my boss refused to call an ambulance for an injured coworker

A reader writes:

I’m wondering if I could get your take on a situation that happened at the elementary school where I teach back in September. It’s been a few months since it happened, but it’s still on everyone’s minds.

On the first day of school, one of my fellow teachers tripped and fell backwards down the concrete steps leading up to the entrance of the school as she was arriving that morning. She split the back of her head open. As the school nurse was assessing the situation, our principal came running over and demanded that the injured teacher be helped to her feet and walked into the school “so the parents and students wouldn’t see her as they begin to arrive for school.” The principal then told everyone who witnessed the incident that they were forbidden to call an ambulance because she did not want to create a scene and scare the kids or worry the parents. The injured teacher was kept in the principal’s office with a wad of paper towels on her head for almost half an hour until most of the kids had been dropped off for the day and the buses had arrived. Then the nurse was finally “allowed” to call someone to take the teacher to the hospital, but it had to be a family member, not EMS. Several phone calls later, the nurse was finally able to get in touch with the teacher’s sister-in-law, who came to pick her up and drive her to the hospital. All in all, it was over an hour between her injury and arriving at the hospital, which is ridiculous because the school is right up the street from the fire department so am ambulance could have gotten there super quickly, and the hospital is only 10-15 minutes away so she literally could have gotten to the hospital in under 20 minutes.

It turns out, she had a concussion (no surprise there) and she needed eight stitches in her head. To my knowledge, she did not lose consciousness but she says she was in such a daze that she went along with what the principal decided instead of advocating for herself. I don’t think she was able to really even speak. She missed a week and a half of work and had residual headaches for a month or so afterward.

We were all flabbergasted that our principal chose to keep her hidden in an office with a head injury until the “right time” to get her to the hospital. The teacher probably should not have even been moved in the first place, and an injury to the head should be treated immediately regardless of the “scene” it might create. Our principal can also be very intimidating, and her decisions override the nurse’s decisions.

We’re all very concerned that she chose to put the appearances of the school ahead of the safety of an injured teacher. I know what she was probably thinking — “these parents won’t leave me alone if they see an ambulance here, they’ll think the school isn’t safe for their children,” etc. And I understand not wanting these helicopter parents breathing down your neck, but this teacher could have had a much worse spinal/head injury than she did, and it shouldn’t be up to the principal to decide when her staff warrants emergency medical care.

We were all shaken after this incident, and worried that if someone else were to get injured in the future it would be handled in a similar way. Jokes have been made like “hey, be careful carrying that box of books, if you drop it on your foot you won’t be allowed to use crutches because it might look bad to the parents,” things like that. Some people say she just made a bad judgment call, probably due to first day of school anxiety, but I worry it speaks more to her priorities than anything. What do you think of this? Was there anything legally wrong with her actions?

Her actions were horrible.

She denied a staff member needed medical care because she was concerned about appearances. That is a cartoon-villain-level act. Head injuries are serious, and her desire to hide the situation from parents (which is a weird desire to begin with — people fall)  could have made the damage far more serious than it needed to be.

I can’t speak to the legality of her actions — I can’t think of any laws she violated, but you’d need a lawyer to tell you for sure — but there’s no question that what she didn’t wasn’t okay from an ethical or human perspective. Of course the rest of you are worried about how any future injuries will be handled, and it’s reasonable to speak up and insist on a change to the way these incidents are handled.

This is a perfect time to use the advice I talked about earlier this week, about how to speak up as a group when you want your employer to do something differently. There’s power in numbers, and this warrants using it (and as many people are noting in the comment section, since you’re at a school, you probably have a union to do this through).

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 697 comments… read them below }

  1. Cassandra*

    You need to get your union involved, immediately, so that they can escalate this to the Superintendent and relevant elected officials. This Principal lacks basic judgment of how to respond in an emergency and that is extremely dangerous.

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      +1 to this. I do not know what the principal was thinking. After the union, then the school board. Wow was that a judgment bobble.

      1. Specialk9*

        I’m assuming that there is no union. If there were a union, it’d already have been a thing – a big thing. That’s making me think it’s a non-union school.

        1. else*

          I’m guessing a charter. They’re mostly non-union, AND their principals or operators are quite often both inexperienced and inclined to treat students as their “clients”. I think a normal principal would have known not to behave like this.

    2. Florida*

      I would have said to contact the school board. I’m not in education so I don’t know if you are supposed to call the union before you go to the school board. But definitely escalate it somehow.
      This principal should be in the running for worst boss of the year.

      1. Middle School Teacher*

        Here at least, the union would contact the school board on your behalf. Teachers don’t contact them directly in a case like this. (Or at the very least, contact the union first, and they will tell you what to say to the board.)

    3. Seal*

      +1000 to this. It’s far more distressing to know that the principal (of all people!!!) isn’t willing to call an ambulance in an emergency for fear of how it would look than to actually see an ambulance full of professionals responding to an emergency.

      1. Bostonian*

        Right? I’m sure the parents would be much more horrified to hear that this teacher didn’t receive medical treatment.

        1. Chinook*

          And if the parents do hear of this, they would be right to wonder what else the principal would hide because it looks bad.

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            If I had a child in that school, I’d wonder if the principal would be willing to call an ambulancefor an injured child!

            What she did was unconscionable.

            1. attie*

              This happened a few years ago where I live; a 10 year old fell/jumped to their death from the roof of a school and they didn’t call 911. It turned out that the school had a blanket policy banning teachers from calling emergency services unless all the (slower) private ambulance services failed to respond, for PR reasons. The vice-principal then went one further by not only lying during the inquest but also “doing an impression of the girl’s grandmother in court and saying the parents would learn a lesson from the incident”.

              I’m sure the subsequent news reporting about all this did wonders for their reputation.

              1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                I am reading this a day late but literally sitting here with my jaw hanging open.


            2. else*

              Bet they wouldn’t, especially if the child was injured in any way that might appear negligent or cause conflict with another parent (bullying).

          2. Mookie*

            My thoughts exactly. “People are expendable” is the message being sent here, “we privilege the appearance of calm over fostering safety, and in doing so sow chaos behind the scenes.” I would automatically assume they will apply this same rule to students, and that faculty and staff will go along with it because the principal is too ‘domineering.’ I’m now wondering how ADA-compliant the campus is, and what else this principal is trying to hide that emergency responders are not welcome.

          3. Wintermute*

            Bingo. With everything in the news lately, my first thought was “if they’d hide something as totally benign as a relatively minor staff injury that happens all over every day, over vague concerns about parents being ‘nervous’, there is an approximately 100% chance they would hide child abuse/molestation”.

          4. Wintermute*

            Bingo! My first thought was “if they will try to hide something so minor and innocuous to ‘protect the school’s reputation’ how far would they go if it WAS serious?” You’d hope at some point humanity would kick in and they’d go “oh wow, no the reputation of the school is NOT more important here” but you would hope the same when they see someone suffering a potentially life-threatening head wound trying, and failing, to stop the bleeding.

            I’m not saying this principle WOULD, but I am saying that she is exhibiting the classic mindset which caused other people to conceal child abuse, hazing, violent bullying incidents, and more.

            1. Fact & Fiction*

              Not to mention…even if you’re not a human being with actual empathy and care, cover ups ALWAYS lead to WAY worse PR than the original incident.

              1. sstabeler*

                not…nessecarily, though in 99% of cases that’s true. Specifically, you get worse PR when the coverup is prioritised over correcting the problem. For instance, had the Principal in the OP called an ambulance, then demanded pupils keep quiet about the incident I doubt many people would be too bothered. Where you get the PR hit is when the problem isn’t properly resolved.

                1. Wintermute*

                  But in this case there would be no bad PR from the incident.

                  Consider a case like I was talking about where there WOULD be a large PR fallout, in those cases the Nixon Effect definitely kicks in and the harder you try to bury it the more you’re just digging your own grave.

            2. Carlee*

              A “cover up” for this kind of thing makes ZERO sense — Mrs. Smith slipped, fell, 911 was called and she went to the hospital for treatment. This kind of thing happens ALL THE DAMN TIME.

              As a parent, heck, as a human, I can’t imagine anybody getting worked up over this.

      2. Former HR person*

        As a parent, I’m also concerned that she’d uses the same horrific judgement if a student were to be injured.

        1. Anion*

          YES. FWIW, OP, if I heard about this happening at a school my kids attended, I’d be on the phone with the school board so fast it would make your head spin, and I’d be telling every parent I could find to do the same (and possibly contacting the media as well). This is Disgusting (with a capital D), and not just because I’d be terrified of what might happen if one of my girls was injured–although that would certainly be one of the points I’d be making to the board.

          If you have no standing to do anything, OP, pleeease find a way to let a sympathetic parent (or parents) know about this. This might be a situation where we have the power to do something you can’t.

      3. Rhoda*

        My workplace can end up ringing for an amublance multiple times in a week. (I work with the elderly). Seriously people, do not worry about dialing 999.

    4. Jessica, not Jennifer*

      I came here to say this very thing. OP, if you have a union please go to them now. If you don’t have a union, please approach your superintendent and/or school board about this matter. Anyone who puts appearances above the safety of others should not be running a school.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        1. Yes, yes, yes. Do not let this slide whatever you do.
        2. Please come back and give us an update.
        3. Nominee for worst boss 2018 in the hopper.

    5. Justme, The OG*

      Yep. “So the parents and students don’t see” is total and complete crap. Parents can help. And an ambulance needed to be called immediately. I question this principal’s judgment in general.

      1. Strawmeatloaf*

        Heck, some parents might be doctors or nurses or EMTs who could help. Kids are not going to be scarred for life because they know that a teacher feel and needed to go to the hospital!

        1. Myrin*

          Yeah, I witnessed that happen not too long ago – I was on the train to work and someone near me fainted and there actually happend to be a doctor and a nurse in our very same compartment who could help immediately! (Meanwhile, the conductor called an ambulance which drove to the train’s next stop.)

          1. A.N. O'Nyme*

            Reminds me of that story of someone having heart trouble on a plane so the flight attendants asked if there was a doctor on board. Several people stood up, all cardiologists on their way to a conference. No idea if it’s true, but still.

            1. Ugh*

              I was on a flight recently where the people in the row in front of me were discussing what the probability of at least one medical professional happening to be on any given flight (specifically on a 737) would be. I (silently) agreed that the odds were fairly favorable.

              Also they were discussing it because one of them was both quite pregnant and a doctor.

              1. azvlr*

                I was in a rollover accident a few months ago. There were people on scene immediately and they were so very trained. If I recall one was an off-duty EMT, another was a nurse of some kind. I have NO DOUBT their actions saved me and my SO from further injury and possibly prevented life-threatening injury.
                P.S. I’m so very grateful to everyone who stopped. I will never be able to thank all of them in person.

                1. Anion*

                  My mom is an RN, and not only did I once have the privilege of watching her help save a life at the scene of an accident, but years later when I witnessed an accident I was able to recognize that one driver was going into shock, keep her awake, get someone to bring her a blanket before Fire Rescue arrived, and tell FR immediately when they did arrive. (The people in the office nearby looked at me strangely and were reluctant to do as I asked, since I was twenty years old and had bright pink hair and spiked bracelets, but thankfully the “I know what I’m doing” tone of voice and the ability to appear calm works no matter how old you are, especially when everyone is just standing there wringing their hands.)

                  I never saw her again or found out what happened to her–I had to get back to work myself, so as soon as FR pulled a blanket from the ambulance and headed for her I left–but if it helps at all, I never cared about being “thanked” or not; it was enough and more than enough to know I’d been able to help.

                  I’m very glad you and your SO are okay!

            2. Observer*

              I’ve seen a couple in the news in the last year or so. OK, in one case it was a bit depressing because the fight staff somehow wouldn’t believe that this person actually WAS a doctor – either because she’s a woman or a POC, apparently. But, there was another doctor (who was a white guy) who WAS able to help the patient. Iow, there were actually 2 doctors on board the plane.

