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Nurses hold vigil in memory of girl who died of asthma

By the Notebook on Oct 18, 2013 04:58 PM
Photo: Naveeh Ahsan

Academy at Palumbo nurse Eileen Duffey (left) joins others at candlelight vigil.

by Naveed Ahsan

School nurses, parents, and education advocates concerned about budget cuts held a silent candlelight vigil outside of District headquarters before Thursday’s School Reform Commission meeting in memory of 12-year-old Laporshia Massey, who died from an asthma attack on Sept. 25.

Laporshia, a 6th-grade student from Bryant Elementary School, fell ill on that day, reportedly complaining of breathing problems. There was no nurse on duty at the time. A staff member drove her home at the end of the day. Soon after, Laporshia’s father took her to the hospital, where she died that evening. Her death has sparked a debate among education advocates about the impact that reduced staffing can have on medical emergencies that may occur at schools.   

Eileen Duffey, a school nurse at the Academy at Palumbo, organized the vigil. Though Duffey said that she did not know Laporshia or her family personally, she felt compelled to act.  

“I decided that I would set aside this space and time to devote some grieving for all of us,” Duffey said.

Ongoing budget cuts within the District have caused layoffs of critical staff. More than 100 school nurse positions were cut in the 2011-12 school year. Additional cuts this year brought staffing levels down to the state minimum of one nurse per 1,500 students. Reduced medical staff has meant that many non-medical personnel are being forced to handle the duties of school nurses. This was the case with Laporshia, who reportedly told a teacher who was not aware of her medical condition that she was not feeling well.

Gov. Corbett announced that he will restore the $45 million that the state had appropriated to the District but had been withholding pending reforms, but in a press conference on Wednesday, Superintendent William Hite said he had no plans to use part of the money to increase the level of nursing staff.

After the vigil, Duffey voiced her concerns regarding the ongoing education crisis.

“There has to be a lot more funding, a system that is functional and listens to the people’s needs.”

Naveeh Ahsan is an intern at the Notebook.

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Comments (45)

Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 7:29 pm
I am glad you did this Nurse Duffey. Thanks to all of the nurses for organizing. I would like to especially thank the violinist, Samir Robinson of Musicopia for agreeing to play for the vigil. You were awesome.We all needed a time of reflection and to pray for her family. I love the picture they selected. I am pictured at the far right. Maureen Fratantoni Nebinger H&S Pres.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 8:27 pm
Parents were called to get the child. Why? To take the child to get medical attention I presume. When parents didn't arrive, why wasn't 911 called. More of a leadership issue than a staffing or nursing issue. The real way to honor this child is to ensure that structural procedures and training (for all staff) are put in place to make sure this doesn't happen to another child.
Submitted by tom-104 on October 18, 2013 9:27 pm
Another devaluation of education and training. Are you suggesting that teachers get a TFA like crash course on medical procedures so they can take on nursing duties? So if a teacher is a "good" teacher they will have no problem with large class sizes, they do not need advanced degrees to develop as a teacher, experience doesn't matter, and they must be evaluated to see how well they teach even as their classes are starved of resources .... and now we should add nursing to their duties??
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 9:17 pm
Agreed, Tom. What we need is our full time nurses back. Period!!!
Submitted by anon (not verified) on October 19, 2013 1:02 am
to the notebook staff: why is it that tom-104 alone has a "flag as offensive" link at the bottom of his comment and no one else on this page does? who is it that tom-104's comments are offensive to? well researched? yes. insightful? yes. offensive? maybe if your last name is gleason or corbett. why are his comments being singled out for censorship?
Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on October 19, 2013 5:36 am
Good question. Tom 104 is one of the most credible commenters we have, and he is a strong advocate for the best practices of school governance and leadership. His posts are always insightful and right on point. He backs up what he says with credible research. To be honest, I am honored to have come to know such a great man who selflessly advocates for the best interests of our children and our community. What he said in that comment is right on point and incisive. The people who participated in that candlelight vigil did so for their sincere grief at what happened to the poor young girl and her family. It certainly was a moving experience for me and I thank Eileen and those who contributed -- especially the school nurses. Tom, Eileen, Maureen and everyone else who participated in that vigil did so simply because -- they care. We all should own up to our collective and individual responsibility for what happened to Laporshia -- it was a tragedy which was avoidable. It is all so sad and so unnecessary. I cannot believe that the school district which I love and so many of us have dedicated our professional lives to, would ever become what it has become. We all need to look into the mirror -- all of us.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 19, 2013 12:02 pm
Well spoken, Rich!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 8:16 pm
not everything is a conspiracy - sometimes there are just glitches, you know. This looks like a glitch.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 7:54 am
You are so focused on teachers being victims that you miss the point. Whether a teacher, nurse, administrator or other staff member was present, there should've been a policy followed. No, a teacher shouldn't have to medically evaluate a child. If the situation goes beyond simple, basic illness staff should've called 911. That's the point and the fact that following policy that is developed from top to bottom is key. Last year, a child was abducted. Perhaps if there were additional security guards or a swat team present, the child would not have been taken. I doubt it. The reality is if there was a policy that was followed by staff, one child would not have to live with the physical and emotional scars of abuse, and another would be able to live. It's not always about your job or political position.
Submitted by tom-104 on October 19, 2013 9:41 am
The school did follow procedure. They called the parent to take the child home two times. When she was in school and first arrived at home the asthma had not advanced to the acute stage. Neither the school nor the parent recognized the gravity of the situation because they did not have medical training. This is a judgement call that only a trained medical professional can make and even then it is a judgement call. See this explanation by a school nurse: "The case of Laporshia Massey and treating asthma in Philadelphia's schools" http://thenotebook.org/blog/136554/case-laporshia-massey-and-treating-as... In regards to school security, of course reducing school security to barebones will cause more incidents like the one you cite. However, it is more complicated than that. “School nurse cuts killed my daughter”: Laporshia Massey died because our priorities are wrong" http://www.salon.com/2013/10/18/school_nurse_cuts_killed_my_daughter_lap...
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 9:22 pm
They called the parent to take the child home why? To take a nap, have a meal or just relax. Of course not. They called because the child was sick enough to be taken to a doctor. When the parents did not respond, the sensible step was to call 911, where trained medical personnel would arrive to assess the situation. I feel uncomfortable judging the actions of others with hindsight, but in looking at preventing this from happening again, understanding the cause is necessary.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 2:46 pm
If you had a clue as to what it is really like in a Philly classroom you'd know how something like this could happen. Teachers are asked repeatedly by kids to see the nurse. Some need it and some don't. You are expected to make a judgement call as to whether the child really needs to go and know if the nurse is even seeing pupils at that time or even in the building. And be a good teacher on top of all that. If you send a kid you have to write them a slip and stop teaching. It's easy for a benchwarmer like yourself to preach what somebody else should have done. Catch a clue.
Submitted by te publico (not verified) on March 26, 2014 8:10 pm
You can definitely see your skills in the article you write. The world hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time go after your heart.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 8:51 pm
Is this really the appropriate time to brag about your photo for God's sakes?
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 9:16 pm
Huh? I beg your pardon. But I have been devastated over the death of this child and have expressed it in so many ways to the others. I am an advocate for education and the last thing I need is your criticisms, anonymous. It was a moment in time that really captured the essence of how we felt about her. From the look on our faces you can see that we were having a solemn reflective moment. So don't be quick to judge and take God's name in vain.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 9:27 pm
