Another Philadelphia student dies at a public school with no nurse

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MSNBC — A 7-year-old Philadelphia public school student died Wednesday after falling ill at a school where no nurse was on duty. Yet the absence of a trained healthcare practitioner was not unusual for a school district crumbling under budget cuts that have stripped vital resources from schools serving some of the city’s most vulnerable children.

The first grader reportedly collapsed in a classroom around 2 p.m. and was rushed to a hospital. By 4:30 p.m., the boy was pronounced dead.

“There is no net for the staff or the children,” Ann Smigiel, a part-time nurse at the school, told the Philadelphia CityPaper. “There’s no requirement to have any kind of medical team. It’s my job as the nurse to make sure there’s an emergency plan, and basically it is 911 … The equipment isn’t there, nothing is there for them.”

Smigiel, the nurse at Andrew Jackson Elementary School the boy attended, is only on duty Thursdays and every other Friday.

School district officials have not released detailed information on the cause of death or if the boy suffered from any prior health concerns. With few details available on the circumstances surrounding the boy’s death, it is unclear if a nurse on duty could have saved his life.

Wednesday’s death is a cruel reminder of just how tenuous the Philadelphia school system remains. The death marks the second time in about 8 months that a young student has died after becoming ill at a school with no full-time nurse on duty.

In September, 12-year-old Laporshia Massey fell ill at her Philadelphia elementary school and later died after suffering an asthma attack. A nurse was assigned to her school just twice a week. The day that she died was not one of those days.

The beleaguered Philadelphia School District has been collapsing under the weight of deep budget cuts and layoffs since the start of the school year. Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has cut nearly $1 billion from state education funding, and parents and opponents of the cuts have long argued that the economic starvation of the schools is creating an unsafe and dangerous school environment.

Laporshia’s death sparked outrage and led to ramped up pressure on Corbett to release funding he’d withheld from the city in lieu of teachers union concessions. Just weeks after the girl’s death, the governor released $45 million to the district, though he said the release of the money had nothing to do with her death.

Many of the other problems that school advocates had predicted have come to fruition following the cuts and after the district shuttered two dozen schools over the summer and laid off nearly 4,000 teachers and other support staff.

Some schools don’t have enough desks for students, forcing many to stand along the walls or sit in window sills during class. Without adequate school supplies, including paper, books and furniture, Mayor Michael Nutter resorted to a public plea on local television asking for donations.

Because of the cuts, the number of school nurses in Philadelphia has dropped from 289 to 179.

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