              1. Sigrid*

                She was a black woman. I talked to her at a conference last year. (Also a doctor.) She’s an an emergency medicine doctor, so exactly the person you want taking care of you in such a situation. The flight attendant refused to allow her near the person in distress because she didn’t have her medical license on her. Eventually an elderly white male stood up and said he was a doctor; the flight attendant let him near the patient without asking to see his medical license. He was something like an endocrinologist or rheumatologist or something – not the kind of doctor who is trained for most emergencies. He turned to the first doctor – the black woman – and asked for her help. The flight attendant still tried to stop her from helping because she “couldn’t prove she was a doctor.”

                1. Observer*

                  That’s the story I was thinking of. I didn’t know about the last piece.

                  The idea that the emergency doctor had to “prove” her credentials and the other guy didn’t should make anyone see red. It doesn’t matter whether it was because it was a woman, or because it was a POC, or a combination. It’s stupid discriminatory and put someone’s life at risk!

                  Does anyone know what the airline did about it? (Aside from the utterly unconvincing “apology” about how seriously they take their passengers’ safety and respect for all blah blah blah.”)

                2. Sigrid*

                  The story continued to be horrible: the medical kit that all airplanes are required to carry, by law!, was only about half full, and didn’t have some very crucial medications, like (IIRC) insulin and epinephrine. The doctors ended up needing to use the medication the patient had with them, which wasn’t ideal for the situation, and then just hoped for the best. (It turned out fine, but it could have gone badly.)

                  The last I heard, the reaction from Delta went something like this:

                  Delta: Oh, that was absolutely unacceptable. All of our flight med kits should absolutely be fully stocked at all times.
                  Everyone: But what about refusing to believe a black woman was a doctor and demanding to see her medical license while immediately believing the white man when he claimed the same thing?
                  Delta: Well, we can’t just believe people when they say they’re doctors! Anyone could claim to be a doctor!
                  Everyone: But you believed the white man when he said he was a doctor. And you didn’t believe the black woman.
                  Delta: Well, we can’t just believe people when they say they’re doctors! Anyone could claim to be a doctor!
                  Everyone: …….
                  Everyone: ………….
                  Everyone: …………………….
                  Delta: Anyone could claim to be a doctor!!!!!

                  So no, nothing seems to have happened on that front. I mean, maybe something has changed internally at Delta, but nothing that seems to have been made public, at all.

                3. jo*

                  @Moi, I can’t tell what your point is about her being an OB/GYN, maybe you don’t actually mean to undermine the black female doctor’s authority? Whatever your intention, I want to point out that OBs are surgeons. It’s one of the rockstar specialties, and most OBs are indeed trained to deal with many kinds of life-threatening emergencies. Childbirth can be very dangerous, after all.

              2. Goya de la Mancha*

                I remember this story – but my POV was that it was because of gender/age (I believe she was young and he was quite a bit older?) It made me wonder if there is some sort of credential card that medical professionals carry? I mean, what if you just had a Nosy Norman (the old guy in this story) who claimed to be a doctor and wasn’t (he was, but who knows!). I would hope that if you weren’t a medical professional that you’d stay in your seat and keep your mouth shut…but we know how smart some people are.

                1. Sigrid*

                  No, there isn’t. You *could* carry a copy of your medical license around with you, but it’s not exactly a card that says I AM A DOCTOR and easily fits in your wallet, and no one — literally no one — actually does that.

                  It’s actually been a serious topic of conversation at the professional conferences I’ve gone to over the past year. “Should we (women doctors) start carrying around our medical licenses?” Because men absolutely do not get asked “are you really a doctor” when they step forward and say they’re a doctor in these kind of situations.

                2. Observer*

                  It doesn’t matter which one of those was the reason. It was a RIDICULOUS and DANGEROUS thing to do.

                3. Ktelzbeth*

                  My state issues two cards with each license renewal and one is a laminated wallet sized card. Maybe this is why.

                4. ket*

                  My husband actually does carry around his “I’m a doctor” card… but he’s weird :) And the one time on a flight they asked for a doc and he responded on the second request, they didn’t ask for it anyway.

                5. Goya de la Mancha*

                  I’m such a cynic that I would be asking ANYONE who stepped forward if they were really a doctor, that’s why I wondered about the “card”. With the f’d up things people do in this world, I don’t put much faith in “their word” anymore. I think that’s a great idea by your state ktelzbeth.

                6. Observer*

                  Well, if they had asked the white guy, that would be different. The issue is that they asked ONE person and NOT the other. That’s beyond messed up.

                7. Mookie*

                  my POV was that it was because of gender/age (I believe she was young and he was quite a bit older?

                  That may be your point of view, but it defies logic. Young doctors exist. Some people even prefer them! Anyway, Occam’s razor here fits the accepted explanation: these people were prejudiced against a black woman.

                8. Goya de la Mancha*

                  Mookie, that’s fine, I was merely stating my thoughts on how I was remembering a year + old story.

            3. Natalie*

              Totally different topic, but there was a recent plane that had problems with its bathroom and had to land even though there were, like, 60 plumbers on board because of a conference. Because you can only fix the plane bathroom from the outside.

            4. SusanIvanova*

              I saw that happen at a church service at Stanford University. Someone had passed out on a hot summer day, so first they asked for a doctor, then a few minutes later “thanks, we have enough doctors!”

            5. Colleen*

              I live in boston and I swear there’s a medical professional of some kind on every flight. I sit next to MDs that are now in business, med students, nurses, praciticing clinicians all.the.time.

              I flew to Orlando and the family in front of us was two docs, the family to the left of us had a PA and a doc, and one of the parents behind me was a nurse. This came up because someone saw my company’s bag (I work for an EMR vendor).

            6. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

              I was on a plane once – coming back from Brazil – and a passenger had a cardiac issue and fortunately there was a doc on board – she handled the situation… it can happen.

          2. Deejay*

            During the 7/7 bombings in London, the bus explosion took place while the bus happened to be passing the headquarters of the British Medical Association. So there were a lot of qualified people immediately able to help.

        2. Blackcat*

          I have witnessed two airplane medical emergencies. In both cases, nursed came to the rescue even though there were also doctors.

          In one case, a passenger had a seizure. The doctor hesitated and the nurse went straight for the passenger’s purse, where she immediately found anti seizure meds.

          Nurses are generally less specialized than docs and are often fantastic in emergencies, while docs often get flummoxed outside their wheel house.

          1. ..Kat..*

            “Nurses are generally less specialized than doctors…”. This is untrue. As a nurse, I am asking to not say this. Thank you.

            1. Bazinga*

              I don’t think she meant this in a negative way. I think she meant that often nurses are more well-rounded, whereas physicians, when they specialize, know their specialty. Don’t ask an orthopod about a heart issue their patient is having.
              At least, that’s what I think that Blackcat meant. Not a slam on nurses.

              1. else*

                Pretty sure she was doing the thing where she was trying to protect the importance of nurses by ratting at doctors, which is a very common trend. And, yes, I work in the health professions and see this all the time.

                1. Anion*

                  I don’t think she was “ratting at” doctors, either, honestly. She was just pointing out that doctors often have more specialized knowledge that they use regularly while not using their more general knowledge all the time, whereas nurses use the general knowledge more often.

                  Like, a cardiologist knows more about the heart than a nurse or a GP, but the GP or nurse is probably more useful if someone has a broken foot just because the cardiologist might not have set a broken bone in a decade or more. Doesn’t mean the cardiologist isn’t a great doctor or that the GP or nurse are “better,” just that in certain situations they might have more practice (no pun intended).

                  I dunno, I’ve never heard a nurse put down doctors and I’ve never heard a doctor put down nurses, so maybe I’m just not able to see what you’re seeing. But I don’t think anyone was trying to put down anyone.

                2. a different Vicki*

                  This sounds like a pediatrician friend of mine, who was on a flight that asked “is there a doctor on board?” As she noted, pediatricians don’t get much experience or continuing training in dealing with heart attacks in middle-aged patients; she might have been better qualified to help when she was just out of medical school.

            2. ..Kat..*

              Actually, I did not take this as a negative. Just an untrue perception. Some nurses specialize, some don’t. Some doctors specialize, some don’t. And patients get the best health care when doctors, nurses, and other health care practitioners all work together.

              1. ..Kat..*

                And, no, a cardiologist does not necessarily know more about the heart than a cardiac nurse. Nurses actually have a lot more training and knowledge (in the USA) than the general public realizes. This is not a put down to other countries, depending on the country, nursing training/knowledge requirements can vary significantly. It is not uncommon for a patient or patient’s family to tell me that they did not realize nurses know so much or do so much.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I think that nurses are also WAY more practical. They’re on the ground, dealing directly with patients in the nitty-gritty of daily logistics. And even those who have specialized in a field have probably worked more intensely with more kinds of medical issues.

            But the biggest thing is, they deal with the *patient’s* logistics. I know that my dad’s nurses were the ones who problem-solved things like where to get a feeding tube, etc.

            So it’s no wonder that the nurse would have “the patient has meds with her, find them” in her mental checklist, and a doctor might not.

            1. Bazinga*

              Right, that’s what I think. If you have an ER doc, you’re probably good to go, but a dermatologist, or ophthalmologist, won’t be as prepared for emergencies.

        3. Observer*

          Well, a lot depends on the demographics of the school.

          But IT DOES NOT MATTER. It’s perfectly fine to assume that not a single parent can help. YOU STILL CALL 911!

          This principal need to get a clue by four.

        4. Recently Diagnosed*

          When I was in elementary school, a teacher I loved dearly fell and broke her ankle. I ran to the main office and alerted the principal. It was scary, but it was also a great learning opportunity. I had done the right thing, no one else saw it. I felt like a hero.

      2. Vanellope*

        Yes, that’s a terrible reason! Kids talk and word gets around – the best thing to do is manage the situation and then explain it. There have been two instances where ambulances were called to my kids schools, and both times a note came home explaining that there had been an incident/accident, but everyone was ok and no one should worry. (No details in the memos due to HIPPA, but through my kids I knew one instance was a student who had a seizure and one instance was a boy who tipped his chair backwards and cracked his head on the concrete floor.) At no point did I blame the school or think ill of the school just because something happened there – that’s such a bizarre mindset!

        1. Ego Chamber*

          [Obligatory PSA that HIPAA only applies to medical professionals or others who have access to medical information. It’s kind to not share other people’s medical information, and there’s no reason to send a note home with specifics to people who aren’t involved, but that’s not what HIPAA is for (unless the school nurse wrote the note?).]

          1. Kimberly*

            True but in the US there are Federal privacy laws that cover PK – University. I have chronic medical problems and we had to fill out special paperwork so that my parents and nearby cousins (parents were 3 hours away) could get information to or from my school in an emergency. Never needed it. Sis has no ongoing problems landed in the hospital with a severe infection during finals – professors wouldn’t talk to our Mom but did take medical excuses from the doctors delivered by her roommates.

            LW union or association (in states that don’t allow public school teachers to have unions) should roast this idiot and remove her from any job in the district.

            1. JessaB*

              Yeh there are separate laws that cover student privacy it’s not HIPAA but it’s still a big big deal about sharing student info.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes—my understanding is that student’s records (including medical notes) and privacy is covered by FERPA.

          2. Gadget Hackwrench*

            THANK YOU. As a HIPAA trained hospital employee, it cheezes me off how often HIPAA gets thrown around as a reason for stuff… I actually got in an argument once online with a guy who was claiming to be a medical professional, but clearly wasn’t a real professional because he kept saying that HIPAA which is soely about medical records, dictated standards of care and that HIPAA agreed with him on this medical subject. No. No it does not.

            1. Bazinga*

              I’ve had veterinarians refuse to talk to me about dog’s medical records, because HIPAA. I’m in animal rescue, and if someone wants to surrender a dog to us, I call to see what vetting the dog has had. Or if someone wants to adopt from us, I’ll call to be sure their current dogs are up to date on vet care.

