Mother Rightfully Gets Teacher Fired For Letting Her Kid Self Medicate

Nothing like this happened in this situation, that's for sure.

Nothing like this happened in this situation, that’s for sure.

For all of the uptight hand-wringing over how oversharing on the internet is ruining parenting, one mom’s story on Reddit proves just how helpful it can be to have a wider online community to help justify your decision-making as a parent.

jmurphy42 explains her situation in depth in a post on Reddit’s Parenting forum, but basically, her five-year-old daughter is asthmatic and had a cough, so she needed to use an inhaler and spacer at school. The writer and her husband sent their kid to school with her inhaler and clear instructions, but noticed that the inhaler was coming back with indicators showing that only a few of the required doses had been given. She and her husband talked to their daughter’s preschool teachers (one of whom has asthma herself) on a Monday morning and explained the dosage and how to give it to her.

Again, the inhaler came back with too many doses on the indicator. And again the next day, and again the next, after several additional explanations from parents to teachers. Finally, on Thursday, the writer and her husband discover that the assistant teacher had been letting their daughter administer the inhaler to herself, while the teacher was across the room. She writes:

“I immediately let her know that this was not OK. She’s never been taught to do it herself, her pulmonologist has said that he never teaches kids how to self-administer inhalers until they’re past kindergarten, and we’d already made it very clear on multiple occasions that the teachers needed to give her the inhaler. And with a week’s worth of misdosing, how could it possibly have not occurred to her that allowing the kid to self-administer was the issue?”

So, on Friday morning, jmurphy42 and her husband told the principal about their repeated instructions and what had transpired:

“We obviously had to… it’s not safe for our kid (or anyone else’s) to be administering her own medication. They took it very seriously, acted quickly, and the teacher who admitted to doing it is gone. The lead teacher is still in the room, and although both our daughter and the other teacher said she was also having my daughter self-dose, she’s denying it and the principal believes her.”

The situation is mostly resolved, except for how guilty the mother feels about essentially having the assistant teacher fired. Most Redditors, of course, supported her decision and helped to alleviate her guilty feelings by sharing their own personal stories. See, the internet is good!!

I definitely understand the mom’s guilt, but she did the right thing in talking to the principal, both for her daughter’s safety and for that of any other children in the class. The teacher was instructed politely and repeatedly by the parents and she simply not did follow through on clear instructions as to how to take care of this child’s health. This is a serious situation and yes, she should have been fired. It’s nothing as bad as the terrible teacher who made a little boy clean a urinal with his bare hands, but no matter how good this teacher she is or how sorry she felt, her actions are clear grounds for dismissal, in my opinion.

It seems to me that a school nurse is a better choice to help a child administer meds, but maybe this school doesn’t have it in their budget for a nurse. Yes, that creates additional responsibility on the teachers and I’m sure that’s stressful for them, when also trying to teach and supervise a room full of five-year-olds. But, when you’ve been given a job to do, and have then been specifically instructed on how to do that job (several days in a row!) by concerned parents, you have to figure out how to do it. Period. Especially when a child’s health is at stake.

Photo: Shutterstock

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  • Aimee Ogden

    What’s the state/school/district policy on medications, though? When I was a teacher I was ABSOLUTELY not allowed to give medication to students because of liability reasons, not an Epi-Pen if they were having an allergic reaction and not a Midol if they had their period. Obviously the teacher should have gone to the administration with this issue, but I can’t tell from the mother’s story (she says she made it repeatedly clear that the teacher had to administer the med, which, well, when I taught, sometimes that meant that a parent told me HOW IT WAS GONNA BE no matter what I tried to explain or argue to the contrary).

    Mostly I feel bad for the poor kid, who was probably struggling to breathe all week and had no idea why any of this was happening. :(

    • Alex

      If the teacher were not allowed to give any medications to students, I have to believe/hope that the principal would have known the policy and related that to the parents (if for some reason the teacher did not) when informed and that the teacher would not have been fired.

    • Aimee Ogden

      You’d hope so, but it wouldn’t be the first teacher to get fired because paying parents said, “this person HAS TO GO”. I don’t think daycares have tenure, especially not for the assistant teachers.

      The assistant teacher definitely shouldn’t have been letting her do it from across the room, though, I have to say; I couldn’t tell a student to take an aspirin if they had a headache, but I could explain to them if they already had one out that swallowing it would be easier with a water bottle than dry.

    • AP

      I have to agree. I’m a lifeguard and we were taught in class that we can legally assist someone with their inhaler but we cannot actually press the canister down so it sprays out the meds. We can manipulate a conscious person’s hands if they are too weak but we cannot legally do it ourselves.

      Remember all those stories years ago of kids sharing asthma meds, saving a flife in the process, and getting suspended from school on a drug violation.