you made it about you
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:56 pm
No. You did not see me crying in the SRC meeting over this. Get over it!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:29 pm
I repeat - it is not about you and how much you are crying.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:10 pm
You know what? It is not about you and your perceptions of people. Why don't you put your name down so I can address you properly, anonymous? This will be the end of this discussion because this discussion is not appropriate for this discussion portion.
Submitted by A Teacher (not verified) on October 18, 2013 10:34 pm
I don't think you are being fair by your comments. She was not making it about her by pointing out herself in the picture. This was only right to do since she was talking about being there. This made it more real to me then just someone commenting about a sad moment. I like to hear "real voices" not people who heard about it thorough someone else.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 11:28 pm
Agreed!!! Very well said!!!Thank You!!!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 18, 2013 11:04 pm
I don't think it is fair when people use the tragedies of others to bring attention to themselves. End of story.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 18, 2013 11:43 pm
It is not a strategy, to call attention to myself, as you put it. You are really taking away from the solemn discussion of this blog by debating this with me. That is it now. Enough is enough!!! End of discussion!!!
Submitted by A Teacher (not verified) on October 19, 2013 12:26 am
Ok...I don't know Maureen so I am reading it just like you. I believe you are purposely trying to bring attention to your comments and divert it away from the young lady that passed. The purpose of her comment was to give voice to the vigil. Again....Why wouldn't she mention herself being there or her own personal reactions or feelings?? This is why reporters go to the scene to get the reactions of the people. It gives you different views and aspects of the same story. No one feels that way but you. Her sincerity is obvious. Have a great evening....that is the end of that!
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 19, 2013 12:53 am
Well put!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 2:22 pm
We are bringing attention to the situation that created this tradgedy. Are you really that dense? It will happen again unless it is addressed. You learn from past mistakes, but you're too busy trying to deflect the real reason for this problem. Go tell your boss Corbett you have failed and find a new line of work.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on October 19, 2013 12:41 pm
I'd like to know why tom-104's comment has the "flag as offensive" tag on the bottom. I'm not assuming any bad intent on the Notebook's part because my experience here has not led me in that direction, but I am curious. Do reader requests initiate the tag? Why does it not appear on every post?
Submitted by tom-104 on October 19, 2013 12:01 pm
The flagging of offensive comments option comes up when you are a registered user. The Notebook reviews comments that are flagged and makes a judgement if the comment is appropriate for the Notebook. I have never had a comment I made removed.
Submitted by Darnelx (not verified) on October 19, 2013 12:29 pm
Dear School Nurses, Thank you for your service, but please stop using this unfortunate event to validate yourselves. It ain't easy being a nurse, and you provide a valued service, but don't go and get all Florence Nightingaleish on us. You are using this to get your jobs back. You for the most part dispense medications that noon time aides dispense in most schools when you are absent. You give ice packs for various ailments that aids and cafeteria workers do in your absence. You apply bandages to foreheads of children who complain of headaches because you are not permitted to even dispense an aspirin. Yet you all consider yourselves indispensable. Are you really? This is why you have been classifies as non essential because you are. You all just jumped on this issue to justify your existence. Sorry to be a truth teller, but that is the way it is.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on October 19, 2013 12:42 pm
Hello, Darnel. I think most noontime aides and cafeteria workers would admit that while they are capable of handing out bandaids and TLC, and may do so quite regularly, they cannot be responsible for evaluating serious medical conditions. I have a nephew with Type 1 diabetes, and I've had some training at Children's Hospital. I've also gone to yearly conferences on the subject. I probably know more than the average school employee about diabetes. That said, I don't know nearly enough to evaluate a kid with diabetes other than superficial checks combined with a call to home and to 911 when push comes to shove. Asthma is a subtle and devious disease. While in its grip, its sufferers frequently do not know the degree to which they have been compromised. No one but professionally trained medical personnel should bear the awful responsibility of making life and death decisions when faced with a child who is struggling with his or her asthma, as caring as these aides may be. You can leave your sick child in my hands if that child has a cold, or a sore throat, but please don't make me decide what to do when it is something truly serious. Laporshia had a clue about what was wrong, and that didn't get her the help she needed. How about all the kids who don't have a clue? Please think a bit more about your comments. You are so very wrong, and for reasons far more important than your insults to our nurses.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 19, 2013 10:00 pm
Agreed! Nurses are a very necessary person to have in our schools. They have been around throughout my days in school and they are necessary to help diagnose problems, because they are medically trained. Aides, teachers and principals do not have medical training and cannot accurately diagnose someone who may be in trouble. Eileen Duffey was the best nurse that my kids or any kids could have and I respect her and the other nurses. I know that they are genuine and take their work seriously. I am glad that Eileen put this vigil together so that we could mourn and console each other during this difficult time, in which we were devastated, by the death of Laporshia.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 12:06 pm
No truth here! Read this article to see why schools started having nurses. Do you really want to return to a society like this? The Doctor Who Made a Revolution "Baker’s public health innovations were numerous. In addition to the home-visiting programs and community baby clinics, she established the position of the school nurse, developed special capsules for delivering silver nitrate to the eyes of newborns to prevent blindness due to congenital gonorrhea, invented a window board for improving ventilation in houses, and created a more efficient method of medical record keeping." http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/sep/26/doctor-who-made-rev...
