Laporshia Massey, a 12-year-old girl from Philadelphia, died on September 25 after an asthma attack went untreated at her school. Her father says that she would have lived had there been a school nurse there to treat her — but there wasn’t one, thanks to budget cuts in the Philadelphia school system.
Daniel Burch, Laporshia’s father, took his story to the Philadelphia City Paper this week. He explained that he got a call from his daughter’s school saying she was having an attack, but he had no idea how serious things were. The school, meanwhile, was telling his daughter to just “be calm.”
It was only only after Laporshia got home that Burch realize she needed to be rushed to the hospital. He took her in his car and, when she collapsed on the way, he pulled over and flagged an ambulance down in the middle of the street. But it was too late.
“If she had problems throughout the day, why … didn’t [the school] call me sooner?” Burch is left asking, “Why… didn’t [the school] take her to the hospital?”
Burch suspects that no one called him about his daughter’s deteriorating asthma problems because there was no trained professional to identify just how serious they were. He’s right: The school only has a nurse on staff two days a week. Like many schools around the country, the city’s dire funding situation has hit school nurses especially hard.
In fact, one quarter of schools in the United States have no school nurse at all. Philadelphia is one of the cities that knows that too well. Budget cuts brought the total number of school nurses in the city down by 100 (PDF) for the 2011–2012 school year.
That means 900 school nurses are serving 200,000 students in Philadelphia schools. And it’s leading to dangerous situations: An estimated 52 percent of kids report not receiving urgent medical care, while 36 percent are not getting medications or treatments at prescribed intervals. When kids are getting help, it’s not from people who necessarily know what they’re doing. Seventy percent say they’re getting medical care from untrained teachers.