Dear Gov. Corbett – How Many Kids Must Die?

You aren’t allowed to be surprised by this.

Laporshia Massey died on September 25th after having an asthma attack at school. According to the article in City Paper, it was close to the end of the day, the school called home for advice, and dad told his daughter that they’d deal with it when she got home. She got home, and Dad realized how serious the problem was, and rushed her to the hospital. It wasn’t enough, and Laporshia died later that day.

You aren’t allowed to be surprised by this.

Bryant Elementary doesn’t have a full-time nurse, and the 25th wasn’t one of the days their nurse was staffed at their school. The school called home, a teacher drove her home at the end of the day, so it is not as if the school did nothing. And in case anyone thinks they could have / should have seen this tragedy coming, you should know how hard it is as a lay-person to make the call to call 911.

You aren’t allowed to be surprised by this. But you should be outraged by it.

I read the article and thought about the many times we’ve had kids in crisis, and I have had to make the judgement call to call 911 or not because we don’t have a full-time nurse for our school of 490 kids. In many of the cases where it hasn’t been obvious to call, I did what the school did, I called the parents. I tried to explain to the best of my ability what I was seeing with their child, and then I tried to work with the parents to make an informed decision about what to do. After one of those times, I was reviewing the case the next day my school nurse was in, and ever since then, I’ve included calling her for a consult as part of my procedure, but I didn’t think of that until she told me. But even if part of the procedure was that every principal had a nurse at another school on speed dial, that wouldn’t change how important it is to have a school nurse every day.

I’ve been a coach for many years. I’m CPR and First Aid certified. I’m a parent myself. I have a pretty good head on my shoulders. And yet, I am scared to death that I will make the wrong call one day. At the height of the School District budget, we had a nurse three days a week. With the cuts we have endured over the past several years, we are down to two days a week. We have medically fragile children. We have dozens of kids with asthma. And three days a week, I – with my First Aid and CPR certification and my Masters Degree in English Education – am the person responsible for making the decision if a child needs to go to the Emergency Room.

You aren’t allowed to be surprised by this.

And while the nursing services have gotten worse in the current budget crisis, this is a long-standing problem for Philadelphia District schools for a long time. Our city schools have been under-resourced for years, which makes the current crisis all the more painful.


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The arterial road you see in that map is City Line Avenue. It is, quite literally, the city line of Philadelphia. Above Philadelphia is Lower Merion School District. One of its two high schools is Harriton HS. Harriton HS has 1188 kids and four full-time nurses. Science Leadership Academy has 490 kids, and we have a nurse two days a week. This year, the average per pupil expenditure in Philadelphia hovers just under $10,000 per child while Lower Merion is able to spend over $25,000 per child. The way we fund schools in this state is criminal, and it has to change.

You aren’t allowed to be surprised by this.

The way we fund schools in Pennsylvania quite possibly cost¬†Laporshia Massey her life, and yet Governor Corbett is holding up $45 million dollars of state money until he gets the work rule concessions he wants from the teachers’ union. $45 million dollars translates into 400 more professional employees (teachers, counselors and nurses) to work with our kids. When schools have no counselors, when schools don’t have full-time nurses, that is the equivalent of blackmail.

And it has cost at least one young woman – Laporshia Massey –¬†her life. I wonder if Governor Corbett even knows that she died.

You aren’t allowed to be surprised by this. But you better be outraged by it.

3 thoughts on “Dear Gov. Corbett – How Many Kids Must Die?

  1. Chris,
    It is heartbreaking that a parent had to lose a child, that Laporisha Massey had to lose her life. There are no words to describe the outrage I felt when I learned this. It is unconscionable. We need a school nurse in every school, every day. Just last week I had a student who came up to me during class and told me she was having an allergic reaction and needed to use her Epi-pen. I sent her to the main office because our nurse was not in our building. She administered her own pen in the principals office and then came back to my room. I was very nervous because our nurse had sent an email stating that if a student needed to use an Epi-pen that we should call 911 afterwards. As you pointed out, being a lay person and having to make the decision to call 911 is not easy. I too am CPR certified, and a parent of five boys, but I hesitated. I insisted the student call her mom and asked her mom if she wanted me to call 911. Her mother was already on her way to school. Those fifteen minutes were extremely scary for me. There is NO reason why a child should be placed in danger, why we do not have nurses in every building. Priorities matter.

  2. Test scores? Really? How about a warrant for the arrest of all the criminals responsible for denying the money to our students! I am a veteran Philadelphia teacher and I’m sick of the politicians and flunkies who are literally starving our kids’ education to death, and now have taken the life of a beautiful young lady.