If your child saw a classmate collapse to the floor while having an asthma attack, what would you want them to do? Would you prefer they sit quietly in their seat and hope someone else will take care of it? Or would you hope that their empathy would be stirred and they would jump in to help any way they could?
If you chose the second option, you and Mandy Cortes have something in common — that’s exactly what her son, Anthony Ruelas, did when he saw a classmate pass out after wheezing and gasping for air. But you should know that there could be negative consequences to Good Samaritanism: Ruelas is now suspended for his good deed-unacceptable misdeed.
Man. It’s really starting to feel like Texas schools have it out for asthmatic kids.
Ruelas, who is 15 and attends an alternative school in Killeen, Texas, was unsettled by the inaction in the classroom when a female classmate was allowed to wheeze and gag for three minutes. When she finally collapsed, he’d decided enough was enough, and he took it upon himself to hoist the girl up and carry her to the nurse. By all accounts, it was a pretty heroic decision on the part of the young teen, and one that should have been lauded. Instead he’s been suspended. Why? Because he left class without permission. And also maybe because he said a swear word.
Here’s how Ruelas’ teacher described the student’s inexcusable refusal to not glue his cheeks to a classroom chair while a classmate started going toward the light:
“During 5th period another student complained that she couldn’t breathe and was having an asthma attack. As I waited for a response from the nurse the student fell out of her chair to the floor. Anthony proceeded to go over and pick her up, saying ‘f*** that we ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse.’ He walks out of class and carries the other student to the nurse.”
This sounds like straight up badassery, and this note reads less like a reprimand than an awesome story to tell. If ever there were an appropriate time to drop an F-bomb and leave class without a hall pass, this was definitely it.
His school disagreed, suspended him and then forgot about suspending him, which is why his mom had to remind it of the punitive action when it called her up to tut-tut her about her son’s absence. Cortes, by the way, is proud of her son, scandalous language notwithstanding, because despite the fact that he’s had behavioral problems in the past, she views this as a net win as opposed to an inexcusable act of defiance.
Because make no mistake, this is defiance. But it’s proof that not all defiance is bad and that all of us, as parents, should strive to teach our children when it’s OK to break the rules alongside our lessons about respecting authority. There is such a thing as compassion, common sense and conscientious defiance, which basically says, “This rule is stupid because someone could get hurt, so f*** that, we ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse.”
And yes, we do have to teach our children to follow stupid rules like asking permission to empty their bladders in school, or not playing tag because someone might get sued, or never ever sharing food even if you know for sure that your friend is not allergic to anything in your sandwich and is easily suckered into giving up Lunchables for something as simple as turkey on rye.
These rules at least pretend to have a reason behind their implementation, and not following them won’t get anyone killed. Plus, it’s great practice for the world of adulting, which is essentially just a series of decades propelled by a bunch of dumb rules that we all follow to stay employed and out of jail.
But “don’t get out of your seat even if your asthmatic classmate passes out from oxygen deprivation” is a dumb one and a dangerous one. Following rules like that is only great practice for being a soulless jerk who looks the other way when bad things are happening to people instead of helping.
Teaching emotional intelligence to children is never very easy. It’s one of those intangibles we hope our children will pick up on if we model it enough. But in the end, most of us would say that if we had to choose between empathy and obedience as traits in our children, we would always choose the former.