Philadelphia School Cuts May Have Contributed to Death of Laporshia Massey

Laporshia Massey

Sixth-grader Laporshia Massey died from asthma complications, according to her father, who says he rushed her to the emergency room soon after she got home from school on the afternoon of Sept. 25. He says Laporshia had begun to feel ill earlier that day at Bryant Elementary School, where a nurse is on staff only two days a week. This day was not one of those days. Daniel Burch, Laporshia’s father, is angry and wants to know whether Philadelphia’s resource-starved school district failed to save his daughter’s life. “If she had problems throughout the day, why … didn’t [the school] call me sooner?” asks Burch.

He told City Paper that he received a call, from someone he assumed was the nurse, informing him that his 12-year-old daughter was sick. Burch, recovering from his own asthma troubles the night before, was sleepy — but believes it was near the end of the school day. His fianceé, Sherri Mitchell, was walking her younger children home from school when she too received a call from Bryant. Mitchell, who volunteers at the school, said Laporshia told her, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.” But neither Burch nor Mitchell realized how serious the situation was.

Burch, who told his daughter they would take care of her symptoms when she got home, believes that a trained professional would have seen the danger. “Why,” he asks, “didn’t [the school] take her to the hospital?”

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