Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Did Philly school crisis claim a girl's life?

A 12-year-old girl gets sick and dies in a Philly school that lost its nurse.

[Daniel Burch, the father of Laporshia Massey] told City Paper that he received a call, from someone he assumed was the nurse, informing him that his 12-year-old daughter was sick. Burch, recovering from his own asthma troubles the night before, was sleepy — but believes it was near the end of the school day. His fianceé, Sherri Mitchell, was walking her younger children home from school when she too received a call from Bryant. Mitchell, who volunteers at the school, said Laporshia told her, "I can't breathe. I can't breathe." 

But neither Burch nor Mitchell realized how serious the situation was. Burch, who told his daughter they would take care of her symptoms when she got home, believes that a trained professional would have seen the danger. "Why," he asks, "didn't [the school] take her to the hospital?" 

Seeing his daughter's state when she arrived home at about 3:15 p.m., Burch says, he immediately gave her medication and then rushed her to the hospital. She collapsed in the car, at which point Burch flagged down a passing ambulance in the middle of traffic. Burch says his daughter later died at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which could not confirm any details, including the time of her arrival, due to privacy constraints.

We'll never know if Laporshia could have been saved if the nurse -- who's only at Bryant Elementary School two days a week -- had been on duty that day. All we know is that this kind of scenario is exactly what Philadelphians feared when schools were opening without sufficient money to operate them. Remember, the closing of 23 schools has also meant long walks for kids through unfamiliar and potentially unsafe neighborhoods. The current situation is unconscionable. Parents should not be sending their kids to these schools until the alleged grown-ups -- Superintedent Hite, the School Reform Commission, Gov. Corbett and Mayor Nutter -- can promise the children will be safe.

NOTE: Corrected to reflect that Bryant Elementary has not had a full-time nurse since December 2011 and an earlier round of budget cuts. That doesn't make the staffing situation any bettter.