Submitted by Education Grad ... on October 19, 2013 1:12 pm
Darnelx, You are completely wrong. I spent over 100 at one of Mastery Charter's schools and this school had a FULL-TIME NURSE!!! Nurses are essential to every school. Do you know how many students need medication? The RTEA in Radnor has written into their contract that teachers will not have to administer medication. Teachers at some schools in the District are administering medication because there is no nurse, and now no counselors. Counselors typically administer meds if there is no full-time nurse. Principals should be administering medications instead of teachers or secretaries, but if the principal isn't in the office or doesn't administer meds or refuses to do so, then someone has to do it. At the school where I used to work, the principal simply refused to administer meds so it fell on others when the counselor or nurse wasn't there to administer meds. At my current school, the principal will administer meds, but the nurse should be doing that. Educator of Great Students
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 21, 2013 10:11 am
Darnels You are joking, right. You just to have your name in print, right. Laporshia would be alive today if a school nurse had been on duty. If she had been your child, wouldn't you have wanted a nurse to have seen her on that fateful day?
Submitted by don't bother (not verified) on October 19, 2013 2:57 pm
Don't you love people who refer to themselves as "truth-tellers"? Only they know the real truth. What would nurses and teachers know about why nurses are essential? Or parents of students with asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions?
Submitted by A Teacher (not verified) on October 19, 2013 2:06 pm
I don't know if you are a teacher or the amount of years you have been in the district. But I have been at a large comprehensive school where so many more serious injuries have occurred and the nurse had to act immediately. You are not sitting in the office all day to see some of the more serious cases that come through. You may have sent a child to the nurse for that reason, but those are a few out of the many. There are confidential matters that you are not privy too and issues that occur while you are teaching. I didn't realize the magnitude of some of the issues until I became a coordinator. I began to see some mind blowing issues like cutting, diabetes, molestation, cancer, anemia and many more. You have no idea about the monitoring and reporting that they have to do.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 3:41 pm
Disgusting and deeply disturbing. Using a child's tragic death to further their own selfish agenda. Despicable.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 7:38 pm
Libertarians who believe everyone is selfish, it's a dog eat dog world, and survival of the fittest cannot understand simple human compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings!
Submitted by ParentCitizen (not verified) on October 19, 2013 4:33 pm
I do agree that this is tragedy is being used to justify certain jobs being retained. Maybe its true and nurses are essential. I would not want my child in a school with no nurse. However, the larger issue is always ignored. I am no fan of Tom Corbett but his administration was trying to start the conversation about gold-plated benefits for teachers. Many teachers will, in private, acknowledge they have better health insurance that almost any other profession and in philly it is FREE to them. Every company and many school districts make their employees contribute to their health insurance premiums. Why not teachers? If they did that, he distract could afford more nurses, councilors, etc. No PFT rep or teacher in public will ever answer this question. Like I said, in private, some do and are reasonable in realizing this is, right or wrong the way of the world now.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 19, 2013 5:50 pm
This country needs a national single payer health plan like they have in Canada and many parts of the world and all over of these divide and conquer arguments would be over.
Submitted by sdop_educator on October 19, 2013 6:15 pm
Actually, the PFT has acknowledged that paying into healthcare is an inevitable necessity. If that were all they were being asked to do, then this contract issue would have been resolved long ago. Please research a few articles and you will find statements that PFT did in fact offer to make healthcare concessions. That is not sufficient because the District is really after the 5% to 13% pay cuts. That means anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 per year. No one would take that lying down. Those types of cuts would hurt the families of each employee who had to make such a drastic sacrifice. What it amounts to is funding the school district on the backs of its employees.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 20, 2013 2:38 pm
Why not just do what Detroit is doing for its public sector workers? Give each PFT member a $125 per month stipend and let them buy the insurance that fits their needs from the Obamacare health insurance exchange.
Submitted by N. Hatfield (not verified) on October 21, 2013 1:23 pm
Teachers do not get FREE healthcare. In the past the PFT has given up salary increases in exchange for healthcare benefits. Once a salary increase is lost it is never made up. So, teachers do pay and will continue to pay for healthcare.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on October 20, 2013 6:01 pm
I am now at a school where I literally am next door to the school nurse. Between the kids who just want an out the nurse at my school does the following: 1. calls home for the sick children relieving the teacher of this job 2. provides the medications for several illnesses which according to HIPPA the teacher does not have instanct access to and it not REQUIRED to know 3. provides clean pants for the kindergardenres and 1st graders who have accidents because they did not makeit to the restroom 4. gets every kid with a pair of crutches on the elevator once again relieving a teacher of this job 5. has the eye mobile, dentistry team, and hearing specialists ready every year for the kids who qualify and parents who bother to use the services 6. provides the needed items and where needed counseling for those young ladies who are not prepared for their monthly periods 7. works to keep updated phone and addresses for all of those kids we somehow seem to miss 8. and my personal favorite, deals with our regular and sp needs kids who need to have colostomy [unsure if spelled correctly] feeding tubes and whatever else medical that we teachers are not given time to deal with..... So no, bandaids and tissue are not the only things that the nurses issue...they very well are the first line of medical response at the school. But then, those nay sayers either are blessed with health care, healthy kids, or just have no idea what the average unemployed kid in the urban setting goes through to live day to day. Linda K.
Submitted by Maureen Fratantoni (not verified) on October 20, 2013 7:07 pm
Agreed Linda!!! No one knows until they actually go into the school and see for themselves.

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