Are you kidding?!?
Today, a Killeen, Texas school suspended a student because he walked out of class to help a fellow student having an asthma attack. A classmate had fallen to the floor gasping for breath and he ignored the teacher’s instructions to wait while she emailed the school nurse. Instead, he carried his friend to the nurse because he feared for the girl’s life.
Last week, a Garland, Texas school suspended an honor roll student because she loaned her asthma inhaler to a friend who was wheezing and gasping for breath. The school also suspended her friend because she used the inhaler. The suspensions will remain in the seventh-graders’ school records.
Usually, we reward Good Samaritans coming to the aid of another human being who is sick - not punish them.
A similar situation led to the almost-universal acceptance of schools stocking epinephrine auto-injectors for use in emergencies. A Virginia first grader died at school from a severe allergic reaction to peanut because under state law at the time, it was illegal to use another person’s prescribed auto-injector on another student. No Good Samaritan came to Ammaria Johnson’s aid four years ago this month.
At the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) we respect school policies. And we recognize the need to control access to, and sharing of, prescription medicines.
We also think there is a place for common sense.
So let us not forget that children die from asthma.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 4 to 5 children die every week due to asthma. One of them was Rosio Delao, 16, who died while playing soccer in Volusia, Florida earlier this month.
Schools can take proactive steps so that a child does not have to worry about a friend dying from asthma. AAFA has training materials for school staff and other resources for local health care providers.
We also release an annual report—our State Honor Roll—that evaluates state policies based on recommendations we believe represent best practice for school management of asthma and allergies.
Unfortunately, Texas is not included on our honor roll.
This means the Lone Star State does not have policies that:
- require schools to have emergency protocols for asthma (our policy 10)
- assure that the state has, or is preparing a specific asthma program with policies, procedures and resources for schools to manage students with asthma (our extra credit policy B)
Texas could also take advantage of a new federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act. One part of this law allows school districts to access federal grants to develop and put in place asthma management plans to support their students.
The resources to empower educators and keep children healthy exist. However, they only work if the leaders of those school districts use them.
When schools are prepared to respond to children at risk of dying from asthma, their classmates will not need to act like small adults.
Until then, we hope that the schools will reconsider their suspension policy.
We hope they direct future efforts at changing Texas laws and regulations that leave students at risk - and move their sights away from children trying to stay healthy and do the right thing.
Connect with people from across the country by joining AAFA’s online community dedicated to support for individuals living with asthma. We would like to know what your thoughts are regarding the decisions these young students made to help their schoolmates, and what you feel the school district administrators should do about this situation.