Report on Using ERs for Troubled Students Strikes a Nerve

Email a Friend
Lakisha Brooks with her son Russell, 14, who was sent to emergency rooms  a few times for disruptive behavior in school but is now thriving with support services

Reporter Beth Fertig was on The Brian Lehrer Show Tuesday to discuss her report on New York City public schools relying on emergency 911 calls to deal with disruptive students, a large number of whom are enrolled in special education programs. Judging from the comments, her story struck a nerve.

Several people suggested that fear of legal liability may play a role in an educator's decision to call for an ambulance rather than try to handle aggressive or violent behavior at school

"If anything should go wrong with these kids, the school staff will pay a high price, possibly getting sued or losing their license," said Maggie in an online comment. "In that environment it doesn't make a sense to take a chance even though calling 911 is often far from ideal."

S. Weidner of Brooklyn wrote to SchoolBook, saying what often happens is that by the time the troubled child gets to the E.R. they have calmed down and the doctors see a vastly different child than the teachers see.

"I've been bitten, scratched, stabbed with pencils, had chairs thrown at me, and had plenty of students threaten to kill themselves," S. Weidner wrote.

"Often times parents of these students are not involved in their child's life putting the teacher in an impossible situation. It infuriates me that teachers are expected to take physical abuse because these doctors don't know how to handle such children because they don't see them in their fit of rage. NYC teachers have one of the toughest jobs around. They are expected to teach to standards that many students are unable to grasp. They get physically hurt and are expected to just deal with it. There's not enough money for the proper support staffs to control some students in the school and as a community we should try to figure out a way to fix this. Until then, schools have no choice but to call 911, to keep themselves and other students safe."

A former special education teacher called in to the radio show, asking about the costs of calling 911  compared to funding trained specialists to be on the school staff. And a mother of a student with Down's Syndrome called to share her story which came down to this:"if they had somebody on staff it would have been a lot easier for everybody." 

You can hear the full segment above.