At 12 years of age, young Ryan Gibbons died from a fatal asthma attack while he was at recess. Like most people with asthma, he would have reached for his inhaler to help remedy his issue. Sadly, the school he was attending took it away and locked it in the principal’s office.
Ryan frantically gasped for air while his friends grabbed him and took him to the principal’s office so he could get his inhaler. However, they weren’t able to reach it in time. Gibbons passed out before they could get him his inhaler and he never recovered.
This fatal incident occurred at Elgin County School in Straffordville, Ontario, Canada. In honor of her son’s passing, Ryan‘s mother, Sarah Gibbons, is now campaigning to help schools remove and reform policies that remove inhalers from children who needs them.
The law is called “Ryan’s Law“, and she wishes to have this passed in remembrance of her son. Ryan‘s law would allow children with asthma to carry prescription inhalers in their backpack or pocket.
Gibbons says that her son often brought a spare inhaler to school with him for exactly this reason. What if he couldn’t get to the principal’s office in time? But over and over, school officials took it away.
“I received many a phone call stating Ryan had taken an inhaler to school and they found it in his bag and would like me to come pick it up because he wasn’t even allowed to bring it home with him,” Ryan’s mom (pictured) told Canada’s national TV network, the CBC. “There’s supposed to be one in the office and that’s the only one he can have. I didn’t understand why.”
Indeed, it is difficult to understand why. What possible reason could a school have for this bizarre anti-inhaler policy? In the United States, all 50 states have already passed laws permitting children to carry their inhalers in school — but even some American schools still don’t allow it.
According to one expert, schools are sometimes fearful that they could be hit with liability claims if a student incorrectly administers his or her own medication or allows another kid to share the inhaler.
“I understand these concerns, but what’s the liability in allowing a child with asthma to exercise without having access to an inhaler when a nurse may or may not even be at the school?” asks Maureen George, a nursing professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
She says that schools sometimes ban inhalers under a blanket anti-drug policy as well.
“But do prescription medications really need to be grouped with illicit drugs?” George wonders.