        2. Specialk9*

          Honestly, lots of kids would be thrilled for an ambulance to come to school. Some of them just for the lights and the thrill of TRUCKS!!, some because kids often find gross stuff fascinating (‘look at me picking my scab’), and some because they don’t want to have to go to class. Of course some would also find it worrying, but a school should be able to spin it into a *whole bunch* of teachable moment (being good helpers, calling 911, first responders are our friends, what first responders do, with older kids basic first aid, etc).

    6. Artemesia*

      I had the sense it might be a private school where teachers are exploited and there is no union or association to defend teachers.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Could still contact OSHA. That’s federal and it applies to all workplaces, private or public.

          1. Specialk9*

            Facebook, or tell a few of the really gossipy parents (“but this is just between us, don’t repeat it”), or call the local news.

      2. Natalie*

        Do private schools have boards of trustees or something, and if so, do they have any kind of authority over the principal?

        1. JeanB in NC*

          Our private school definitely has a board of trustees, and they would seriously want to know if our head of school did something like this! It would be a BIG DEAL.

          1. K.*

            I went to private school. This principal would be gone in a week. They might let her quit instead of firing her so she could save a little face, but she’d be gone. I can picture a phalanx of furious parents (many of whom are lawyers – there are a ton of lawyers in that parent population) descending on school with lawsuits in hand. “If she wouldn’t call an ambulance for a teacher, would she call one for my kid?”

            1. I'll come up with a clever name later.*

              This was honestly my very first thought! If I found out that the principal at the middle school my kids attend had denied a teacher medical care I would immediately think that all of her decision making skills were bad and not trust her at all. I need to trust the people in that building I send my kids to for 8 hours every day…and that starts at the top.

            2. Observer*

              Exactly this.

              We all know the answer to the question. If the school has a policy banning cell phone, the answer is “absolutely not!” And even then, the answer is “No. Stick the kid in the office.”

          2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yeah—the legal liability alone is staggering, nevermind if word got out that the principal did this.

          3. Gadget Hackwrench*

            Sadly I know of at least one Private School around here that would be more likely to fire the employee for tattling to the board than to have the Headmaster removed for such a thing, so it’s not universal. Private schools differ widely in quality from one place to another.

    7. animaniactoo*

      That was my first thought too – this is a union issue. Hopefully LW is working in an area with a strong union presence.

    8. BeautifulVoid*

      Yuuuup. Union, now.

      Back in my teaching days, during the year I worked in an elementary school, a teacher’s aide in the classroom for the most severely disabled kids in the entire district passed out. An ambulance was called immediately, and the principal got on the loudspeaker to tell everyone to stay in their classrooms/out of the hallways. I’m sure some of the students were upset, but I’m glad that the people in charge decided to, you know, prioritize the unconscious woman in the middle of the floor.

      (She turned out to be fine. If I remember correctly, it was something relatively simple like dehydration or skipping breakfast that morning, which caught up with her.)

      1. Beaded Librarian*

        Had something similar happen at my school, I’m in class and we hear a thud from the classroom next door where a classmate who was taking a makeup test was, then the teacher from that classroom comes running into the room says something to our teacher they both go running out and 10 seconds later we hear a page to the athletic trainer, our school didn’t have a nurse but the trainers basically covered for that.

        As far as I know they didn’t end up calling an ambulance but it turned out she’d fainted from not having breakfast and it was nearly lunch.

      2. Julianne*

        Yes, this is what we do in medical emergencies at my school, too. Move the mobile crowds of children and adults away from the emergency, and get them contained to the extent appropriate (in classrooms, or just out of the thick of it). We do try to keep kids away from where an ambulance and EMS will be to keep everyone calmER, but not at the risk of harm to the injured. (For example, when a kid had a head injury similar to the teacher in the letter during recess, we sent everyone inside early. Lots of kids saw it, and of course they were worked up, but it was safer for everyone and hopefully less traumatic to not witness their classmate being taken away in an ambulance.)

        1. TootsNYC*

          actually, i would disagree. I think secrets lead to overreactions. And I know that when my dad vomited up blood, it was tremendously calming to see the smooth, measured, confident actions of the paramedic. The first one sent the other out to the truck for something, and asked questions slowly, etc., and so I knew that Dad wasn’t about to die.

          if he’d truly been in danger, they’d have zipped him out. But when I went out of the house to get in the car to follow him to the hospital, the ambulance was still sitting there, and I knew it truly couldn’t have been life-threatening, because they’d have left already.

          I think there’s great value in letting kids see ALL the parts of the process.

          They might also have seen their fellow student moving or waving goodbye, and that might have made them less worried.

          I’m a firm believer that more factual information, delivered in a calm way, is far preferable to hiding things because they might be upsetting–that guarantees that they are upsetting, because the message is, “we the grownups think this SHOULD upset you.”

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. The kids (and parents!) will learn this is how things are handled appropriately. Plus not only would I not trust the principal with my kid, but what kind of lesson does this teach the kids about what they should do in an emergency?

    9. Lala*

      Important to remember, many, many teachers (even public school teachers) are actually not part of a union. In some entire states it’s exceedingly uncommon, in fact. I mean, if OP or any of her fellow teachers do have a union to go to, they definitely should, but that’s not always the first line of defense for teachers that so many people assume it is.

    10. LBK*

      In light of Parkland (et al) I can’t help but wonder what this principal would do in case of a bigger emergency. How long do you hold off calling the authorities in that situation because you don’t want to make a scene?

      1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

        This is a really, really good point. OP, make this point verbatim when you address the powers that be.

    11. Sylvan*

      If the principal exercises such poor judgment when only independent adults are concerned, think of how the principal may act when children who can’t advocate for themselves or others are in an emergency.

      (This may sound melodramatic, and feel free to give me a reality check, but I’ve had some experience on the kid side of this.)

      1. Specialk9*

        Not even the tiniest bit melodramatic.

        My confidence that this principal would handle, say, a school shooter, well is very low.

    12. No Mas Pantalones*

      My first thought was: “So if there’s an active shooter, does the principal refuse to notify parents until the police have apprehended the suspect because it might cause a frenzy otherwise?”

      Based on the info in the letter, I’d escalate and do it loudly and as widespread as possible. This is not a person who should be in an industry involving children or the well being of others.

      Also, I’d really like to kick that principal in the crotchital area. (It hurts no matter what’s there.)

    13. Elizabeth West*


      Haven’t read all the comments yet and I won’t neg the OP or her colleagues for not standing up to the principal. It sounds like she’s one of those folks it’s hard to do that with. But you absolutely need to do it now.

      If I were a parent, I’d be LIVID about this. What, is she not going to call an ambulance if my kid got hurt because it might “scare” someone? It scares me more that she has such utter disregard for the safety of school employees, let alone the pupils.

    14. Radio Girl*

      Terrible action on the part of the principal. Clearly she knows nothing about emergency or crisis management.

      Yes, get the union involved and the school board. Please.

      And please update us.

    15. Kittymommy*

      Yup! Our risk management, hr, and clinic would have lost their minds of at this. All I can think of is liability.

    16. Nana*

      At a (non-union) private school, older employee fell/broke hip in the parking lot before school started. Parents jumped out of cars to re-direct traffic, school nurse came out with wheelchair (and directed that she not be moved), and 911 was called immediately. At an all-school assembly that day, head thanked everyone, reminded children that ‘everyone can be a helper,’ suggested thoughts and prayers as well as drawings to cheer her up. Wonderful lesson for all who were involved in any way.

      1. Radio Girl*

        That was brilliant. Accidents happen. They do not reflect badly on the school, but the way they are handled – or not handled – will.

        The principal made the matter worse.

    17. Former Hoosier*

      I can’t help but wonder if the principal was trying to avoid OSHA reporting? No matter what, that was not the right thing to do.

    18. Noah*

      My read on this is that it’s probably an independent school (not sure why, but that’s what I’m seeing), in which case: Board of Directors.

      In no instance do I think the approach is to go to the principal.

    19. Pine cones huddle*

      Yes. Immediately contact the board or county or superintendent. Frankly, if I had fallen I would have called 911 myself or loudly demanded someone else call. This is bizarre. There are times when common sense needs to trump what your supervisor is saying.

      1. Pine cones huddle*

        I mean, what if this doofus pulled the same stuff if a student were hurt!?! This is not OK. And as a parent I would want the school board to know. This person is charged with the well-being of possibly hundreds of kids and this is not good decision making.

    20. Teacher*

      I don’t know about the letter writer’s situation, but I am a teacher and in my state anti-union legislation has created a union so weak that I’ve never worked at a school with more than three members. I mention this because people assume teachers have powerful unions but it varies widely by state. In my state, taking this issue to the union would do very little.

    21. The Southern Gothic*

      This asshole of a principal may be also trying to avoid a Worker’s Comp claim. If there’s no union, this needs to be reported as a worker’s comp claim.

  2. palomar*

    Yes, absolutely get your union involved. This is just one of the reasons why they exist, time to let them do their work.

  3. Jessie the First (or second)*

    I don’t know that this violated criminal laws – can’t think of anything off the top of my head – but it may have violated the union contract, if there is one, and it most certainly means significant exposure to civil liability (delaying medical care is never helpful, and the next time, if doing so actually impedes recovery and worsens the health status of the patient?). Maybe a letter to the school department to express concern? To the union leaders so they can push for a clause in the contract about access to medical care (FFS, that shouldn’t be necessary, but wow!).

    1. (Different) Rebecca, PhD*

      Some states have bystander laws–if you see an accident or injury you’re required to intervene even just by calling the authorities, or you could be charged with negligence. Some have the opposite ones, protecting bystanders from potential legal obligation in situations where they feel unable or unsafe helping. It all depends where you are.

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        Bystander laws tend to be good samaritan laws – laws that protect bystanders who choose to (reasonably) intervene. Duty to rescue is usually a tort concept, and to the best of my knowledge the states that have some sort of statutory version of this are few, and the duty is quite narrow (like, for example, in FL you have a duty to report sexual assault if you see it happening). In all likelihood, treating this as a civil issue, a contract issue, a workplace safety issue will probably be more effective. I’d be curious if LW’s state does have a broader law on it though!

          1. Lil Fidget*

            To be fair, if the teacher never lost consciousness there may be some leeway on the proper medical response. I’m not sure, but I know that was our “red flag” when I was in sports.

            1. Specialk9*

              She had a bleeding head wound, and hit her head hard enough to be disoriented. When I was in an ambulance, we woulda transported her to the hospital, and likely called the paramedics.

          2. Hills to Die on*

            That’s a really good question. Is the nurse not liable though because her boss forbade her though?

              1. Kate*

                I think that depends on the district. At the district I worked in, the nurses were actually employed by the local hospital system and we contracted with them. The principal had almost no power over them. Other districts hire nurses and the principal would be their supervisor.

            1. BeautifulVoid*

              This made me think of the ethical disobedience letter earlier this week. If someone HAD called EMS (which would have been the right thing to do, though I understand being overwhelmed in the moment), I can’t imagine the principal would have been able to do much about it. Any halfway decent union would be able to fight any formal disciplinary action, I would think.

              Granted, the principal might decide afterwards to subtly make that person’s life a living hell in that school until the end of days, but that’s usually not a legal issue.

              1. Specialk9*

                I don’t think there’s a union here.

                I see news stories about arbitrary firing of teachers all the time. I think someone as unreasonable and loopy-thinking as this principal absolutely *would* fire a teacher for calling EMS. And then likely get sued and lose, and have the board remove them. (Though maybe not – the catwalk pooper/IED guy was defended by his bosses when sued for deafening his subordinate – so I won’t make assumptions!).

              2. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

                I agree. If someone tells you not to call an ambulance in an emergency, call the ambulance anyway.

          3. A Teacher*

            The nurse was employed by the school and on duty being paid for that time for care and treatment there so she would have a duty to act.

          4. Tace*

            Yes, but only if the nurse is a licensed and registered professional; it wouldn’t cover one of the ‘nurses’ who are more like a workplace first-aider. This nurse may have been put in a place where they have now violated that duty of care.

