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District: 'It is paramount that we find out what happened to cause this tragic death'

By Paul Socolar on Oct 18, 2013 04:40 PM

Responding to calls for a formal inquiry into the Sept. 25 asthma-related death of Bryant Elementary student Laporshia Massey, who apparently became ill at school, the School District released the following brief statement on Friday, saying it is investigating -- and cooperating with other investigations:

The School District is concerned about the death of any student, no matter where and when that happens. Especially when a child is dismissed from school and dies several hours later, we take it very seriously out of concerns for the child and his or her family and for our students and staff. Because we want to ensure the safety of all children, it is paramount that we find out what happened to cause this tragic death. We are doing what is necessary to investigate what happened, and we are cooperating with all involved city and state agencies, as we always do, upon the death of one of our students. From our review to date, we are certain that our staff at Bryant are not the cause of the student’s death, and we will continue to address all concerns arising out of this tragedy.

On Wednesday, the same day Gov. Corbett released a $45 million grant for Philadelphia schools, his acting education secretary, Carolyn Dumaresq, told the Associated Press that her department would investigate the circumstances of Laporshia's death and review the School District's emergency plans and staffing. 

The District has said it does not plan to use the added funds to bring back school nurses, whose ranks have been slashed over the past three school years in Philadelphia. Bryant's part-time nurse was not at the school the day of Laporshia's death.

On Thursday, State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams sent a letter to Superintendent William Hite, calling for a formal investigation. He wrote:

... I had been told that an investigation was underway, and initially opted to withhold further action until that concluded. However, the Bryant families, as well as the community as a whole, rightfully remain disturbed and unfortunately have been left to simply speculate, in the dark. 

Given that this is the second disturbing and high profile circumstance to strike this school community within the past year, as the representative of this area -- and as a neighbor -- I am now asking you to formalize the inquiry and report out the results publicly.

My expectation is that such an investigation, coordinated with the police and district attorney, would reveal what issues and circumstances resulted in the child's death, detailing if there are any elements of negligence, or, even criminal culpability. These are questions swirling around this community, throughout Philadelphia, and beyond. ...

Families need assurances that Bryant has indeed a safe and academically qualified climate for our children; and if it does not, we need immediate responses as to the actions that will take place to make it so. I look forward to your prompt response.

The other incident the senator referred to took place in January, when a woman took a 5-year-old out of a classroom at Bryant. The girl was later found, and a woman was charged in the case. The trial will be in August 2014.

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Comments (19)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 8:13 pm
I can save the District a whole lot of time and money on an investigation. There was no nurse on duty and the adults involved were not trained to recognize the signs of a serious asthma attack. Now, with the money I just saved you (to say nothing about coming lawsuits for this negligence) how many nurses will you hire?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:06 pm
I don't think anyone could have said it any better than you just did! The district is 100% responsible for this family's suffering the loss of their daughter. Hite and Ramos, it is time you should be held liable and face judgement in the courts. The public knows you didn't do much of anything to help the schools, lobby for the money, and when you had the money - spend it responsibly - rather than giving 440's top "executives" massive raises.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on October 19, 2013 12:55 pm
The Commonwealth is just as responsible as the District is because the Commonwealth provides the majority of the District's money.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:29 pm
Great answer. It pains me that the district pays for investigations and consultants when they can find the answers for free.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 11:41 pm
Well said!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 1:56 am
Aren't the lawsuit damages capped at $500,000 per state law? They should just pay that and spare the costs of defending.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:40 pm
Who wrote this statement? It's written horribly!
Submitted by anon (not verified) on October 19, 2013 2:29 am
agreed. a bit embarrassing that a large school district would release a statement as poorly worded as this. furthermore, playing devil's advocate here, how can the district be "certain" that the school staff is blameless before the investigation is concluded?
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on October 19, 2013 7:03 pm
But ture so why be offended? Do not like reality?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 11:41 pm
That your "staff at Bryant are not the cause of the student’s death", is or will be made clear to EVERY PERSON in the USA before Laporshia Massey will rest in peace. It is our, the peoples staff, that was not there, and has still not been reinstated in schools state wide, that should be the focus of your immediate damage control.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 7:04 am
A school employee took the girl home! Prior, a parent was contacted. How in the world is this "deliberate indifference"? Sometimes bad things happen, and nobody is to blame. This is one of those cases. As a school counselor, I deal with suicidal ideation often. Do I "302" every kid who utters "I wanna die"? Hardly. In fact, of the dozens I have dealt with, only a handful have been sent to the hospital straight from school. I strictly follow SDP protocol. If a kid falls under the "routine" category, and God-forbid ends up going home and killing him/herself, I am in the clear. Every person with a law degree would tell you that. Bryant took it seriously enough to violate school district policy and drive the girl home.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 8:26 am
This is a horrible tragedy. It is easy to blame schools for all that is wrong, but children only spend 7 hours out of every 24 hours there, 5 days out of 7. So what is happening the rest of the time? Do children get what they need? When do parents honestly look in the mirror and say "I know I did everything I could do to keep my child safe, even when she is not in my sight"?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 8:29 am
I can't believe this child sat in school not feeling well before her teacher. That in itself should have prompt the teacher to alert administration or call the parent. We can say what we want in regards to not having a nurse in the building the fact remains adults were in the building whose job is to supervise children. With all the cellphones - why didn't someone just call 911. You don't have to have medical expertise to do that. Lastly, Asthma is an unfortunate common ailment many of children who attend Philly schools have. I just can't believe the neglect. Where was the list of chronic ailments made privy to the principal kept? This is the second incident at that school. I just can't believe it.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 9:51 am
Analysts project the GOP shutdown of government will have cost the taxpayers BILLIONS...for no-thing. Truly sickening, while split pennies and point fingers here in Philadelphia.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 11:45 am
It's called CALL A DAMN AMBULANCE AND SAY THE CHILD HAD BREATHING PROBLEMS!!!! An ambulance could have been notified and possibly saved this precious child. This would not have happened in a suburban school. They are on top of things unlike this district!!!
Submitted by tom-104 on October 19, 2013 12:11 pm
That is not how an asthma attack happens. I have seen no report that she had breathing problems initially in school, just complained she wasn't feeling well. The only way for the asthma situation to be found at the stage it was at in school was for a trained professional listening to her lungs with a stethoscope.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 3:42 pm
UNREAL- so you're investigating to find another culprit? "The District has said it does not plan to use the added funds to bring back school nurses, whose ranks have been slashed over the past three school years in Philadelphia."
Submitted by Faye Anderson (not verified) on October 19, 2013 4:54 pm
The Pennsylvania State Chapter National Action Network is monitoring investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of the sixth grader. PA NAN's town hall meeting on the School District of Philadelphia's first 100 days will be dedicated to Laporshia Massey. #WeNeedAnswers
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on October 19, 2013 9:41 pm
Why are we surprised and whinning about? The School district is and always has been a Potemkin Village. It cares nothing about education let alone children. How many of my colleagues in neighborhood high school have read about a shooting of one their students on a Friday and seen the standard school district response; extra counselors will be at the school. AND THERE ARE NEVER ANY EXTRA COUNSELORS!!! But in the mindset of the school district a press release is just as good doing the right thing and cheaper. They have done the math about the $500,000 liability cap and fell good doing nothing rather than spending a few more bucks that City Council won't give them anyway. So kids die. You thing the SRC cares?

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