America’s Schools: Save A Life, Get Suspended
Jan. 22, 2016 (Mimesis Law) — Zero-tolerance drug policies in schools make sense, until they don’t. Kids and crack cocaine are a bad thing. Kids and life-saving asthma inhalers are a good thing. Not knowing the difference between bad and good drugs makes for some stupid results. Not knowing it when a kid may die makes for even worse results. So naturally, a Texas middle school recently showed just how absurd those results can get.
There was a valuable lesson to be taught here, about empathy and charity. And the school screwed that up too. H0w? Easy, when you realize there is no longer room for any rational thought in America’s public schools whenever the word “drug” is involved.
Indiyah Rush is a 12-year-old honor roll student in the 7th grade at Schrade Middle School in Garland, Texas. After saving a classmate in distress, she faced suspension, placement at an alternative school, and a permanent mark on her record for a “controlled substance offense.” That should be no problem, as long as the honor roll student doesn’t want to go to college or do anything else that might rely on her permanent disciplinary record.
Rush was in gym class last week when she saw a fellow student, Alexis Kyle, wheezing and gasping. Rush knew Kyle had asthma, because Rush also suffers from the disease. Aware of the danger of an untreated asthma attack, Rush thought quickly and offered Kyle her inhaler. Kyle, who has spent time in the hospital for past asthma attacks, was grateful for Rush’s quick thinking.
Schrade Middle School, on the other hand, was anything but grateful. Punishment was swift and harsh. Citing a policy against “sharing controlled substances,” which apparently includes the dreaded asthma inhaler, the school suspended both girls for several days and referred them for a 30-day placement in an alternative school.
The district says 30 days at alternative school is an initial automatic punishment for sharing a controlled substance including prescription drugs like inhalers – until there’s a hearing to weigh all the facts. The final punishment could change and range from no days to the maximum of 30 days.
Great. Automatic punishment. Just what the schools should be teaching kids. There is an automatic initial punishment that can be changed once you have your hearing. Which is probably well after your automatic punishment ends.
What is the explanation for this? The school district’s spokesman tried to clarify:
“It’s a prescription and one students’ severity with asthma may not mirror that of the girl who let the other borrow hers and that could have resulted in some pretty significant issues,” said Chris Moore, Garland ISD spokesman.
What significant issues? A couple of doctors weighed in on the case, stating that while kids don’t need to willy-nilly pass medicine around amongst themselves, attempting to save another kid’s life might be an exception:
In general, asthma inhalers should not be shared, says Bradley E. Chipps, MD, a pediatric lung specialist and allergist in Sacramento, California. Chipps is vice president of the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology. However, he says, ”good sense sometimes trumps a rule. Sometimes you do what you have to do.”
Antonio Rodriguez, MD, director of the division of pulmonology at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital in Miami, says, “The short answer is, ‘It’s not a good idea.’” However, he adds, “In a life-threatening event, there might be an exception.”
Right. If someone could be dying right in front of you, it might be better to go ahead, take a risk and let them borrow your life-saving inhaler, because it can’t be any worse than death. Got it.
But the school didn’t get it. While the girls’ punishment was later reduced, the suspensions will remain on their records and will reflect they were related to controlled substances.
So one girl, gasping and wheezing for breath, and another girl, acting quickly to save her, get rewarded with suspensions that look like they came from some middle school drug ring.
This is unfortunate. Kids go to school to learn more than how to add numbers and write their names. The value of schooling, and especially public schooling, is the opportunity to spend time away from the safety and predictability of home. It’s a time to learn about the real world. True lessons are taught in between classes and outside of the curriculum, as kids get their first chance to be real people.
Public school officials have immense power to ruin that educational experience when they adhere to a policy without the slightest bit of flexibility. It makes sense to prohibit kids from sharing prescription drugs. But what makes sense about not understanding there are exceptions to that? How does a school justify punishing someone for trying to save a life?
Indiyah Rush seems to be learning well, despite her school. Is it a good idea to share prescription medicine with every kid in the class? Of course not. But that isn’t what Rush did. She saw a fellow human in crisis. She thought, and acted, quickly.
The school blew the lesson here. But Indiyah Rush learned something:
Despite everything that has happened, Indiyah Rush said she would help someone else in need.
“I probably would do the same thing, because I wouldn’t just stand there and let someone die,” Rush said.
Good for her. She learned about standing strong. Like Dr. Chipps said, sometimes you do what you have to do.