            The nurse’s duty of care is always to the patient (the teacher), and in this situation – a real medical emergency – the nurse is the one in charge, not the principal or anyone else.

            Ideally, the nurse (or any other adult) would prevent the victim being moved, do a quick check and immediately call for an ambulance, then proceed to keep the patient stable and go through assessment questions with the patient and the dispatch staff until paramedics arrive with a neck brace and backboard, and get them to hospital for scans.

            And the nurse should always be in a position to tell the principal or anyone else to step off while they are making medical decisions; if you don’t have policy that makes this explicit, you need to ask your union/ultimate bosses to get that in place.

            1. Tina Belcher*

              A workplace first-aider is also responsible under care and duty to act, if they have a first aid certification. The simple ones available from the American Red Cross or the like would apply in this situation: you can be charged with negligence or abandonment for not following your training.

              That said, this is an issue we’ve encountered in my workplace, building directors punishing staff for calling EMS because “it looks bad to have an ambulance outside” or “the person will sue us if they can’t afford the ambulance bill.” You either call and ask forgiveness later and make a big stink with HR, who will back you because legal doesn’t want that kind of exposure, or you write it in the formal incident report that Jane Smith prohibited you from calling an ambulance as you recommended as per your training. Or both.

            2. Boojum*

              I’m not sure about the US, but here, if a superior asks you to do something illegal, and you follow that order, they become liable for the act they same as if they had done it themselves.

              Obviously there are extremes where this wouldn’t apply, but the idea is to acknowledge the power imbalance between employees/employers

              1. Former Hoosier*

                That is not true in the US. If your employer asks you to do something illegal and it is not something you could be held personally liable for (such as murder), you are not liable for the act. However, the supervisor or company could be liable.

                1. K, Esq.*

                  Uh, no. You’re personally liable for your actions, whether your boss told you to do them or not. What example are you thinking of where the employee would not be personally liable? Usually tort law goes after the company/management under respondeat superior because they have insurance/deeper pockets, and Joe Employee is broke.

              2. Specialk9*

                That’s a good law. I don’t know what the law is here – we have 50 states and Federal law, and it’s a wild quilt of laws.

            1. bob*

              Sorry yes she does because she was on duty at the school. I was thinking bystander obligations.

              A more interesting question is whether the idiot principal has opened the nurse up to professional negligence.

          5. Live and Learn*

            Depending on the state and/or public/private school the school nurse may very well not be an actual nurse at all. Many nurses and other medical professionals do have legal requirements to assist in medical emergencies but in many places school nurses do not have nursing degrees of any kind and only very minimal medical training to hand out medication and apply bandages, clean minor wounds, for all other care they have to call parents or an ambulance.
            I live in Virginia and a family friend is a public school nurse, she has no nursing background or education beyond a very basic first aid training and safety protocols for administering prescribed medications.

        1. Alton*

          If the injured teacher “consented” to delaying treatment and technically seemed aware enough to make her own medical decisions, I’m not sure if the others would have a legal duty to call an ambulance. But ethically and professionally, discouraging someone from seeking help (and using your power as their boss to pressure them) is horrible.

          This does sound like a potential OSHA issue, though.

          1. Observer*

            I doubt this applies. It’s pretty obvious – and should have been obvious to anyone with even basic first aid training! that the teacher was in no condition to “consent”. “Went along” is the term the teacher later used. And also said that she was in no condition to advocate for herself.

          2. Perse's Mom*

            The one time I had a head injury, I “lost” a lot of time. I have brief flashes (maybe a total of 30 seconds) of what was hours in the ER before they admitted me and let me sleep. It was quite confusing in the morning; clearly the medical folks prodding me thought I remembered everything (…because when they woke me up every hour to ask if I knew where I was, I did at some point start remembering that specific piece of info, I guess?) but I had next to no idea what they were talking about and *still* was not in a state to ask them to explain further.

            Head injuries are tricky buggers is what I’m saying.

          3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            I think there’s a strong argument that the injured teacher lacked the capacity to consent to delayed treatment.

            We don’t know if this had an impact on her treatment or if she’ll have long-term harm (which would make it difficult to prevail in a civil case), but I don’t think the fact that she didn’t protest nullifies the school’s legal risk.

      2. bob*

        What Jessie said. Even as an EMT I’m not required to stop and help someone but that does vary a bit by state, however, stopping to help at a scene usually means keeping people who mean well but don’t know what the hell they’re doing from doing more damage to the patient.

        The school board or whoever runs the school should REALLY be concerned about the lack of good judgement shown by the principal.

      3. Noah*

        This isn’t about having a duty to call an ambulance. Principal actively impeded others from calling an ambulance. That’s a totally different discussion.

    2. Naomi*

      The principal should really be considering which makes the school look worse: an ambulance arriving, or a lawsuit from someone whose health was impacted because they were denied immediate medical care.

      1. Hills to Die on*

        And for that matter, as a parent, I would be concerned not only for the poor teacher, but also if my child needs medical care, is she going to do something like this again, or just generally show poor judgment?

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Or not even just medical care: In any situation at all, if it comes to a choice between saving face for the institution or acting in the best interest of whomever, what has the principal shown that she will do?

        2. mugsy523*

          This is exactly what I came here to say! I would be concerned that my child would be denied appropriate rapid response if injured because it may “look bad.” Terrible lack of judgement.

          PS, I work in safety and with a head injury, this is even more concerning; our policy is to use an overabundance of caution when it comes to any head injury. There’s no way for non-medically trained people to know without proper medical tests, such as a MRI or CAT scan to see if there is brain bleeding or anything else wrong. I know a school nurse was there, but these aren’t medical conditions that a nurse is prepared to treat in a school setting. This could have been a significantly worse outcome for this injured person.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I can’t see how being incapable of dialing 911 makes the principle look good or even competent. I would not want my kid around a leader of any sort who could not dial 911 because it “looks bad to others”.

    3. fposte*

      NAL, but I’m thinking that while this may not have violated the law, it’s possible that if somebody did call an ambulance and got fired for it, that might be a genuine wrongful termination under the public public policy exception.

      1. K, Esq.*

        I don’t think so, you can fire an employee for any reason that isn’t discriminatory if they’re at-will. It’s a terrible thing to do, but it’s legal.

        1. fposte*

          That’s not quite true–there are various exceptions to the at-will doctrine, and public policy is the most frequently invoked one. One summary says, “The most widely recognized common law exception to the at-will presumption protects employees against adverse employment actions that violate a public interest” but notes “States that recognize the public policy exception vary significantly in how broadly or narrowly it is construed.”

    4. Duckles*

      As a couple people noted most states don’t have a duty to help someone except in particular circumstances, but being someone’s employer is often one of those circumstances. Also, even though someone might not be liable for failing to aid someone, you can be liable if you prevent others from aiding the person…

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It sounds like it may also have violated the school’s internal policies regarding emergency medical situations, too. If so, the principal has a great deal of civil liability, and the school may also be exposed to significant civil liability if there’s evidence that there’s inadequate training despite the policy.

  4. Anon.*

    Our school has a policy that if there is an emergency we are to notify our supervisors first, they will call emergency services. As I recall, we all laughed when the policy was announced. I can’t see it ever being followed.

    1. Vin Packer*

      Seriously, this. Like, she was too dazed to advocate for herself, so why didn’t anybody else advocate for her?

      Speaking up as a group now is better than nothing, but even better than that would have been looking out for each other in the moment.

        1. Justme, The OG*

          Please don’t. The nurse was giving medical care. We don’t know how the nurse read the situation.

        2. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

          I wonder if the nurse was actually a nurse, like an RN or NP, or was she more a “health aid” that was trained to take a temperature give bandaid type first aid before sending kids home. Because my mom was an elementary school teacher for decades in So. California, and they never had an actual nurse at the schools in her large district. We had a family friend who was an emergency room RN and she would get really rankled when the school health aids would be called nurse.

          All this to say, the nurse may not be as trained for emergencies as some people are assuming.

          1. Mallory Janis Ian*

            Maybe this? Because I think that a real, actual nurse would act on behalf of an injured person, and not be beholden to the demands of a non-medical person (even though he was her boss). Maybe from too much tv (but also from knowing some in real life), but I tend to consider nurses kind of bad-asses.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              You would be surprised then, because I’ve worked with nurses who made all kinds of questionable decisions when their jobs were threatened by someone who had power over them.

              (I’m thinking of the nurses who permanently injured themselves—and were laid off due to their injuries, because irony or whatever—trying to move people without assistance or the correct equipment because their bosses said “This is your job, and I expect you to do your job if you want to keep your job.”)

          2. LAI*

            Agreed. My mom was offered a position as front desk administrator for a local elementary school and one of her job duties would have been to be the school “nurse” too. She has absolutely zero medical training or background.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        That was my first thought. Someone should have gone against instructions and called an ambulance anyway. Adult professionals should not just stand by while someone makes a potentially harmful decision.

        1. Vin Packer*

          I wonder if it’s one of those situations where things have been so dysfunctional for so long it seemed normal to do nothing as a colleague bled out of her head for an hour. More than just behaving badly, the principal persuaded the rest of the staff to behave badly—but it sounds like a lot of them are rightly a little spooked by that, so that’s a good sign. The LW’s gut that this isn’t right is 100% on point about this and she should trust it.

        2. OP*

          Hi, OP here. Most of us were unaware of the situation as it was developing because the principal kept it well hidden. I can’t speak for everyone who observed the incident, but the nurse is a kindly older woman who was unlikely to go against the hardheaded principal’s decisions. It may be true that someone who knew of the incident should have called 911 right away. But unfortunately that’s the culture of the school I work in. Crazy, isn’t it?

          1. Vin Packer*

            Uggggh, how awful. And this “unfortunately that’s the culture of the school I work in” is precisely what I dreaded was true.

            Good vibes to you, OP; regardless of whether you take action on this specific incident, it’s got to be tough to work there (on top of all the reasons it’s tough to be a K-12 teacher in the first place!).

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Holy shit.
            This makes it even more egregious. Union or school board officials need to know about this ASAP, before one of the kids gets hurt or, God forbid, something worse happens.

          3. Tuxedo Cat*

            The principal has plenty of blame, but if I were a worker or parent, I’d be really concerned about this nurse’s ability to do what’s right in another situation if the principal pulled something like this again.

          4. Observer*

            What the principal did warrants firing, in my opinion. But I *do* think that the nurse failed here as well.

            I’v know more than one “kindly older woman” who could push back when needed. And it WAS needed here. I wouldn’t focus on her too much, because the REALLY egregious behavior was on the part of the principal. But, I think it’s fair to say that the nurse was at fault, as well.

            1. Pomona Sprout*

              “I’ve known more than one ‘kindly older woman’ who could push back when needed. ”

              I am what many might describe as a “kindly older woman,” and I’m quite capable of telling people where to get off when I think the situation warrants it. Without having been there, though, it’s hard to know how things may have looked to that nurse at the time, especially since we don’t know if she was actually a bona-fide trained health care professional. I wish she had insisted on calling 911, but I don’t think it’s fair to make her the scapegoat here. Afaic, this is ALL on the principal and no one else.

              1. Observer*

                As I said, the principal is the key player here. But there is really very little room to doubt that the nurse failed at her job. Anyone trained in first aid, even if not a full fledged nurse, should know that what the principal was demanding was dangerous. And, the delay to find family? That’s even worse, as that’s already a point where there was a chance to take a breath.

          5. Student*

            Tell your principal that if you were a parent of a student at the school, and you found out about this, you would very serious concerns about whether your kid would be treated promptly in an emergency. If I were a parent of your students, I would be calling for her to be immediately fired because of exactly this.

            Tell her you have concerns about whether you’ll get prompt treatment for an emergency.

            Ask her, if her head had been busted open, would she want prompt medical treatment or the delay in favor of not worrying some parents?

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Everybody who keeps saying the principal wouldn’t call emergency services for a kid is missing the point: the principal was prioritizing the kids over the teacher because she views the kids as more important than the teachers. I think she would call emergency services for a kid, because kids have parents to advocate for them, and bullying kids into a harmful situation is dangerous because the parents will always find out.

