15-year-old Texas student helps school nurse save asthmatic classmate’s life, then is suspended for doing so
February 29, 2016 — Last month, Houston NBC TV affiliate KCEN reported that a Killeen high school student had helped save a critically ill asthmatic student’s life by taking her to the school nurse, despite orders from his teacher that they instead wait for a response to her email to the nurse. The student’s reward? Being suspended. According to the reporting by Rissa Shaw, on January 19, asthmatic Gateway Middle School student Tishica Fisher began struggling for breath. Her teacher reportedly ordered 15-year-old Anthony Ruelas and his classmates to sit in their chairs as the teacher emailed the school nurse to ask for advice. Three minutes later, Fisher’s breathing was so compromised that she collapsed on the floor. Still, the teacher reportedly stood by her orders that the class wait. Ruelas then picked Fisher up and carried her to the nurse. Fisher survived. As a reward for Ruelas’s good judgment and courage, the school suspended him for two days. To send a message to school officials that we value brave citizens who help nurses save lives by advocating for patients, we have given Anthony Ruelas a Citizen Hero Award and urged school officials to reconsider their misguided approach to school health and policy. As for KCEN-TV, the reporting could have done far more to convey the role of the nurse in saving Fisher and in school health generally, but we thank the station for drawing attention to this story about nurses and health care in U.S. schools today. Reporter Rissa Shaw initially reported on the basics of story and a few days later followed up with a report from the perspective of Tishica Fisher and her grateful family. As the story circulated on social media for several days, Shaw reported on the global outpouring of support for Ruelas. These accolades included an invitation to intern with Congressman Henry Cuellar this summer and the Truth About Nursing’s Citizen Hero Award.
Although Ms. Shaw did a fairly thorough job of reporting on the story generally, we never heard from the RN at the school or what she did to help save Fisher. That would have shown readers that school nurses are critical parts of the school environment, that they are life-saving health professionals, not just people who hand out Band-Aids, which remains a sadly common misconception even among the media elite and is a factor in the deadly shortage of nursing in U.S. schools today. We would also be interested to know the nurse’s view of the actions of Anthony, his teacher, and the school. You can contact Ms. Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are disheartened that a school would suspend anyone for Ruelas’s life-saving actions, even if they did defy authority. For one thing, it makes the job of nurses harder when citizens are discouraged from giving nurses access to dying patients. So we have sent Anthony our framed Citizen Hero Award, which includes his photo side-by-side with our letter of thanks as well as one of our Be a Nurse flyers and a suggestion that he study hard in math and science, so he can be in a position to one day consider nursing school.
We also sent an additional framed copy of the award to Christopher Halpayne, the principal at Anthony’s school, urging him to hang it in the hallway of the school to encourage students to speak truth to those in authority. See our letter to the principal and the full-sized certificate.
If you would like to send your thoughts on the matter to the principal and other school officials, please click below on any one of the links to send a message to the top decision makers for the Killeen School District. And please send us a copy of your letter so we can hear your thoughts. Thank you!
John Craft, Superintendent, Killeen Independent School District John.Craft@killeenisd.org
Christopher Halpayne, Principal, Christopher.Halpayne@killeenisd.org
Gloria Van Excel, Gateway Assistant Principal, Gloria.VanExel@killeenisd.org
Amy Yearwood, Gateway Assistant Principal, Amy.Yearwood@killeenisd.org
John Dye, Director of School Safety, John.Dye@killeenisd.org
Shannon Rideout, Coordinator for Communications Services, Shannon.Rideout@killeenisd.org
Desmontes Stewart, Deputy Superintendent, Desmontes.Stewart@killeenisd.org