    • Larkin

      But if that’s the case, then couldn’t the teacher have set up the inhaler, helped the kid hold it, and carefully observed while the child pressed the button herself to ensure that the correct dose had been administered?

      Mostly, if it was an issue of legality, it seems like this should have been sent up to administration to handle from the beginning… so it seems odd that that never happened, even after repeated interactions with the parents.

    • brebay

      in some states, it’s illegal NOT to let a kid use their own inhaler.

    • pixie

      I was just going to say that. Depending on the policies and possibly laws of the area the teacher might not have been legally allowed to administer the meds. I’ve done standard first aid/CPR a number of times an was always told that with that I can’t legally give someone medication beyond handing them their prescriptions. My boyfriend, an Advanced Medical First Responder and volunteer with St. John’s Ambulance can because of his level of training, but I can’t.

      The teacher should have talked to the administration to find out what could have been done. And yeah I mostly feel bad for the kid, too. :(

    • whiteroses

      When I taught a kid who was diabetic, his parents tried to instruct me how to give him insulin. I informed them that I would not be able to do that, since school policy was that a teacher could not give medication of any kind. They fought me on it. I informed my principal.
      In that situation, you kick it up to your supervisors. You don’t just let it rest, because not only could the kid die or be seriously injured, the parents could sue you.

    • Kay_Sue

      I was wondering this too. Our school has a really strict policy. Only the nurse can administer meds, and you have to have your doctor fill out a detailed form with all of the dosing and instructions on it for you to turn in with the meds. It’s no joke. But I’d also hope if a teacher was told to administer medication and couldn’t, that they would reach out to help resolve the situation, since the kid’s health could be impacted, you know?

    • K.

      Yeah, in our district, teachers are not allowed to administer any medications without express written consent from guardians and/or doctors. Even nurses need the consent form for non-emergency medications. Frankly, it strikes me as strange that a child with a regular medication for a chronic condition wouldn’t have the necessary forms completed by parent and pediatrician.

      Sounds like a private school–especially because if it were a public school, the principal couldn’t fire an assistant for refusing to administer medication, which is outside of the assistants’ purview without a consent form, without getting the union involved.

    • Aldonza

      That’s what I want to know. All the places I work at don’t allow ANY administration of medication. We are, however, allowed to administer and Epi-Pen in a life saving situation, but we all received training in that. If I have a student who needs medicine, the parent has to come and administer it. That’s really not something the teacher should be doing, it’s something the school nurse should have been in charge of.

  • Crusty Socks

    Assistant Teacher can get another job

    jmurphy42 can’t get another child… (well, I mean, she probably could, but won’t be the same child, but a sibling… either way, her child could have died due to the assistant)

  • jane

    I actually think this is way worse than the kid who had to clean out the urinal. His hands can be washed. Sure, it was gross, but hardly life threatening. Undermedicating asthma is life threatening. My kid is asthmatic and in kindergarten and has asthma virtually all his life and has just learned to self medicate, although we do still watch him to make sure he’s doing it right. But just last week he had a flare up and he needed a nebulizer treatment and it’s amazing how fast breathing stuff heads south. I’m not sure the teacher needed to be fired, but some serious retraining was in order here. The parents were absolutely right.

  • Jillian

    While I think what happened to the child was awful and fully agree that the school needs to work or retrain staff to deal with kids with medications I cannot make the teacher out to be the awful villian (especially on reddit) that others are making her out to be. As others have said schools now a days have very strict medication policies. When I was in school only a couple years ago teachers couldn’t even hand out Tylenol for a headache much less be responsible for administering an asthmatic child’s puffer rations. Technically teachers even handling the medication first outside of an emergency life or death situation was a potential legal issue. So while yes the school should have had more measures in place to help the kid out I can understand why its not as easy as a lot people are making it out to be to just give the medication amounts. There is some serious legal issues with schools giving kids their medications, trained or not, because if heaven forbid anything went wrong or the kid had any abnormal reaction the parents can easily sue in this sue happy society now.

  • brebay

    Actually most states have laws requiring schools to let children carry and administer their own inhalers. They kept getting sued for requiring a nurse to be present or not let a kid take a puff. So they passed these because, really, most asthmatic kids can do this themselves unless they have some kind of developmental delay, and now they’re in trouble anyway. They can’t win.

    • AP

      When I was in elementary school, we didn’t have a nurse. The official policy for asthma inhalers was that, if you had an asthma attack, you were supposed to a) go to the office, call your parents, and wait for one of them to come with the inhaler to give it to you or b) call 911 and go to the hospital in an ambulance. No one was supposed to store medication on school property.

      Now, thankfully, the state has a Carry Permit for inhalers, and most kids are encouraged to get one.