              Tl;dr: The principal is a fucking monster and she needs to be fired, not because of some hypothetical scenario where she fails to help a kid, but because she already failed to help a teacher.

              1. Observer*

                She needs to be fired because she failed to help a teacher. Of course.

                What people are saying is that her reasoning is not only monstrous, but stupid. Because any sane parent is going to question what she will do if their child gets hurt. See, she was NOT prioritizing the children AT All. There was never the slightest bit of risk to the children. She was prioritizing appearances. And any sensible parent will recognize the difference.

              2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                I don’t think she prioritized the children at all. She prioritized what she believed were the optics/PR of the situation, not potential trauma to the children.

                1. PlainJane*

                  This. And there are plenty of examples of optics taking priority over the welfare of children as well as adults. Several people have brought up molestation issues as an example. I could easily see this principal covering up an abuse case b/c it would make the school look bad. People should *always* take priority over PR.

        1. Lance*

          Basically this. For as simple a thought as it might be to just call an ambulance, it sounds like the principal was ordering people around right in the midst of it, which would do a lot toward putting the ambulance out of people’s minds and just following orders.

          1. Angelinha*

            I’m also always hesitant to call an ambulance for someone if I’m not sure if it’s the best way to go (like, can someone just drive them, should I call a family member instead, etc?). I worked somewhere where the boss called an ambulance when someone passed out at work. Totally the right call in the moment, but the employee was really upset because she could not afford an ambulance ride.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Please, can someone who knows clarify—in some places, they charge for the ambulance to come out, but in others they don’t if you refuse treatment or are not transported? I was under the impression that this is the case.

              1. Mints*

                It depends on your insurance. My company changed the rules this year, and it was clear that it’s all up in the air, depending on what the companies want to charge for

              2. AnotherAlison*

                I didn’t take an ambulance that was called for me once. I was in a bad car accident, but I was fine. I wasn’t billed. I think I had to sign something saying I refused treatment, but at a minimum I had to verbally say it.

              3. Bobbin Ufgood*

                It depends, but you can absolutely be billed for them coming even if you refuse care – happened to a friend of mine’s husband. Also, sometimes insurance will not pay and ambulances are SPENDY

              4. Half-Caf Latte*

                Whether or not you have volunteer or professional squads influences the billing process as well.

            2. PlainJane*

              Me too. I have vivid memories of regaining consciousness after a medical mistake and begging the nurse not to call 911, because I had no insurance and couldn’t afford the ambulance ride. Also, I was raised with the idea that it isn’t an emergency if someone isn’t in imminent danger of dying, and while I know that’s ridiculous, I still have an internal monologue about whether a given situation is serious enough to warrant a 911 call.

        2. Vin Packer*

          This is basically what I wrote in my reply above; part of the LW and colleagues’ continuing discomfort here might be them realizing that they let the principal push them too far this time. This is a good feeling! Heed that feeling!

        3. Hills to Die on*

          It’s also easier said than done when your job is potentially in question. If someone could get fired over that, I can see it being an unfairly hard decision.

        4. Naptime Enthusiast*

          The bystander effect in a nutshell. This is also why most CPR and basic emergency training courses make it clear that in the moment, you should point to an individual and say “YOU! Call 911!” rather than yelling “Someone call 911!” into a crowd – everyone assumes someone else will. Or at least I was taught this in lifeguard/CPR training in the early 2000s.

            1. Blackcat*

              And it actually works! A bad motor cycle accident once happened right in front of me. I pulled over along with several other folks. I started barking orders at people and they did what I said. Some random dude even handed over his shirt when I told him to.

              1. calonkat*

                I was the first person to stop at a rather bad auto accident in a rural area some years ago (before cell phones), and though I was young (and female), just being the person telling people what to do seemed to be enough. I had people directing traffic, assisting the wounded. People were even asking me for PERMISSION to leave the scene after they’d volunteered to help. When the highway patrol finally arrived, they just kept on doing exactly what I’d been doing.

          1. Sylvan*

            Yup, that’s what I learned in CPR/first aid/etc training a couple of years ago. Some people assume someone else will step in (bystander effect). Some people want to help, but freeze because they don’t know what to do. Somebody has to kind of take charge and get others moving.

        5. Mike C.*

          Yes, if one is to be critical of anything in situations like these, it should be directed towards policies that ensure people are aware and empowered to act in emergency situations rather than blaming people for not knowing what to do.

          1. Vin Packer*

            Relatedly, what do you think the odds are that this place has a strong union? I’m going to guess slim.

        6. Not So NewReader*

          That is why it’s good to talk about things like this here, before they happen to other people. I think there is that shock factor, “No, my boss did not just say THAT. Oh crap. She did say THAT. Now what do I do?”

          I remember a time when a boss to me to do X. Where X was something that crossed moral/ethical lines. I knew that she wanted to get me on insubordination. In my case, I was VERY lucky to come up with an alternative idea that was moral/ethical and that appeased her.
          We don’t expect people to exhibit such poor judgement/lapse in ethics and it’s very difficult to come up with ideas on how to handle this in the moment.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            “I remember a time when a boss to me to do X. Where X was something that crossed moral/ethical lines. I knew that she wanted to get me on insubordination.”

            I’ve been there too and I hate it, because “insubordination” can be literally anything, but if you do the immoral/unethical thing you’re risking “just following orders is not an excuse!” and getting fired anyway.

        7. LBK*

          Yeah, it’s a pretty irreversible escalation, so when it comes time to actually dial the number I think there’s a natural inclination to hesitate and wonder if you’re blowing things out of proportion. It makes the situation more real once there’s authorities involved.

          1. Cherith Ponsonby*

            I had to dial 000 (Australian 911) for a bushfire on my block once. It was obviously the right thing to do – it was bushfire season, we hadn’t had rain in months, this particular fire had the potential to threaten not only the caravan we were living in (and our goats and chickens) but also the neighbours across the road, and “if you see a bushfire, call 000” is as fundamental to rural Australia as “don’t poke that snake” – but I was still surprisingly hesitant. Also, I was running on about two hours’ sleep. If there’d been a forceful authority figure who’d taken charge of the situation and told me not to call, I might well not have called.

            (Spoilers: I called, the operator thanked me for calling, the firies came out and did their thing, I didn’t get in trouble and I got to cross another item off my bucket list)

        8. J.*

          If they’re in a school without a union, I can understand why people would be nervous about getting in trouble for insubordination for not doing the thing the principal specifically told them to do.

        9. Alton*

          Also, I think how the injured person is acting can make a difference, too. If someone was unconscious, I’d probably feel more confident sneaking off and calling 911. If someone is sitting there saying “I think I’ll be all right…”, I’d probably hesitate more.

          It sounds like the injured teacher was conscious but dazed and vulnerable.

          1. Perse's Mom*

            I’m told I kept trying to get up immediately following a head injury years ago. One of my friends knew enough to ask questions; she asked me the date and I got the month wrong. They then convinced me to stay down and stay still until the ambulance got there.

          2. Pine cones huddle*

            I’m a fainter and I try to make people aware of it when we first start working together. If I fainted, I would very likely not want the ambulance called. So her response is definitely important. But I also think the situation seemed severe enough that the staff is still discussing it 6 months later.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      My best friend works at a school where if there’s an intruder and you’re an odd number grade (1st, 3rd, 5th, etc) you’re to call the main office. If you’re an even number grade (2nd, 4th, 6th, etc) you’re to call 911. She laughed and said that, no, she’ll call 911 regardless.

        1. Magenta Sky*

          *Somebody* needs to notify the school administration, who have the tools to notify the entire school and put it on lockdown. I suspect that was their goal. They didn’t handle it very well.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            That’s what I was thinking. 911 is not going to be able to quickly tell the teachers to lock their doors and hide their students.

            1. Magenta Sky*

              Nor can the teacher in the classroom. It’s a sensible policy, but I think there’s better ways to make it happen.

      1. Alice Ulf*


        I mean…what is the rationale there? Are they afraid that everyone will only call 911 otherwise, and the main office won’t receive any notification until the SWAT team breaks down the door?

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I think this is exactly what they are thinking. In dangerous situations people panic and might think to call 911 then secure themselves/room and not think to inform others. A school cafeteria, library, or other locations could be given extra time to prepare by either locking down the room getting to safety if a lock-down/ active shooter emergency is announced. If you have a set policy in place it can help in situations when people might panic.

          1. SpiderLadyCEO*

            I bet this is it, as well. It also probably is also to reduce the number of calls to 911, so they don’t get overburdened.

          2. please*

            Yes. I’m not sure I agree with the plan, but there is a logic to it. It’s not a terrible idea coming from a bad place.

          3. Tina Belcher*

            It is misguided, but it makes sense. I handle Emergency Action Plans at my work, and the reason EAPs are set up so that the person who is responding to the emergency is not calling 911 is twofold:
            1) They should be tending primarily to the victim’s needs
            2) The second person’s job, after calling EMS is to ensure that any additional equipment or resources are deployed to the scene of the emergency (AEDs, oxygen tanks, staff who are certified in First Response), and ensuring that EMS gets to the right location within the building.

            In a big building with multiple doors, it matters that staff are posted outside to direct the EMTs inside, and then escort them to the correct room. This is of extra importance if only some routes are wide enough to accommodate the stretcher, elevator access is required, etc. EMS wandering around delays response time when seconds matter.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              Yes, Exjob designated a special group of employees to do just this. We had a restricted access workplace–someone would have had to badge them in and guide them, especially in certain areas. The first floor in particular was like a rabbit warren.

            2. Hermione Lovegood*

              We had the city fire inspectors here last year (fire department is also primary EMS), and they like large facilities with multiple doors to have numbers on the doors. This is so the person on the phone can tell the dispatcher to have EMS come to door 9, let’s say. The numbering starts with the first door on the right-hand side of the street-facing exterior, then continues clockwise around the building. I hope that makes sense – I wish I could draw a map on here…

        2. Erin*

          I used to sub in a school district, where subs weren’t given keys to lock the classroom doors. So I and all the students I was in charge of for the day were sitting ducks in a school shooting. Big reason why I stopped.
          Then in other f-up school issues someone I went to high school with sent their kids the the school district we graduated from, and her kindergartener ran away from school and was gone almost 1 hour. Before a good samartain spotted the boy across town and called the police. The police were the ones to notify mom. But they have no problem calling mom right away when junior swears in class. I would’ve called the news and pulled my kid from that district and called a lawyer so fast. It makes me sick.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        This is actually a sensible policy when you think about it. In a case like this if everyone reports it to 911 the main office may not know what is going on and be left vulnerable. If the main office is contacted they can issue a school wide lock down, alert other people in areas that may not be aware of what is happening until it is to late. This even/odd situation allows for prompt contact of the authorities while ensuring that everyone else in the building has the required information to keep them safe.

        1. Future Homesteader*

          Presuming two people from two differently-assigned classes see it first. It would make more sense to say “call 911 first, then alert someone at the school,” which should really be standard protocol in life-threatening situations. In fact, when doing first aid/CPR training, you’re always taught to assign someone to call 911 and *then* you attend to the situation. The first responders need to be on their way immediately, or *everyone* is going to be worse off.

          1. Natalie*

            Yep, that’s what we used to ask our tenants to do: call 911 FIRST for the love of god, and then call us. Sometimes it meant us and 911 got multiple calls about something, but *shrug*.

          2. CmdrShepard4ever*

            You are right you are supposed to assign someone to call 911 because often times in a group situation people amuse other will contact 911 and they don’t need to it is called “diffusion of responsibility” I believe. In a school/larger building situation during an emergency situation this could happen. I imagine that the alternating assignment might be a way to pre-assign tasks to try and prevent “diffusion of responsibility,” if people know that everyone is supposed to contact 911 then call the office they might not think to do it.

