Did Budget Cuts Cause a 12-Year-Old to Die of Asthma?

Friday, September 05, 2014
Laporshia Massey (photo: Daniel Burch)

A West Philadelphia schoolgirl died following an asthma flare up at school, where no nurse was available to help the student due to budget cuts, a lawsuit contends.


Laporshia Massey, 12, was declared dead at a local hospital in September 2013. The cause was determined to be respiratory failure, which began while she was in class at Bryant Elementary School.


But school officials allegedly did little to help Massey, other than to instruct her to remain calm and drive her home after school was over for the day.


No health care professional was on duty that day at Bryant because the school’s only nurse had her days reduced to just two per week due to $1 billion in state budget cuts.  More than 100 nursing positions at Philadelphia schools were slashed during the summer of 2013 as a result of that cutback.


The girl “was kept at school, despite her having told defendants that she could not breathe,” the lawsuit states, according to Courthouse News Service. The complaint notes that school policy forbids students from possessing or using “prescribed medication at the school without the proper supervision of a nurse.”


In spite of her symptoms, the school “never contacted emergency medical services to assist with decedent's worsening medical condition,” according to her parents. When Massey returned home after school, she was rushed to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. On the way she suffered cardiac arrest and couldn’t be revived.


Her family has filed a wrongful-death suit against the school district, the school and its principal, as well as Massey’s teacher.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

School District Is Sued in Sixth Grader's Asthma Death (by Vernon Clark, Philadelphia Inquirer)

School Nurses Laid Off, and a Child Dies (by Andrew Thompson, Courthouse News Service)


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