13 passed in in 1978.
In the 90s, the kids’ medication was supposed to be held in the office for them, but with asthma meds we violated the rules and my kid carried her inhaler with her; we gave the office an older spare. What foiled our nefarious plans was the day the school decided to use drug-sniffing dogs in the hallways and classrooms and my daughter was so terrified of the “no tolerance” policy that she left hers at home for the month the dogs were on campus.
Cris (without an H)
Does it even work there?
@navarro: Cement kilns made my asthma awful in the 1970s. Prior to that I had only had “exercise asthma” a few times when I was a kid.
dpm (dread pirate mistermix)
Hmm, today I learned that New York schools spend a lot more on school nurses than other places.
This story just breaks my heart. That poor girl! Dying unecessarily at the age of 12.
Anybody defending this policy deserves a sock in the jaw. (OK, the story also pisses me off.)
My daughter sneaks her migraine meds in her backpack ever since the moron at the front desk asked her if she really needed the pill and said “maybe if you wait a while it will go away”. When I complained to the principal he said “it’s just a headache – what’s the big deal?”. Fuck these people with no medical training and no empathy.
The school district’s spin reminds me of the prison administration ideal death. We once had an inmate get his eyes cut out and his throat cut open and his heart poked a few times with a lawnmower blade (they soon thereafter got rid of lawns entirely,) but he only officially died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital rather than the moment he hit the picnic table on the rec yard. Why? So there wasn’t a death on the premises.
Those poor officers had to do the CPR charade for over half an hour before the yard was locked down enough for the ambulance to get inside. “He was killed Kosher,” was one of the truer unfunny statements of the day, “he was dead before they dropped him.”
Have I ever mentioned how much I hated that job?
@opiejeanne: Indeed. No nurses in California. I grew up in New York and there was a school nurse. Here? The kids have no idea what a school nurse is. The office admins take care of nursing duties. There is, however, have a school psychologist, who splits time between a half-dozen schools in the district.
Fun fact about Philly’s school district: it’s run by the state government. Most people, even those living in Philadelphia, don’t know this, so the asshole repubs we have in office right now get to have it both ways: starve the school district of funds, then hold up the district’s many failures as an example of how awful the city is and how poorly public schools are run.
My daughter is a nurse in Philadelphia. When I read about the girl dying I asked if she knew whether nurses could volunteer to got to a school for a few hours a week. She said she knew of no program like that and doubted if it would even be allowed.
So, is it true everywhere that if they do not pay a nurse, there cannot be a nurse?
David in NY
Let me say that an acute asthma attack is not necessarily easy for an inexperienced adult to spot, as we learned to our regret when our older son was 5. He was obviously sick and complaining about his “stomach.” My wife, bless her, finally realized that something was quite wrong, got him to an ER. The place was full, but a triage nurse glanced at him, said, “He’s in a full-blown asthma attack,” grabbed him and ran away with him to get him medication and oxygen. I’ve always felt terrible about this, but at least he didn’t die, though he might have.
Having a nurse available to assess these situations can save lives.
I remember reading about kids living near power plants in Texas having high rates of respiratory problems. This was years ago, so I’m not sure if it’s related to cement kilns, but kids in Texas sure seem to have a lot of hurdles starting out.
@Mudge: It’s also a liability issue. If something happens to a kid the nurse is treating, without individual insurance, the nurse is in deep sh”t. The school system itself doesn’t want to cover the nurses.
ETA: When I interned as a recreation worker at MSK’s Children’s Playroom, I had to join the professional organization for recreation therapists so I could get liability insurance. (A group policy with Lloyd’s of London which covered me for $1 million. I Had to have it work at the hospital.)
this is definitely the cement kilns. it’s been on the news and in reports by the epa and even the texas state environmental department but governor goodhair stands by the freedom of businesses to pollute or store explosives near schools or whatever. my school district does have enough money to have a full-time rn on our campus every day unlike some neighboring districts that have 1 nurse per 2-5 schools.
@PurpleGirl: Liability is always the issue, I expected that answer. The key is that the district doesn’t want to pay for it, yet they already have it for other employees who make medical decisions and are not trained (such as the woman who drove her home). The parents of the girl who died will now sue the school district. Cheaper?
I live in Philly. What is going on is disgusting. The state and the city ARE trying to blame the father and the dead girl. The mayor and the SRC and the Gov have been silent, otherwise. Follow @parentsunited for the most up to date info on the crisis. That’s Helen Gym, a tireless activist on behalf of public school students and families.
Snarki, child of Loki
And I’m sure the ConserviTards are going to chime in with “the public schools are HORRIBLE, switch to Charters”
But one of the ways that the Charters save money is by not having a full-time nurse…half days, some days.
Gov. Corbett killed that kid, may he rot in Hel.