            Also Knittyinabrowncoat said “The reason for policies like this is so that dispatchers aren’t getting multiple calls for the same incident. Also in some cases can from your cell phone can delay services getting to you in a timely manner because the GPS in your phone may not give accurate location info to 911 should your call get dropped.”

            I also imagine that in the school setting the grades are distributed somewhat evenly. So that each floor has both even and odd numbered grades. If each floor only had odd or even grades then this alternating contact policy would not make sense. I don’t know the exact reasoning behind the policies that the school has but this is what I imagine they are trying to avoid.

              1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                Presumably in this situation if there is an intruder everyone might be made aware at the same time. I don’t know the reasoning for the policy. But I imagine it is to have a coordinated response where certain individuals know what they have to do. In an emergency situation it might be easier to remember to do just one task then two, and also it might be safer because the teachers make just one call instead of two and can then focus on the safety of the children and themselves.
                I am not an emergency crisis response expert so take everything what I have said with a grain of salt, but that is the reasoning that I imagine for such a policy, I certainly could be wrong about its effectiveness.

        2. Aurion*

          But why not have a policy of calling the main office after 911? Assuming the intruder was spotted by multiple staff members of the same floor (very likely) it’s not like multiple teachers calling the front office would do any more good than one, and for all anyone knows the intruder could prowl one particular floor for a few minutes before moving on.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

              Yes, same. Whoever calls 911 needs to be on the line with them continuously to provide updates. Someone else needs to be calling the main office. In a small school where multiple classes are going to hear/see what’s happening at the same time, this division of labor makes total sense to me.

              1. Aurion*

                I’ve called an ambulance for a coworker and they did let me hang up, actually. The dispatcher had gotten everything out of me he could think of; I left him my cell number if he wanted to call me back for further info but he did not.

            2. FD*

              See, I always thought it would be that way but both times I’ve called 911 (in a professional capacity for guest medical issues), they’ve actually had me hang up once they got the info to dispatch. So I guess it depends?

              1. Ego Chamber*

                That’s medical issues though. If you’re reporting a crime in progress, they like you to stay on the line as long as it’s safe for you to do so. (You can hang up on them and they’ll still dispatch, but they prefer you to stay on the line.)

            3. Stinky Socks*

              EMS could absolutely call the front office while keeping the teacher on the line, though. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            In a situation where there is an active shooter, wouldn’t it make more sense in some ways to call the main office first? That way, the main office can make an announcement and all teachers can lockdown their classrooms, hide students, etc.

            1. Boojum*

              It weirds me out that you guys have in depth conversations about what to do if some starts shooting at kids in a classroom, like its a normal part of life….

              1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

                It’s extremely rare, thankfully, if you think about how many schools there are in the US and how many school shootings occur, but like other emergencies, you plan for the worst case scenario. I’ve never had a fire at any school or employer — and honestly can’t think of a single news story about a tragic fire at a school or university in my lifetime — but I’ve probably done a fire drill every year of my life since kindergarten.

              2. Totally Minnie*

                The shooting at Columbine happened when I was 16. I’m now 35. School shootings (and mass shootings in other public places) have been a thing I’ve had to think about for more than half my life. In a lot of ways this conversation does feel normal, but it makes me angry that it’s so normal, if that makes any sense.

                1. Ego Chamber*


                  The first anniversary of the Columbine massacre, my high school was swarming with so many cops, I noped right out of there and just went home for the day. It got easier after that. Sort of.

              3. Teach*

                This is a normal part of my life. I’m a teacher. I just walked through our lockdown and escape plan with high school seniors today, along with talking through the right way to deal with law enforcement in a crisis. (No coat, no backpack, phone in your pocket, hands empty and up, be ready to listen and run, they aren’t yelling to be mean.) I have wasp spray and a baseball bat hidden in my room, I always have my door keys and my cell phone on my person. I know it is comparatively rare for an active shooting to happen, but we had a credible threat on campus with a law enforcement response last year, so it’s really important to my kids that they know I have my shit together.

                1. swingbattabatta*

                  My daughter’s daycare practiced their lockdown drills yesterday. She’s two. I cried for half of the day because I can’t even wrap my head around the fact that this is her reality.

              4. Pomona Sprout*

                We did just have a very, VERY, horrendously bad school shooting in the US only 11 days ago, you know, so that sort of thing is probably more in the forefront of people’s minds than usual!

              5. jo*

                I’m American. This thread weirded me out, too … after I got to about the fiftieth comment on the subject. My mind went in exactly the same direction and it took ages for me to notice.

        3. seejay*

          It could also make sense in that there’s a guaranteed group of people that will call one source and a guaranteed group that will call another source instead of someone thinking “someone will call 911 so I don’t have to”. One of the common pitfalls in an emergency is people thinking that someone else will do it so they don’t have to. My partner said that in training he took, someone taking over and assigning people to do things will help ensure tasks get done, such as pointing to someone and saying “you call 911, you get bandages, you do this, you do that”. Don’t assume someone else will cover the task.

          For him, he always assumes no one will call 911 so if he sees something, he takes the initiative and calls (if he’s not in a position to lead and delegate). If I was in an organization that said “even floors call 911, odd floors call management”, I might ask the reasoning for it at least, since that might be why.

        4. Antilles*

          Not for medical emergencies it isn’t.
          1.) When someone is seriously injured, minutes count. Wasting a couple minutes up front talking to the office before calling 9-1-1 for an ambulance can make everything drastically worse.
          2.) Calling 9-1-1 typically includes more just reporting the incident and location – the first thing they’ll do is send the ambulance of course…but then they’ll almost always ask other follow-up questions to gather information and/or give you instructions on what to do. Which is a lot more useful if they’re talking to someone who’s actually *with* the victim rather than someone in an office on the other side of the building.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            You are right minutes do count but
            1.) This is the policy for an intruder/active shooter emergency, it could be different during a medical emergency.
            2.) They are not telling everyone to report to the front office first then call 911, they are telling one part of the group to call 911 and another part. In the situation WDP mentioned it is a small school, but someone else made a good point in a big building or campus finding the location where a person is injured can be tricky. Local officials such as security or the head office can better direct first responders only if they themselves know what is going on. Like you said 911 usually has follow up questions after sending out the ambulance so if everyone calls 911 this can keep them all tied up for a while and result in no one informing the main office/security. In a medical emergency situation the main office would be in the best position to notify someones emergency contact person so they can arrive quickly to make any necessary medical decisions.

      3. TootsNYC*

        actually, I think that system sounds good! That way you KNOW someone is calling 911, and you also KNOW someone is going to let the folks in the office know, so they can do THEIR part. And they have a plan, so that’s good.

        This is very different from saying “don’t call anybody.”

        It also keeps the folks at 911 from being overwhelmed so badly (cuts the number of calls they receive in half).

        I think your friend would be wrong to disregard the well-thought-out procedures that have been put in place.

    3. Florida*

      This reminds of a time I worked at a place where another employee was in a dangerous relationship. She left the relationship and was afraid he might show up at work. The company sent everyone a photo and description of his car. If we see the man or see the car, we should consider him to be dangerous and we should call Fergus (the office busybody who wanted to be a part of everything). Fergus managed the database but got involved in everything.
      This was my first week at the job, but I told my new boss that I would not be calling Fergus, but would call 911.

      1. SpiderLadyCEO*

        You need to make sure that it got into the office gossip, first! That’s clearly the most important priority.

        1. Florida*

          Not a letter, but I may have mentioned it in a comment before. It happened several years ago – before AAM.

    4. Knittyinabrowncoat*

      The reason for policies like this is so that dispatchers aren’t getting multiple calls for the same incident. Also in some cases can from your cell phone can delay services getting to you in a timely manner because the GPS in your phone may not give accurate location info to 911 should your call get dropped.
      If the reasons for the policy is what I stated above it makes sense. If it’s so your supervisor can exert some bizarre control over when you receive medical care then that’s ridiculous.

      1. Natalie*

        Eh, I’m not really sure I buy this. Getting multiple calls about an incident just goes with the territory for emergency dispatchers. By and large I think they can handle it, and its definitely preferable to them getting a delayed call or no call because someone doesn’t feel authorized to phone directly. And these policies seem to predate cell phones so I don’t really buy that this is the reason for it.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I would think that multiple calls would be desirable in situations where the problem is unfolding/changing. Each person has a different vantage point and can add in more information.

          1. Natalie*

            And less chance of something getting mis-communicated through some kind of telephone (ha) game. You tell the supervisor the guy has black hair and is wearing a red shirt, and five minutes later they goof up and report a guy with red hair wearing a black shirt. Now there’s a problem.

        2. K.*

          I once witnessed a bad car accident and called 911. I was about two cars back from the accident, and the area was busy so there were cars on all sides. When I called, the dispatcher told me that someone had already called and thanked me. I said OK and hung up. I’m sure they got a bunch of calls about that accident since so many people saw it, but it didn’t occur to me not to call. Better too many calls than none at all.

          1. Liz*

            Yes, there was a massive garbage fire in my block of flats last year — our next door neighbour nearly lost his house — and the fire department was already aware and en route when I called. But I’m not sorry I called.

          2. TootsNYC*

            but I don’t think this is analogous in a situation in which there ARE people who have been given explicit directions to call 911.

        3. Laura*

          A dispatcher once told me that they sometimes appreciate multiple calls because they get different info from each caller. I was just calling about a traffic accident, not something major like a fire or shooting, but I could see his point. I reported a possible gas tank leaking, and none of the other callers had.

          We also had instructions to call security first (at IRS), but no one did. However, the point there was to make sure security knew to let them onto the property. I’m sure the guards at the gated buildings would have let them in, and the guards at the building with guards would (most likely) have let them in, but we did have one incident where people had called security, per protocol, but the guard wouldn’t let them in until the person’s badge was replaced. It had been taken off because she was having an extremely severe epileptic seizure and kept hitting her in the face, but he still wouldn’t let the EMTs in until the badge was replaced–and hitting her in the face. And they wondered why no one liked calling security…

          And we had more more than one incident in smaller buildings without guards where people called 911 but no one went to the door to let them in. The dispatchers were getting calls complaining about the ambulances taking so long getting there, but the EMTs were at the door and couldn’t get in. IRS made it an official policy that someone had to go to the door if anyone called 911, but, since it had to be an official policy and not just logic is beyond me.

          At the Post Office, they usually remember to let the EMTs in, but they keep announcing that everyone else is to keep working…like that is going to happen.

      2. RadManCF*

        I’ve also been to a number of large, sprawling, industrial complexes where the stated procedure is to call security first, then to call 911. Among the reasons for this is so that the security officers at the main gate have a heads-up, and can direct responding emergency vehicles (this is not a trivial issue, as many industrial processes do not lend themselves to intuitive street layouts, and in addition, many large complexes grew over time, and rather than being one large plant, are actually numerous smaller plants that are mostly unrelated to each other, a common state of affairs for that minnesotan conglomerate that’s known for its Celtic adhesive strips.) This also allows them to communicate with the various organizational components within the plant, so that they can adjust their operations as necessary.

        In many, if not most cases, these complexes have their own emergency response teams, with equipment and training tailored to the specific hazards present in the complex, and security is responsible for dispatching them. All that said, the principal’s actions here are appalling, and in addition to reporting her to the union and to her superiors as suggested above, I’d also be talking to OSHA.

        1. Mike C.*

          Yeah, this is one of the few examples where calling on site folks first makes sense. At my site we have our own armed security, fire and EMS services, but they’ll certainly call professional services if needed. There are also specialized concerns (hazardous materials, specialized equipment, etc) that local officials might not be prepared to handle without on-site help. We had an active shooter call a few years back and it took 4 different police departments 3 hours to clear the site. Decades ago we had some robber drive through the site and try to hide*. Crazy stuff happens sometimes.

          But even then, calling 911 right away means that they’ll also notify on site services as well because they all talk to each other and have multiple plans set up to coordinate in different situations. Having people call one should get everyone else contacted.

          STATLER: How did they even find the guy?
          WALDORF: He was the only one working!

