When you send your children to school, you expect that they will be properly taken care of while they are there. You expect that the teachers and administrators have all been trained on what to do in an emergency situation and would take the appropriate course of action should such a situation arise. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Mistakes made in one Illinois school district resulted in the death of a teenage boy who was having an asthma attack.
In February 2008, on the day before Valentine's Day, Jeffery Stewart sat down in his English class at Oswego Community High School at one o'clock in the afternoon. The 18-year old was heard "wheezing and breathing heavily" by a student sitting behind him in class. A short while later, Jeffery "collapsed onto the floor." His teacher, Stacy Harper, went to help Jeffery "who was shaking violently, and turned him on his side to prevent him from choking." While the teacher "sent two students to get the school nurse" he did not immediately call 911. The nurse stated that when she arrived on the scene Jeffery "wasn't breathing and didn't have a pulse." The nurse, Sandra Banbury, started CPR and "told Harper to call 911." Harper, however, did not call 911 himself, instead he "called the nurse's office and asked someone there to call the paramedics." He later contended that he was told by Banbury to have the nurse's office call 911. He also stated that he didn't call 911 right away because he didn't know what was wrong with Jeffery and thought the nurse would be better at assessing the problem. When the paramedics arrived, they took Jeffery to the hospital. Sadly, Jeffery didn't make it. The cause of death was listed as bronchial asthma. Jeffery had suffered from asthma since he was 15-years old.
Jeffery's mother, Mary Stewart, filed a lawsuit against the school district and Harper. Court documents stated that Stewart alleged that "the district and teacher failed to get quick and appropriate medical care for [Jeffery] after he suffered an asthma attack, resulting in his death." The suit stated, among other things, that "that Harper, as an agent of defendant . . . acted willfully and wantonly in responding to [Jeffery]'s collapse" and that that other's who worked for the district "acted willfully and wantonly, particularly with regard to training Harper." The Harper, as well as the school district, denied the allegations.
Though Harper was eventually dropped as a defendant, the case against the school district proceeded to trial. The trial lasted for four days and ended with the jury finding in favor Stewart. They awarded her $2.5 million in damages. The district appealed the case to the Second District Appellate Court of Illinois. The appellate court recently affirmed the jury verdict. It is unclear if the school district will appeal the case further.