, Port Arthur, Texas

April 7, 2013

Editorial: Better to call 9-1-1 than to make injury worse

The Port Arthur News

— When a young teen girl is lying on the ground, perhaps unconscious but with obvious bleeding and facial swelling after being injured in an altercation involving several high school boys,  the first inclination by most of us would be to call 9-1-1 to have an ambulance respond to the crisis. It could, after all, be a matter of life and death and minutes matter in a severe injury situation.

But when that situation happened at Memorial High School when the 18-year-old daughter of Juan and Guadalupe Canales and her brother, 16, were waiting to board the bus after school, no call to 9-1-1 was made.

The Canales parents told of how their son was assaulted by three or four male classmates. Big sister tried to help, but the assailants turned on her too. She was knocked unconscious. This is where we think school personnel should have been on the scene and calls made to the ambulance within minutes. But the way the Canales family tells the story, the first calls were not made to 9-1-1 but to the Canales’ phone 45 minutes later to inform the parents of the injury.

When Caleb Avila of a local Spanish language newspaper pointedly asked Superintendent Johnny Brown about the district employees’ actions at a press conference district administrators held Friday, Brown sugar coated the response by saying district employees are not medically trained to make decisions about calling an ambulance and the injured teens were taken to the school nurse and the “appropriate” calls were made.

The staff at the high school is probably one of the best educated, smartest groups of people in Port Arthur. We think faculty and staff are well able to make good judgments about dialing 9-1-1 during an emergency. We’re concerned that a district overly worried about image has given faculty and staff the impression that calls to authorities must come from administration. If so, that could be a recipe for disaster even worse than happened to young Miss Canales, who was knocked unconscious, had her cheek bone broken and was heavily bruised all over her body.

We urge the Port Arthur ISD board of trustees to clarify that it is the policy of the district whenever bodily harm is suspected that faculty, staff, students or whomever is on the scene should use their best judgment and call 9-1-1 if that seems the right thing to do. It may be a cliché, but it seems better to be safe than sorry.