              1. RadManCF*

                Explains the armed security. While the Celtic Adhesive Strip Conglomerate is security conscious to the point of paranoia, their security is not armed, at least not in the midwest.

              2. Naptime Enthusiast*

                We have our own emergency services as well, and I remember being told very strictly that in the event of a test fire, DO NOT CALL THE CITY FIRE DEPT ONLY CALL OURS, because they will destroy the test equipment and we’ll lose months in our schedule.

          1. RadManCF*

            Also, I personally wouldn’t rely on 911 and first responders to relay information about a call to site management; a, it would probably take longer than calling security myself, and b, they’d be hearing things second hand. Granted, my point of view is that of a contractor employee; I’d be in these plants for short periods of time, and wouldn’t get to know all the nooks and crannies, and therefore, wouldn’t be the best person to be giving directions.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            LOL your Muppet joke

            When I was at OldExjob, the police were chasing a guy through the industrial park one day and he walked right in our open back door and was confronted by the big boss, who just happened to be in the break room at the time. I don’t think he was armed but it could have been really bad if he were.

            And no, they didn’t start locking the door after that. :P

            1. RadManCF*

              I spent a lot of time in a paper mill in Saint Paul, MN, that was in a very built up area, with the closest residential area being about three blocks north, across one of the major east-west streets in MSP. The mill was about 100 years old, and in the last twenty years or so, the neighborhood has gentrified, putting apartment buildings just to the north of the mill. Access control at that mill is pretty much non-existent; basically, anyone could waltz into production areas from off the street. I was always amazed that they didn’t have problems with neighborhood children using the mill as a playground. Perhaps the smell deters them.

        2. TootsNYC*

          and how much better would it be if some people had directions to call security at the same time that others were calling 911. Which is what that school’s policy does.

      3. Lauren K Milligan*

        Former 911 operator here – it isn’t a anyone’s job to try and make 911’s job easier, except 911. No company would create an actual written policy to limit the amount of 911 calls that could come in from that particular company. If they did, they would be subjecting themselves to a huge lawsuit.
        Every dispatch center is able to handle multiple calls regarding the same incident. Everything is coordinated by computer, and when multiple, concurrent calls come in, everyone in the center knows the calls will most likely be related. All the operators are able to see that responders have already been dispatched, so the possibility of redundancy simply doesn’t exist. Please don’t read negatively into my comment. I’m not at all trying to be snippy. I just want to clear up that misunderstanding about emergency dispatching.

        1. Aurion*

          Yeah, when I called 911 to report a fire, the dispatcher simply told me that someone had already reported it and a fire truck was en route.

          I imagine emergency services would much rather get multiple calls about the same incident than no calls at all.

        2. Myrin*

          Thanks for explaining this so thoroughly! It’s exactly what I suspected (purely born from asking myself “what would make the most sense here?”; I have no actual knowledge of dispatch calls or how police/ambulances operate) and it’s great to see it confirmed!

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Adding my thanks, also.

            I called on a domestic disturbance one time, the 911 operator kept me on the phone as the police had already been dispatched but I was inside the building. So I had to report what I was hearing, the officers arrived, they knocked on the door, someone answered the door, etc. After a bit the operator said I could hang up.

            I have had excellent experience with 911 operators they really know what to do and how they want to handle things.

        3. tangerineRose*

          It’s good to hear from someone who knows how this works. Thanks! Good to know that extra calls are OK.

      4. Polar Bear don't care*

        My sister’s a dispatcher and does frequently get multiple calls for the same incident – and she’s fine with that because a) better everyone calls than nobody does and b) sometimes the later caller gives better info than the earlier one and c) she can assess the progress of the situation (“the first caller said he was on Fifth Street, the second on Sixth, I bet I know which way he’s heading” kind of thing.)

        So, when in doubt, call 911!

      5. Lynn*

        If an incident develops into a criminal prosecution, witnesses who don’t stay to talk to police are often located because they called 911. It can be incredibly important to get a full understanding of what occurred and that’s much easier when law enforcement knows who actually saw what happened.

    5. Nan*

      Not a school, but our rule is we call 911, then we notify the highest person available, then we notify building management that EMS is on the way. We work under the philosophy that we’re all adults and can figure out when 911 is needed.

      1. Future Homesteader*

        Yup! And I *do* work at a school (higher ed, but still…staff are adults even in schools, although it does seem like they’re not treated that way all the time).

      2. Antilles*

        Yep, that’s the rule I’ve seen at most companies I’ve worked too.
        First you call 9-1-1 and get that ball rolling. Then you pick up the phone to call a senior person – if the first person doesn’t pick up, you just go down the list and keep calling until you get a human manager’s voice on the other end.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        Isn’t that similar to what they decided after the WTC with the air traffic? They decided to let the people in the situation figure out how best to handle that situation. It just makes sense.

      4. Blackcat*

        When I taught at a high school, our protocol for a medical emergency was to dial 911 from the classroom landline and send a pair of runners (kids, but 14-18 year olds) to the office to inform them. The few times it was needed, it worked well.

    6. Dubious Penguin*

      My workplace has a similar rule. If someone has a medical emergency, you are supposed to call the security desk first, and THEY will call 911.

      Ha ha, no. I will agree that calling the security desk to give them a heads-up that emergency services will be arriving is a good idea. AFTER the emergency services have already been called.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        Seconded – I’ve worked at several places with security desks AND at federal facilities with contracted security guards, and honestly? Most of them were nice, but they were totally untrained and had no idea how to reach in an emergency. I had to call security once to respond to an employee becoming belligerent (not something I’d call 911 for) and they handled it so badly, including ARGUING WITH ME as I’m on the phone telling them they need to respond and escort this guy to an empty room to calm down.

    7. LadyL*

      When I was in undergrad I did a stint as an RA and they had this policy as well. We were expected to call campus security first in any situation, not 911. They claimed it was so campus security could coordinate with the emergency vehicles so they could get to campus faster & easier, but from what I witnessed it was 100% about covering the school’s a**. Students absolutely got hurt due to this policy, and I don’t understand how it (or similar policies such as your school’s or the OP’s) aren’t considered horrifically unethical.

      1. Gorgo*

        Wow. I work at a college, and we have been told by campus security many times “if you even suspect it’s a 911 situation, CALL 911. Call us afterwards to give us a heads-up if you can, we do want to be able to coordinate with them.”

      2. KEM*

        I got in trouble as an RA undergrad. I had a terrifying situation where a student was unconscious and not breathing on the stairs (due to drugs and alcohol). I didn’t follow procedure…I called 911 BEFORE campus security and I almost got kicked out of school for that senior year.

        It’s all about covering the school’s butt and trying to save their image. What this principal did was 100% wrong. I wouldn’t trust my (fictional) kid under her leadership.

        1. LadyL*

          Yeah, in the most egregious example I saw, the school representatives convinced a victim of a gang rape (all freshmen students) that going through the police would cause her undue stress and hardship, so she should send the cops home and go through the school’s disciplinary board instead, as they had a lower “burden of proof” than the courts. What was the result of that? The girl got moved to a different dorm. Yes that’s right, the girl, not the boys who attacked her. I guess it was easier to just relocate one girl as opposed to so many others, and who cares if she liked her room or her roommate or her friends in that dorm. Was glad to see the school made sure the process was “easy” on her.

          And that’s only the most *egregious* example, I have others.

    8. Bea*

      My response is “I’ll call 911 then an attorney if you want to fire me.” life is more important than some deranged power tripping principal.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        My favorite thing to say is, “And I will sleep just FINE tonight.” Meaning they can live with themselves after using such poor judgement.

      2. Erin*

        +1 when I was management I told my staff if there is any emergency that you thought requires 911 call them! Then call me immediately after you’re done speaking with the authorities. I’m not a first responder and I don’t drive a fire truck or ambulance, calling me first would be a waste of time. My manager had a different opinion. But she was really young and kinda naive.

    9. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Someone should “leak” that policy to the parents. I would be appalled and would demand an explanation from the administration of why there is a policy that medical attention be delayed for my child or school staff in order to inform a supervisor. Is that supervisor medically trained, and supplied with emergency medical equipment??

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Sadly, this would be absolutely in character for some of the school administrators I’ve known. It’s a job that all too often attracts awful people with absurd priorities (generally CYA above all). I’ve always wondered why.

    10. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      911 — at least on the two occasions that I’ve had to call — wanted to keep me on the line to continue giving them information and keep tabs on the situation — they don’t want you to say, “We need an ambulance on the fourth floor” and then hang up. So, if everyone calls 911, the main office is going to be left out. It’s good to assign people to specific tasks before the emergency.

      I’ve also seen policies like this when it’s a large or multi-building facility — like a school. People in panic mode, and sometimes just in general, are not good at giving accurate directions or descriptions of location so everyone calling in to 911 starts to give slightly different information that further delays the help arriving. “I hear him in building D in the music room” “No, he’s in the dining hall on the first floor”, the police have no idea where building D or music room or dining hall are. But someone, like an onsite security or facilities office, have likely been specifically trained to direct emergency services where to go and how to get there — where ALL of the doors are and which ones can be accessed from outside, where the ramps, stairs, elevators, hydrants, etc.

    11. This Daydreamer*

      Once, when I was working retail, I saw a customer collapse. Store policy was that the manager on duty had to know of any emergency, but was unclear on who got notified first, MOD or 911.

      It was an easy decision for me. I picked up a store phone to call 911 and told a coworker to grab the MOD. It turns out he didn’t have to. A very confused set of managers showed up without prompting, and the general manager later asked me how I had done it. Um, done what? I told him that I’d just gotten an outside line and dialed.

      Turned out, the portable phone assigned to the MOD would make a weird ring, then let the manager who answered listen in on the call whenever a store phone was used to call 911. I thought it was a brilliant system, but we all agreed that it would’ve been nice to have known about it before.

      The customer was just fine after a few minutes, thank the gods.

        1. This Daydreamer*

          I agree! I don’t know why they didn’t tell us about it. It’s the best way I know to make sure that help is called and management knows exactly what’s going on.

    12. Collarbone High*

      I once worked at a place where the policy was to call the switchboard of our private security firm, even after hours, where someone would decide if we were “allowed” to call 911. Most of my colleagues were retirement-age men in poor physical condition, and we all mutually agreed that policy would be ignored.

  5. mf*

    Wonder if OSHA could be of any help here?

    And yes, this is horrific. Maybe you and your coworkers can ban together and agree that if this happens again, you will take care of each other by ensuring the injured person gets proper medical care, even if it means defying your boss.

    1. Nicki Name*

      If this happened in the US, OSHA definitely has rules about this. The teachers’ union will probably know about the relevant rules and reporting process.

  6. PattS*

    Start contacting your school board members. What the principal did will reflect worse on the school and district than an ambulance attending to a injured person. When parents find out, what will they think? That if their child is injured they may not receive medical attention in a timely fashion. If board members don’t already know, then they should. Also, if there is a teacher’s union at your school, they should be taking action, if not the teacher that was injured. Delaying medical attention is a messy, public relations nightmare that no school district wants to deal with.
    I work for a high school in a VERY affluent suburb with VERY helicopter parents that wig out over some of the strangest things, but even our most tone deaf parent would have wanted a staff member to receive appropriate medical care. Wow.

    1. Safetykats*

      This. As a parent I would also assume that a principal who thought of PR before staff safety would also not necessarily properly prioritize student safety. This person should not be in a position of authority. (Also, I’m stunned that people accepted this direction. Where I work someone would definitely be ducking around a corner and calling anyway.)

      Also, I hope the teacher has received full pay for the time they were off work. I think the school has some increased liability for ensuring that treatment was delayed, and if they also denied income I bet the teacher has a heck of a potential lawsuit. (And this is another reason the school board or board of directors should be taking action as to getting some better sense in the head office.)

  7. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I’m sorry. I’m coming to from my rage blackout.

    Go to your union. Go to your superintendent. Possibly your school board.

    And…if the principal doesn’t want to cause a scene over a teacher….what happens if a child gets hurt?

