Girl, 9, denied inhaler during coughing fit, per school district policy

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WEST JORDAN, Utah — A 9-year-old girl was denied her inhaler during a coughing fit at school in West Jordan because staff were not notified of the child's prescription, Jordan School District officials said Monday.

Emma Gonzales obtained an inhaler over the weekend after a coughing fit landed her in the emergency room, KSTU reports.

On Monday, the fourth grader was hit with another coughing spell in class at Columbia Elementary. When Emma took her inhaler out to use it, her teacher sent her to the office, where staff took the inhaler.

Emma said she started coughing so hard she threw up on her pants.

"When I get into the coughing fit, I kind of hurtle up on the ground, can't breathe and then I start to kind of feel a little nauseous," Emma said.

District officials say the staff did everything right by taking the medication to make sure it was for that specific student.

The inhaler doesn't have Emma's name on it and the school had not been notified that she was taking the medication.

"There could be all sorts of problems if children were just allowed to take any medication and we didn't have that verification. Again, this is for the student's safety," said district spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf.

District policy is that parents must fill out paperwork regarding what their child is taking for medication so school administrators know about it. If proper paperwork is filled out, district policy allows children to administer medications to themselves.

Her parents say they understand the policy and will fill out the proper paperwork to make sure Emma can get her inhaler in the future. But her mother, Britney Badger said at the point her daughter started throwing up, she thinks the school needed to do more.

"When a child is puking all over themselves and they can't breathe, you know you kind of have to take action right then and there," Badger said.

Emma never got her inhaler at school, but her coughing fit did end.

District officials say Emma was monitored the entire time and if they felt she was in serious danger, they would have called 911.

Emma's father was contacted during the coughing fit. After Monday's incident, he plans to keep his daughter out of school for the time being.

17 comments

  • CYNIC

    Geez, it’s not like she pulled out a ziploc full of vicodin and complained about an old sports injury so she could take some. Was she throwing up purposely so she could take a hit from the inhaler? Use common sense people. If this girl had a more serious condition and went into shock or worse they’d get sued to oblivion because of a narrow minded zero-tolerance-of-anything policy.

  • Nothanks

    What if the child died from the coughing fit? Whats the policy on that? Is there a guideline on how much the district should be sued for wrongful death?

    • nancy

      What if the child died using a medication that was not hers? WHY did the parents NOT NOTIFY THE SCHOOL that she needed an inhaler? Sounds pretty simple to me.

      • Marlene Jones

        No one will die from using an inhaler. I have inquired about this from my dr and respiratory therapists since I am asthmatic. There’s nothing in the meds to make anyone sick.

  • khayes730

    The school still should have let her use her inhaler. To let her sit there and continue suffering on coughing and even throwing up on her pants. That should be a SIGN that you need to let her use the inhaler. Why are schools not caring about the kids and there safety. Oh wait that’s right today’s teachers only care for the MONEY because they make LOW salary. The kid comes first.

    • Paula

      You’re right, it’s all about the money. Like when a teacher loses their job because they allowed a medication without proper authority. Rules are rules. At the school I work in, we can not allow vaseline for chapped lips or neosporin for cuts. Teens can not have tylenol for any reason. This child has been in the education system for several years. The parents should have known the proper procedures and I bet the prescribing physician would have given the parents a script for the school before leaving.

  • Sharon Gibson (@SharonGibson3)

    The ball was dropped due to parental oversight and common sense by the school. At the very least, the parents should have notified the school in writing and via phone concerning their daughter’s weekend emergency and the inhaler that was prescribed to her. Given that the girl is 9 years old, it’s certain that she explained her situation and the school should have let her have her inhaler. Poor girl had to suffer physical distress and embarrassment due to adults failing to communicate with one another.

    • Christine Kennedy

      Please – children should be safe at school and staff should use common sense. If they are annoyed with the parents that should not be visited on the child. The safety argument sounds like rigid logic of small minds. As does your post.

  • Cheryl

    Sheesh they could have just called the mom or dad to confirm that, in fact, she DOES need the inhaler. “Following the rules” does kill people sometimes. Nazi-Germany is a perfect example……….

  • Vilma

    An asthma attack can be fatal and should be taken seriously!! They should have contacted the parents immediately and if they could not be located, the school could have called 911. They took a big risk with this poor child. Thank God, she’s ok.

  • Idiots

    Sounds to me the parents took the big risk with the child by not filling out the paperwork.

    All the rules are covered in the handbook.

  • Sidnee

    School districts can be sued if someone had medication that the school district wasn’t sure it belonged to them and maybe another student could gain access to it and use it. That’s why they need the box it comes in with the child’s name on it showing the prescription, correct paperwork filled out etc. They have to be stored in the office. These policies, which I believe are part of Ed. Code which is school law, were put in place to keep from getting sued. Schools can’t clean rocks out of a scuffed knee because that is considered “surgery”. It seems ridiculous yes, but because someone in the past sued for one reason or another, these rules are in place. Trust me, many school personnel think they are stupid, but if we break one of these rules, we can be disciplined or fired. Epi Pens are now a different issue (at least in California where I work) and properly trained personnel can use any EpiPen in case a child or adult goes into anaphylaxic shock. However, a few years back I had a parent give me an EpiPen for her daughter because she had severe allergies. I had never been given an EpiPen so I took it to the office after the parent left to ask what to do with ti and got chewed out for accepting it. All the rules that are burdened on schools are because of the chance that they can be sued and in our sue happy country, that is the reason why. And school districts can lose millions from a lawsuit for not following Ed. Code.

  • agrippamom

    Okay, she was having an asthma attack. That’s a serious health condition, and as someone who ended up in the emergency room from the first serious one I had, and was lucky that a doctor was on the spot right after it occurred or things would have been MUCH worse, I can tell you that the school is darn lucky that the child’s family isn’t suing them for wrongful death. What the devil were they thinking? It’s an INHALER, not painkillers! Some medications need to be treated differently than others……

  • Vicki Mitchell

    The article said if they felt if she was in serious danger they would have called 911. How could they POSSIBLY know if she was in serious danger or not? It sounds to me like she WAS in serious danger, and they did nothing. If they don’t have her on a heart monitor and a pulse oximeter, I fail to see how they would know. The office staff and teachers are allowed to make medical decisions now?

    • Flo Night

      No, schools are not allowed to make medical decisions, that is why the parents should have filled out the correct paperwork so the school would have known what to do.

  • Flo Night

    Bad parenting and bad reporting. Headline should have read “Idiotic Parents Don’t Tell School Child Has Life-threatining Medical Condition.” Maybe the school should have let her use it, but if she would have died, it would have been her parent’s fault. Stop expecting schools to raise our children.

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