  • Amanda

    The teacher isn’t the nurse! Why CAN’T you teach your child how to use an inhaler??? Come onnn nnnnnn ppl.

    • NotTakenNotAvailable

      Exactly what I was thinking! I feel bad for the kid, not just because I know the pain of shortness of breath far too well, but because my reading based on my own background is that the parents are helicoptering here. I was diagnosed with Type Idiabetes when I was 2, and my parents managed it until I was school age. Then, in kindergarten and first grade, they got my teachers to manage it for me. One of the reasons I got sent to a private school that I hated and continue resenting them for to this day is that my would-be second-grade teacher refused to continue babying me, so rather than teach me the basics of how to handle a conditioning was going to live with for probably the rest of my life, they decided to send me to a school where the teachers could continue to hold my hand for another few years. And I was a pretty bright kid, so it’s not like I couldn’t have handled the new information!

    • Katherine Handcock

      I think with an older child, who doesn’t need to use the spacer, you could – I noticed in the article that the pulmonologist says he/she doesn’t teach kids to self-administer until after kindergarten. But I used a spacer with an inhaler for my son when he had croup, and it was HARD! Hard for me as an adult, so I can’t imagine how a kid with small hands would manage.

      However, even if you could teach the kid to self-administer, there does often have to be some monitoring of whether the child is taking the doses in the right amounts and on time at the young elementary ages. It doesn’t take long to do, but it would be complicated in a full class. Still, if the school doesn’t have a policy that teachers can’t do that, and the parents have been instructed by the specialist that the medications have to be given with assistance, I think that should have been followed.

    • Bic

      The other thing is both the teacher and the assistant should have told the parents they were unable to help with the medication and gone from there with them, Instead of just ignoring them and not bothering to help her. Going by the original post they both had plenty of opportunities to do so, I also get the impression that it wasn’t her regular medication, so she wouldn’t need to know how to use it on a regular basis either.

  • Katie L.

    This seems strange to me. Of course letting a pre-K student dose themself is wrong, but I have to wonder what the school/district policy is. My kids can’t even bring cough drops to school to self administer. Any meds have to be in original packaging, parents have to sign a form, and the secretary does the administering. She takes a class every year for certification. If a parent brings medicine to me I send them to the office. It seems that the school needs to review their policy and not let the burden fall to teachers.

  • Valerie

    If I had a child with a chronic condition managed by meds I would make it my mission to get them to understand how to administer the meds themselves. I would not want it leave it in the hands of a teacher who is responsible for so many other things and who could potentially be distracted and forget a dose. If the teacher agreed to help the child with the meds than she deserves to lose her job for not following thru but regardless, as a parent, I would feel better knowing that my child did not have to depend on anyone else to take care if themselves.

    • Guest

      As a child who grew up with asthma (and was friends with a lot of asthmatics- you see each other in the nurse’s office often what can I say) everyone knew how to use their inhalers at a young age. Granted they had it scheduled that at noon you go to the nurse’s office and she gives you the inhaler and you administer it yourself. I would not have put a preschool teacher in charge of that- quite frankly I don’t think that is part of their job and they have about a thousand other things going on so I would not want it to be part of their job

  • Roberta

    I think the deciding factor on this is the age. When a child is older, let’s say 7 and up, they are able to monitor their own situations better. If we are dealing with inhalers as the main issue, most kids that age are at the very least able to determine when they need help. Our board doesn’t allow anyone but the principal or nurse to give stronger medications, but teachers are taught how to use epi-pens and legislation is being introduced to let the post-kindergartens carry their own inhalers.

    All that being said, a 5 year old should not be able to administer their own inhaler, They are simply to young to gauge the symptoms and make a call like that. As for having teachers administer things like inhalers or prescription pills, I honestly can’t decide which would be worse: having a kid get medication too late because of bureaucracy, or too often because of self-medication.

    • Sara

      Really? At five you couldn’t say, “I can’t breathe maybe i should take the thing that helps me breathe. Or let an adult know.” Most kids that I know with chronic conditions like diabetes and asthma knew at a young age what the symptoms of our ailments and knew enough to let an adult know.

    • Katherine Handcock

      It sounds like this isn’t a rescue inhaler, though, but one that requires regular doses throughout the day to ensure good lung function. A five year old would definitely have problems be saying, “Oh, it’s two o’clock; time for my next dose” yet.

      Also, as I mentioned above, using a spacer with an inhaler would be hard for little hands. It took me about a week to get the hang of it when my son used on temporarily — just long enough that I was really good at it just as we needed to stop using it! ;-)

    • Katherine Handcock

      You can tell I wrote this early in the morning. “Definitely have problems be saying”? Urgh.

  • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

    Why is everyone so goddamned bloodthirsty against teachers around here?! Fire them all, they all suck! It’s attitudes like this that make me realize that the $40,000 I finally make after a Master’s Degree and 10 years under my belt that just maybe it isn’t worth it. Yes, this teacher was shitty. But I am SO SICK of these articles.

    • Kheldarson

      Didn’t you know we’re just glorified babysitters? I mean, come on!

      *reason million and one I will probably never utilize my certification ever again*

    • NeedsImprovement

      Yeah, as someone still waiting for her Master’s raise with four years under her belt, I am really pissed at this article. Spin it one other direction and suddenly the teacher is a horrific, negligent human being because they are doping up kids with meds. I refuse to interact with my students and meds at all – the most I will do is hand them a bandaid.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Almost every decision we make every day can land us on one of these sites. It’s a daily walk through a minefield. Give her the meds, don’t give her the meds. Punish the kid, don’t punish the kid. Joke…with the kid….holy shit, what were you thinking?!

    • NeedsImprovement

      That’s why I like teaching middle school. I can generally flip them shit and not deal with the shenanigans. Also, one benefit of my district is that while parental involvement/caring is very low… parental involvement/caring is very low, so I usually don’t have too much nonsense.

      I had a parent email me Saturday saying that her kid was understanding nothing that was going on in class, and I got full permission to email her back saying that had nothing to do with his disability and everything to do with the fact that he was talking with his friends the entire time, and no, I would not be staying after school for tutoring with him. Sorry, now I’m ranting, but my god, it is just exhausting dealing with this kind of shit every single day, and we can’t do anything right?

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Sigh. I know….. I teach middle school too but have gotten flak for jokes before. I told a kid I would fail him, totally joking…he had a B and was being a smartass about something, is how this occurred. He was laughing, I was laughing, laughter was had. Yep, called to the principal’s office first thing the next morning because his mom thought I was serious.

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Most of the teachers I work with really, really hate the parents, including the ones who are parents themselves. Of course, we teach the spoiled, entitled folks, who will hear that Teacher X has a better certification or an innovative style so they’ll get Teacher Y fired, just so that Teacher X will have to come teach their kids – even though Teacher Y was doing great. I had one parent pull her kid from my class because I wouldn’t give her a “good behavior star” after she misbehaved. It’s disgusting and ultimately does the children no favors.

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      Man that sounds like a terrible environment to work in. *shudders*

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Contract’s up in June and I am out of there like the Roadrunner!

    • FormerlyKnownAsWendy

      I would be… :) Would the Roadrunner think, “Meep Meep Assholes”?

  • quinn

    It sounds like this was a preschool, and at my daughter’s preschool the teachers would give the medications that the parents would leave, but we had to write down the dosage on a piece of paper. If the parents repeatedly told the teacher how to do it, she should have done it like they asked.

  • Jillian

    If anything these events make me extremely sympathetic to both the teacher and the young student. Its hard for the student because she is still quite young and just learning how to use her puffer properly. On the other hand teachers are bound by so many legal technicalities that if they make any tiny misstep, for example handling a students meds, there lies a risk they could be fired for giving kids medication(even when its a legal prescription). On top of that the teacher is expected to be present and teach/be responsible for the other 20 to 30 young, energetic kids in the class too all while apparently hovering over this student with asthma and ensuring she takes her medication properly daily. how is this fair to the teacher? Funny how teachers always take the brunt of everyone’s anger. Hell, even daycares requires that there is a ratio of 1 teacher to 4 kids!(at least from what I have seen at the daycares where I live). Yet we are demanding this teacher be solely responsible for an entire class room of little kids and monitor their medications for them too. I could never be a teacher, not because of the kids, but because of all the demands put upon one individual to be a leader, babysitter and now medical technician to a room of over 20 or more students. Don’t we have school nursing staff for medical issues?

  • Katherine Handcock

    I think what’s saddest to me about this article is that the assistant teacher, who has admitted to making an error, has been dismissed, while the other teacher, who is probably doing the same thing but won’t admit it, stays on. To me, if the assistant teacher was acknowledging a mistake, that is a person who can learn from school policy, develop a better understanding of his/her responsibility (either to follow the parent’s instructions, or to inform them that school policy doesn’t allow it.) I really dislike the current mindset by employers that essentially punishes people for honesty when they make a mistake.

    • brebay

      The “assistant” teacher likely isn’t part of the union.

  • gothicgaelicgirl

    This is crazy, it is MEDICATION.
    You wouldn’t let a young child take aspirin or calpol by themselves, for fear of incorrect dosage so why did this teacher think it was ok to let the child self-administer?!
    What if it was insulin and god forbid, the child had died?