Zero Tolerance: Another Texas Student Suspended for Helping Asthmatic Classmate

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Instead of praise, a Central Texas school district suspended a 15-year-old boy when he rushed a classmate, who was in the throes of an asthma attack, to the school nurse’s office in yet another incident of zero tolerance policies overriding common sense. This follows last week’s double suspensions for two North Texas students, which also involved an asthma attack.

The Killeen Independent School District suspended eighth grade student Anthony Ruelas on Jan. 19, for breaking the rules when he left the class to help the asthmatic student. Ruelas attends Gateway Middle School, a behavioral alternative school where he is on a disciplinary alternative education program (DAEP).

“I did something good, I still get bad consequences,” Ruelas told KCEN-TV (NBC). He said he feared the girl, described as choking and wheezing for air in class, might die. He acknowledged he did not follow directions: “I broke rules,” adding: “…but she needed help.”

The Killeen NBC affiliate said the teacher followed school protocol by emailing the nurse about the distressed student and then, awaited a response. Ruelas said the teacher told the class to remain calm and stay seated while she waited. Apparently, no word from the nurse came and after several minutes, the girl collapsed. KWTX-TV (CBS) reported the nurse’s office was in a separate portable building on the campus.

The school’s incident report corroborated Ruelas’ account. The teacher wrote: “During 5th period another student complained that she couldn’t breathe and was having an asthma attack. As I waited for a response from the nurse the student fell out of her chair to the floor. Anthony proceeded to go over and pick her up, saying ‘f—k that we ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse.’ He walks out of class and carries the other student to the nurse.”

Frustrated her son was punished for what seemed to her the right thing to do, Ruelas’ mother, Mandy Cortes, commented: “Especially with it being an alternative school I feel like the kids hear enough of ‘they’re bad’…..” She noted that Ruelas had been suspended before and “may not follow instructions all the time,” and should not have used foul language, but he had a good heart. Cortes told KCEN-TV: “but getting suspended for walking out of class, he could have saved her life,” adding, “He is a hero to me.”

Ruelas got a text message from the girl he helped. She thanked him and let him know she was “okay,” according to the Killeen NBC affiliate. Ironically, Cortes received a phone call from Gateway Middle School asking why her son was absent on Wednesday. She had to remind them they suspended him.

Breitbart Texas contacted Killeen ISD but they did not respond to our inquiries before press time. Previously, district superintendent John Craft released a statement in response to the incident, saying they were “unable to provide details related to the matter as it pertains to information involving student discipline and/or health records” nor could they provide details of the investigation and/or disciplinary actions because of the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) intended to protect confidentiality of student records.

Parents and/or guardians must give written permission for a school district to disclose information. In this case, like in other public school zero tolerance instances covered by Breitbart Texas, frustrated families take their stories straight to the local news media.

In the statement, Craft wrote: “The Killeen ISD maintains the safety of our students, staff and campuses as a priority and applauds the efforts of students who act in good faith to assist others in times of need.”

Yet, the punishment for a student already in DAEP sends a very different message than applause. Despite the suspension, Ruelas said he would help again, if the need arose, something a North Texas seventh grade student said last week when she found herself in a similar predicament for helping an asthmatic student.

Breitbart Texas reported that two Garland ISD middle school girls each received three days of out-of-school suspension (OSS) with the threat of 30 days in a DAEP facility after one asthmatic girl offered her inhaler to a classmate having an asthma attack. They learned their actions did not just break school rules, they violated the state’s 1995 Safe Schools Act written into Chapter 37 of the Texas Education Code.

The girls’ families filed appeals and stopped the DAEP placements, which automatically get triggered by a system which lumps asthma inhalers under the heading of “possession of a controlled substance,” a category that also includes Xanax and marijuana. The girls returned to school this week. KDFW 4 reported Garland ISD stood by its zero tolerance policy to group inhalers in with these other substances that could result in up to 30 days in DAEP, pending an appeals process.

Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.


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