In late September, a Bryant Elementary School sixth-grader died from asthma complications. Her parents and Philadelphia school administrators have offered conflicting accounts of the incident.

 

In the wake of the child's death, asthma educators are concerned about the impact reduced staffing will have on medical emergencies that occur at school.

Laporshia Massey's parents say she was in class when the asthma attack began. She called them to say she couldn't breathe -- and someone from the school called to say she was sick, her father told the Philadelphia City Paper.

The school nurse, who works two days a week at Bryant, was not scheduled that day, the paper reported.

According to the report, Laporshia was driven home by school staff, then taken by her parents to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia where she died Sept. 25.

Maureen George, assistant professor of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, said school staff should have called 911 immediately. Children are allowed to carry medications to school but without a regular school nurse on staff, medications are kept out of reach, she said.

"We as a group of nurses and a group of certified asthma educators have been very concerned about the impact of reduced staffing in school districts -- and this notion that the school district has that we can teach any administrator how to administer an asthma medication," George said.

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."

Only medical personnel can evaluate the effectiveness of asthma medication once it has been administered, said George. It's not enough for teachers to call 911, she said.

Dozens of nurses were laid off by the district in 2012.