The teacher told the class to stay seated and wait for the nurse while a female classmate was experiencing an asthma attack. The 15-year-old Anthony Ruelas first followed the teacher’s instructions to remain seated until the school nurse responded by email with instructions.
However, Ruelas decided he’d had enough as the female continued to “gasp for air and gagging” for several minutes, as the muscles in her airway tightened, restricting her ability to breathe, before finally falling out of her chair. He then scooped her up and carried her to the nurse’s office for life-saving treatment.
But instead of a pat on the back for being the hero of the day, Ruelas ended up with a two-day suspension from the alternative school in Killeen.
Ruelas returned to class to discover a written warning and a suspension waiting for him despite likely saving the girl’s life. In the teacher’s report, the 15-year-old disobeyed the teacher’s request to remain seated and picked up his choking classmate before carrying her to the nurse’s office.
“I was like what? I’m suspended for this? Like, I was trying to help her. I broke rules but, she needed help, like she needed help,” said Anthony.
Ruelas received a recommendation that was written in the teacher’s handwriting and reprimanded her for defying her and leaving class. Even though the message extensively described the extraordinary circumstance, he was subsequently suspended for his behavior.
The referral reads, “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.”
Ruelas’ mother, Mandy Cortes, went on to say that pupils attending alternative schools like Gateway are hampered in their academic advancement by precisely this kind of punishing good behavior.
As she told reporters that she is proud of her son for doing the right thing. She said,
“He may not follow instructions all the time, but he does have a great heart. Especially with it being an alternative school I feel like the kids hear enough of ‘they’re bad’ or their behavior, or you know, and for them to not be rewarded for really something that is brave, ya know, he is a hero to me.”
The only answer Cortes received from the school was that her son had left the classroom without permission when she arrived to pick him up for suspension. She had to retract her claim once he explained why he had done it. Saying, “I don’t, ya know think, he should have used that language. But as far as getting suspended for walking out of class, he could have saved her life.”
However, the superintendent acknowledged that he cannot support the school’s decision to discipline Ruelas even while the district was still investigating the event. His suspension is still in effect; as Cortes finally received an appropriate response from the school district, after taking her son’s story to the media.
Ruelas answered “Most definitely” without hesitation, when asked if he would still assist his classmate if he knew that this would happen. Although Ruelas was visibly dismayed by the school’s decision, his unwarranted punishment didn’t cloud his morals.