A California school district has agreed to pay more than $15 million to the family of a student who died in 2019 after she had an asthma attack on campus, the family’s attorneys announced.
The Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District in Southern California will pay Edith Sepulveda $15.75 million and adopt new safety protocols to settle a lawsuit over the death of her 13-year-old daughter Adilene Carrasco.
According to the lawsuit, Carrasco had a known history of asthma attacks at school. Two such attacks had been documented in an online database and her student profile, which teachers are required to review, indicated she had asthma, according to the lawsuit.
On Oct. 31, 2019, Carrasco’s eighth grade science class at Mesa View Middle School held a “pumpkin chuckin’ contest” activity on the school’s field to celebrate Halloween. Students walked approximately 366 yards from the classroom to the field. Part of the walk involved going down a hill on a long ramp, according to the suit.
When the students got to the field, Carrasco began to have trouble breathing and asked her teacher if she could return to the classroom for her inhaler. The teacher allowed her to walk back to the classroom with another student without asking Carrasco if she felt well enough to walk back, according to the suit.
Carrasco and a fellow student walked back to the classroom, where Carrasco took a few puffs of her inhaler. Carrasco’s classmate said Carrasco the inhaler did not make her feel better, the suit states.
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The pair then walked again back to the field, at which point Carrasco asked her teacher if she could go to the nurse’s office because she still felt unwell despite using her inhaler. The teacher, who testified she did not know Carrasco had asthma, said yes, without asking Carrasco if she was well enough to walk to the nurse’s office, according to the suit.
Her classmate testified that Carrasco struggled to stand up straight and that her voice sounded weak. Her condition got worse as they walked to the nurse’s office and Carrasco collapsed.
A campus monitor in a golf cart noticed Carrasco and carted her to the nurse’s office, where the nurse performed CPR as Carrasco began to show symptoms of a seizure. School staff called 911 and paramedics took her to a local hospital, where staff declared her braindead nine days later on Nov. 9, 2019 from acute respiratory failure, according to the suit.
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The suit alleged that Carrasco’s teacher neglected to follow the school’s safety protocol policy, which states that a teacher should send an adult chaperone along with a student going into the nurse’s office with a “breathing issue.” The same policy specifically directs teachers not to send a student with a “buddy student” as Carrasco’s teacher did, according to the suit.
“Common sense tells you the last thing you would want to do is send a child on a long walk uphill without adult supervision when she’s having an asthma attack,” the lawsuit stated.
Carrasco walked a total of 4,078 feet, roughly the distance of 13 football fields, over the course of the incident before she ultimately collapsed, according to her attorneys.
USA TODAY’s inquiry to the Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District was not immediately returned Sunday.
The settlement comes less than a month before trial was set to begin, according to Robert Glassman, Sepulveda’s attorney.
The school district admitted no wrongdoing, but it agreed to partner with asthma medical experts to provide training to its staff and adopt the California School Board Association’s best practices on asthma management along with other changes to its protocols, Glassman said.
“It was always important to us to make sure that any closure included commitments from the school district to change its protocols and adopt better practices so…that the teachers and staff know what to do when a student that they’re responsible for supervising is having an asthma attack,” Glassman told USA TODAY.
Glassman said his team is working with a state senator to draft a bill to address asthma safety at schools across California in Carrasco’s name.
“It’s not about the money,” Sepulveda told USA TODAY. “It’s for this not to happen to another family… if I can prevent another family from having to go through what we’re going through, then that would be my mission.”
Sepulveda said her daughter was a “sweet child” who loved to help others and wanted to be a painter.