New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Personal Injury


October 15th, 2007

How To Kill A Student: A Lesson From A Queens High School

This is how bureaucracy can kill a person.

At a high school in Queens, New York a memo went out to staff that in the event of an emergency, 911 should not be called. Because calling 911 in an emergency was apparently too easy. It wouldn’t allow the Powers That Be to be in the middle of the emergency. So instead, according to this Daily News story, the staffer should do these four things:

  1. Emergencies must be reported to the school’s nurse, an assistant principal and the principal.
  2. The child’s parents must be notified. If the parents can’t be reached, the nurse can decide whether to call an ambulance.
  3. If no one is in the nurse’s office, educators should report the matter to the nearest assistant principal and the principal.
  4. And if they aren’t available, the deans’ office should be charged with obtaining the medical care.

Of course, if it’s an emergency, by this point there’s a good chance it’s too late. I can’t even begin to fathom what kind of bureaucrat would create such a dumb memo, but clearly they need to be canned for the safety of, well, everyone else. Even more incredibly, this policy was implemented October 1st at a Jamaica high school that had seen a 14 year old have a stroke earlier this year in April, and wait an hour before treatment.

This policy was reminiscent of an incident a few years ago while I was in Atlantic City. A patron collapsed on the casino floor. One of my brothers, who is a physician, knelt down to help. After a quick evaluation he looked up to the security guard standing nearby and told him to call an ambulance. So what did the guard do? He said, “Let me call my supervisor.”

At that point my brother, with Warner Brothers cartoon character logo firmly emblazoned on his ball cap,looked at the guard and barked, “No. You will call 911 NOW. You can tell your supervisor later.” It didn’t take the guard long to understand the folly of the administrative procedures from the guy with the funny hat.

Sometimes negligence is a single event, like a red light that is run while a driver is in a hurry. And sometimes the negligence is institutionalized.

(Eric Turkewitz is a personal injury attorney in New York)

One thought on “How To Kill A Student: A Lesson From A Queens High School

  1. Pingback: Are NYC Transit Bus Drivers Prevented From Calling Police? – New York Personal Injury Law Blog