No school nurses was a problem for us while my type-1 diabetic son was growing up in rural Michigan in the early ’00’s. The degree of ignorance about type-1 diabetes was absolutely extraordinary amongst the faculty and administration, so we had to keep very close to the situation (and the school). The principal more than once said our son was faking a blood sugar spike or a low as a way of getting out of class, or seeking attention. After four miserable years we availed ourselves of the local school-of-choice program and got him into another public school in a nearby city that still funded nurses. These horror stories, be it about asthma, or diabetes, or any number of other serious conditions, will only become more and more common under the current trends. My heart goes out to this poor girl’s family.
the state took over the school district about 10 years ago, cleaning that philadelphia was incapable of running the district itself. In that 10 years, the state has used philadelphia as an experiment for every member of school reform you can think of. Every experiment has been an abject failureand incredible waste of money, from Edison the for-profit model,to the tenure of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman who was forced to leave.now the states School Reform Commission is blaming the students and teachers for their failure to improve the district.so they have closed about 20 public schools, both of them serving African American and Latino children, have demanded the Union make huge concessions that have nothing to do with the schools, bear overcrowding classrooms and splitting grades,and they have cut arts humanities atletics etc. Many schools have no guidance counselors, many schools have no librarian’s, many schools have no special ed teachers, and yes many schools have no nurses. This was all predictable and indeed predicted. The city and state have abandoned the children of Philadelphia. It is a disgusting state of affairs
@brendancalling: Atrios (while noting the grifters involved) mentioned this today:
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A charter school in Philadelphia announced Friday, via its website, that it is closing its doors effective immediately due to “safety concerns and financial instability
Further down it lists options for the stranded students, including:
3) School District of Philadelphia at 215-400-4000, is accepting students in K through 12th.
@brendancalling: The SRC (and the State) have also done all these reforms at 0 cost to themselves; the primary responsibility for funding has continued to be from the city (in fact, I believe the city’s share of the funding has increased in that time). More of that GOP Fiscal Responsibility (TM) we hear so much about.
Sadly, a good number of city Dems are also in the pocket of Big School Reform and the Charters, so there aren’t many good electoral avenues available to try and fix the problem :(
A lot of people don’t take asthma nearly seriously enough, especially in children. There was a really heartbreaking story here in Los Angeles about a mother (low-income, of course) whose son was taken away because she brought him to the ER “too many” times and they accused her of faking his illness (I think “Munchausen’s By Proxy” was dropped as an excuse).
A couple of weeks later, he died at a foster home. Of asthma. You know, the severe asthma his mother was accused of faking.
I’m sure she got a lot of money from the city and county, but that’s never going to make up for the fact that they basically took her child away and killed him because they thought she was too obnoxious about him needing medical care.
I never understood why the state took over the Philadelphia schools. I know the state was paying some money for the city schools, but most states do that with school districts.
I’ve not seen anything positive happen because of the state control.
The money, of course, is the lynchpin. And yes, many Dems are enthralled with the bullshit “reform” movement, including Senator Anthony Hardy Williams and others. Rep Chaka Fattah’s son is being investigated for charter school fraud. I think two other charters have had indictments for embezzlement.
Best I can decipher Republicans’ thinking: how can you expect us to think it’s something you really need if you’re not willing to pay top dollar for it?
I understand the urge to make this some kind of partisan issue, but I think the full situation is more complicated. The Philly school district is a mess. Truly worse than anything I remember seeing. Sure, there’s a Republican governor and legislature, but I really can’t park all the blame there. Much of the blame goes to Mayor Nutter and the city council (Democrats for the most part) squabbling over how to fund the school system while the school system burns, each pushing their own pet schemes. I’m not close enough to this to understand why they are all being such idiots, but I imagine if the mayor and the council got their act together to present a united front to the governor, we’d be in better shape. Heck, I don’t think I agree with Corbett about much of anything, but sometimes he comes off less badly in this than the local government in this whole mess. While the teachers are not getting a good deal in this either, at the end of the day, it’s the kids who are being thrown under the bus. I’m not sure what’s causing all the dysfunction, but it’s sickening.
It’s all just a recap of Glenn Greenwald’s classic 2009 article “What Collapsing Empire Looks Like.”
Also take a look at Matt Taibbi’s article “America For Sale,” an excerpt from his book Griftopia.
It’s all the same story, the old scam first defined and predicted by Naomi Wolf in her book Disaster Capitalism. Create a crisis, claim you need extraordinary powers to deal with the emergency, ram through legislation to privatize the public assets and slash funding to the social safety net, then when people start dying and planes crash and bridges collapse and schools burn down, claim you need even more extreme emergency powers, privatize even more of the public works by selling ’em off to corrupt thieving cronies, rinse, wash, repeat.
But since the ignorant incompetent cranks infesting Balloon Juice go into spasms of rage whenever anyone mentions Glenn Greenwald or Naomi Wolf, none of you are familiar with any of this stuff.
@mclaren: Naomi Klein?