Via Turley, 17-year-old Deltona, Florida high school student Michael Rudi collapsed on the floor, unable to breath. The school nurse watched.
The school dean found the inhaler in its original packaging with the student’s name and directions for its use. He seized the inhaler because of the absence of a form. When the boy began to have trouble breathing the mother was called to come into school. It is not clear why, if they could reach the mother, they could not get telephonic approval. More importantly, with the boy having breathing problems, the school insisted that it was still more important to get a form signed than help the child. Rudi is quoted as saying “[a]s soon as we opened up the door, we saw my son collapsing against the wall on the floor of the nurse’s office while she was standing in the window of the locked door looking down at my son, who was in full-blown asthma attack.”
Rules about the possession of “drugs” in school are commonplace, almost universally forbidding their possession without approval and parental permission. Whether an asthma inhaler or ibuprofen, the blanket rule, together with its zero tolerance analog, has become pervasive.
Why Sue Rudi didn’t have a signed permission form for her son’s asthma inhaler isn’t clear. She should have. There were signed forms for his prior years in school, but not this year. If you have a child with a medical condition that might require emergency relief, you don’t forget to sign the form. You don’t refuse to sign the form due to some misguided sense of entitlement. You sign the form and, if you have a problem with it, fight it later. You don’t risk your child’s life, either out of laziness, forgetfulness or any other ‘ness.
In the same vein, you don’t let a high school kid die on the floor before your eyes.
Volusia County School officials stand by a Deltona High School nurse’s decision to refuse a student his inhaler during an asthma attack, citing a lack of a parent’s signature on a medical release form.
There is a rule about students taking drugs. Apparently, there is no rule against allowing students to die as the nurse watches. The school has a policy about calling 911 when a student can’t breath, which is a reasonably good idea, though it strains reason to understand why adults in charge of children in school need a rule to figure out that calling 911 (or, for the matter, giving life-saving medication) is a better idea than poking them with a stick.
Selesky said the district is looking into whether proper procedures were followed by the school, and while nurses can’t give medications without the proper authorization, it is district policy to call 911 when a student cannot breath.
Selesky could not explain why 911 was never called.
It seems obvious to me: The nurse was only on page 36 of the rule book, and the 911 rule wasn’t mentioned until page 492. There is a rule against skimming and jumping ahead.
So many of the absurdities that come from this slavish adoration of rules end up with a child suspended or expelled over things that, under any rational assessment, fall outside the parameters of the evils sought to be eradicated by the rules. We can, in a sense, appreciate that schools craft rules to guide teachers and administrators, given that the false security of “common sense” would produce wildly disparate results.
Schools hope to limit the particularly bad discretion of its people and guide them toward the ideals that school boards and administrators seek to impose. We all get that. It’s better than leaving matters relating to children in the hands of the AP English teacher who expects to become a celebrity when the next episode of Hoarders airs.
But crafting rules intended to be absolute in their application is extremely difficult, if not impossible. The law of unintended consequences is bound to come into play. It’s beyond the ken of most school boards, not to mention school attorneys, to create an overarching rule, though it’s incredibly easy to add in the words “zero tolerance” and bask in the applause of an ignorant community that hasn’t thought matters through.
But when the product of what seems to the casual observer to be a good way to run a school is a dead student lying on the floor a few feet away from an inhaler that would save his life, someone in a position of authority has to concede that the rule has a problem.
The question isn’t who to blame after the child dies. Was the mother at fault here for failure to have the signed form for this school year on file? Sure. She screwed up. Does the school really take comfort in the ability to point the finger elsewhere as they stand over the corpse of a student?
Here’s an idea. Rule 1 for all schools, to be printed on page one of the rulebook in boldface type, 24 point type, with nothing else on the page:
No student shall be left to die because of a rule.
No doubt there will be an unintended consequence of this rule, but it seems as worthy of suffering that possibility as the rule the prohibits students from being educated because their pants are too saggy.