    1. Sometimes yes, sometimes no*

      I’m right there with you – I’m just horrified that an adult would act this way all the while knowing that they would eventually call 911. What possible earth-shattering disregard would you earn from parents for calling an ambulance to the school while people were around? And now the what ifs…

      What if the injury had also caused spinal injury? Moving could have literally killed the teacher.
      What if the injury caused severe brain swelling, caused a stroke or threw a clot or even ended in an embolism? You end up with a disabled or dead teacher.
      What if the teacher had an undisclosed communicable disease transmitted by blood? Moving her and treating the wound without protection could have spread it.
      I highly doubt any of the involved were first responders (who would have called 911 immediately) which means they had no way of judging the risks, and no right to take away the benefit of care of immediate trauma medical attention.

      And as far as modeling for the future:
      What if it were the principal? Would the other teachers/adults then do the same thing given this example, even knowing all the above risks?
      What if it were a child?
      What if a parent saw this, didn’t hear there was an ambulance, and is now highly concerned or angry that the school chooses this way to respond to an emergency? Especially one involving as much blood as a split scalp!

      I’m also morbidly curious how on earth they hid this from the kids and adults during a busy morning drop-off in the first place. Head wounds bleed A LOT. A bunch of, or even a couple, adults helping someone up and ushering them indoors is obvious. It would have left some damage on the ground, on clothes.

      Who’s left wondering what happened, now? What if the sense of security the school thought it was protecting is now damaged by half-knowledge and rumors and intermittent details like a spot of blood on the ground?

      This is just beyond unfathomable to me, and the excuse is weak and poorly thought out.

      1. This Daydreamer*

        But she never called 911, or let anyone else! She never acknowledged that it was an emergency! She just made some coworkers track down a relative of the teacher to drive her to the ER. The more I think about this the angrier I get.

        1. Goya de la Mancha*

          and only AFTER everyone had left. Let’s not start tracking down family right away and escort them out the side door at the very least, let’s just sit on it for 60+ minutes.

    2. MLB*

      I was thinking the exact same thing. If the principal doesn’t want to cause a scene and freak out the kids and their parents, what would have happened if it was a child that fell? And while the other staff were just following orders from their boss, I feel like they’re a bit to blame (although I don’t know how teacher unions work, so there may be a reason behind them ignoring their instincts to get help sooner rather than later). I would have ignored the principal and called 911. And while I’m not big on legal action (I got my law degree from watching Law & Order), I’d be looking into filing a law suit if I was the teacher that fell. Head injuries are nothing to screw around with and she could have issues arise in the future.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, my two cents is go to the union first. The union has no incentive to sweep this under the rug, so these are folks you want on board first.

  8. Emmie*

    I am concerned about the nurse’s actions too. If the ambulance was medically necessary, the nurse should’ve exercised her professional judgement to call for it. I recommend inquiring about the nurse’s actions too.

    1. Purplesaurus*

      Yes! The principal is clearly a problem, but I’m also side-eyeing this nurse who was not speaking up for the patient and acting in her best interest. I don’t care how loud and pig-headed someone acts, if you have licenced medical knowledge then you freakin’ act on that.

    2. Antilles*

      Yeah, that was my first thought too. If I was a parent at the school and I heard the school nurse was part of discouraging someone from getting necessary medical treatment, I would have zero faith in her ability to actually do her job properly.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I posted this as a reply to a reply in a comment above, but it’ll probably be so buried, nobody may see it.

      I wonder if the nurse was actually a nurse, like an RN or NP, or was she more a “health aid” that was trained to take a temperature give bandaid type first aid before sending kids home. Because my mom was an elementary school teacher for decades in So. California, and they never had an actual nurse at the schools in her large district. We had a family friend who was an emergency room RN and she would get really rankled when the school health aids would be called nurse.

      All this to say, the nurse may not be as trained for emergencies as some people are assuming.

      1. Bea*

        This is interesting. A good friend of mine was a school nurse recently, in California, she is an RN. She went there after being tired out of the hospital rounds. So it goes to show it could be either way

      2. Goya de la Mancha*

        In our district, the funds are slowly dwindling, so if there is actually a nurse in the building, it’s a rare miracle. The healthcare falls onto the school secretaries (aka little to no medical training).

      3. ..Kat..*

        You are correct. Due to cost cutting, most schools have some type of health aid on site, not a nurse.

        Even if this nurse was not trained in emergencies, she should have known that due to mechanism of injury, the teacher should not have been moved and 911 should have been called. Any licensed nurse trained in the US should know this. And yes, I am a nurse.

        If this was instead a health aide of some sort, training is significantly less. (Yes, there are excellent health aides out there. But the amount of training is significantly less to be a health aide.)

    4. Slartibartfast*

      THIS. This is one of those situations where ethically you have to make a stand, even if you risk losing your job. It’s violation of the nurse’s oath as a health care practitioner, and I suspect s/he could have license suspended or revoked. The teacher could have died from that sory of injury.

      1. Slartibartfast*

        I also think it’s illegal, at least in the US, to call someone a nurse if they aren’t licensed.

    5. ..Kat..*

      As a nurse, it concerns me that the nurse allowed a person not trained in medicine to dictate care (or in this case, lack of care) for the teacher. What the principal did could have severely harmed or killed the teacher. The teacher should not have been moved and the nurse should have called 911.

      As for the OP. Talk to your fellow teachers. Agree amongst yourselves that you will look out for each other by calling 911 yourselves if you see another teacher have an accident.

      1. Amousing*

        We’re assuming the nurse believed the patient needed 911 though. She could have , rightly or wrongly, believed there wasn’t a dire need for emergency services.

        We of course don’t know her training but she was the one on site with the highest likelihood of making informed decisions on the course of care. It’s possible everything she was seeing told her “this principal is out of her gourd but this isn’t a situation that’s putting the teacher’s life at risk”.

    6. TootsNYC*

      though I’m wondering–is it possible the nurse knew that the injury was not to severe that speed mattered? They are pros, after all.

      1. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        You can’t tell the seriousness of a head injury without things like MRI or CAT scan. Blood clots, faractures, spinal cord injury- none of those are visible to the naked eye.

      2. teclatrans*

        Yeah, professional medical training and judgment would lead someone to recognize the situation as potentially life-threatening due to factors that could not be determined through physical observation alone.

  9. Newbie*

    So obviously the principal made a terrible call but…did it ever occur to any of the teachers or other school workers to call anyway so that their fellow teacher didn’t die? Head injuries are serious and you all have cell phones. It would have required a 30 second call to 911 and there would be no way to track who called.

    The principal is definitely at fault but neither OP nor his/her colleagues behaved ethically in allowing their fellow teacher to bleed out of her head for an hour.

      1. Seal*

        Agreed. From the OP’s letter, this happened on the first day of school, so things were probably chaotic anyway. If the principal swooped right in, started barking orders left and right, hauled the teacher with the head injury off, and essentially told every else to get back to work, I can certainly understand why no one else thought to call 911.

    1. Natalie*

      Well, you have two significant factors here that can affect how people behave – authority figures and being part of a group.

        1. fposte*

          Or even any emergency. That’s why civilian first aid-type courses advise that you single *one* person out and say “You! *You* call 911.”

        2. Casuan*

          Yes, & everyone reacts differently to an emergency.
          Although I’d hope that a group like “teachers” would be trained to have some autonomy. One can simultaneously call 911 & send for a colleague. With chest pains or head injuries it’s better to err on the side of caution than not.
          Trained medical staff should have the authority [& be willing to use it!] to override orders. The principal was way out of line for so many reasons, yet so was the nurse for not asserting her patients’ needs & rights & letting optics override emergency medical care. Even if the teacher had said no, both should have insisted that 911 be called immediately.
          And what’s with the principal insisting that family be called & not emergency services?!? And the nurse complied?? That’s a whole new level of WTF-ery.

          OP, thanks for clarifying that many of you weren’t aware of the situation until later.
          If you or your colleagues had known of the situation, given your school culture do you think that someone would have defied orders & called 911? What if it had been a student?
          Sorry to ask you to hypothesise; I’m just curious.

          This post has some resonance for me because yesterday I watched a show with the late Natasha Richardson. If I remember correctly, her death might have been prevented if she had received prompt medical care.

    2. OP*

      Hi, I’m the OP. Very few of us, myself included, were even aware of the incident until after the teacher had gone to the hospital. I couldn’t have called because I didn’t know about it until afterwards.

      1. Justin*

        Guess she did a good job of covering it up!

        Sad for the lady. I had a head injury (not at work) recently and if someone hadn’t called (I did indeed lose consciousness) I’m not sure what would have happened.

      2. Gorgo*

        I’m so sorry. Not only has your principal revealed her true and deeply ugly colors, but the dip in your sense of safety must be horrible.

      3. Radio Girl*

        OP, thank you for clarifying and for writing Alison.

        Your principal needs to be educated, regarding the danger of falls and head injuries. She needs a course in risk and crisis management, too.

        Actually, she needs to be fired.

      4. ..Kat..*

        Hi OP. I am a nurse. You say very few saw. Which means some people did. I suggest you talk with your fellow teachers and agree that if you see something like this, you will call 911. Since you cannot trust your principal or the nurse to act in a teacher’s best interest, you have to look out for each other. Also, consider going public with this. Parents could pressure the principal to not do this again.

    3. Lily in NYC*

      This is not an attack on the LW – hindsight is 20/20 and it was probably chaotic when it was occurring, so no judgment here. But if someone did call, I doubt the principal would have any way to know who it was.

    4. This Daydreamer*

      Google “bystander effect” and make a promise to yourself that you will always act in an emergency, and, if you need help, to ask a specific person rather than a group. Never assume that someone else will step forward.

      1. Sylvan*

        +1 Be that person.

        (Also, the OP commented. They and some/most of their coworkers didn’t know this happened immediately.)

    5. Observer*

      Let’s not attack the OP.

      1. The OP clarifies that most of the teachers only found out about the issue AFTERWARDS. So, it’s not like THEY ignored the issue.

      2. The Nurse’s behavior IS an issue. I don’t care what “level” of nurse she is- the MAIN part of her job is dealing with the unexpected and making calls like this.

      3. It’s easy to tell people whose job is not to be a first responder how they “should have” behaved in an emergency, but in real life, people don’t always know how to react. There is a reason why fire drills are so important. And why so many schools and other organizations actually conduct “active shooter drills.” The Nurse’s behavior ABSOLUTELY fed into this. If you’re “just” a teacher and the Nurse, who is supposed to know AT LEAST about first aid “agrees” that it’s ok to not call 911, it becomes MUCH harder to push back. “Maybe I’m over reacting?”

      1. Bostonian*

        This is so true, especially when you’re not expecting something to happen (which is usually when emergencies happen!).

        At my last job, there was smoke coming out of a nearby room, and once one person said, “hey, there’s smoke coming out of here,” people started walking over towards the smoke, all like “oh, there’s smoke here?”, and it was just me and a couple of other people who immediately got up and were like, “everybody get out!”

        The fact that we had to tell people to leave the building when there was a fire still baffles me to this day.

    6. FD*

      Google the Milgram Experiment.

      Even generally ethical people often will do things they know to be deeply wrong if ordered to do so. We’d all like to think we wouldn’t do it, but the reality is that most of us would obey in the moment.

  10. CatCat*

    This is absolutely nuts. Is there any emergency training/planning at this school (there should be!)? I would advocate that a component be added to the training and plan for handling sudden illness or injury for anyone on school premises. This will also help avoid the principal just doing whatever they feel like in such a moment.

    The principal is lucky the delay in treatment didn’t lead to further injury (assuming that is the case; I don’t see otherwise here).

    1. Observer*

      No amount of “training” will help the principal avoid this behavior. The problem here is CLEARLY not lack of knowledge, but lack of ethics and human care. Training can’t change it. MAYBE consequences can ameliorate it, by affecting their sense of their own self interest, which is the ONLY thing that counts for them.

      No, they don’t really care about the school.

      1. CatCat*

        It was a totally wrongheaded decision, but I am not convinced that training would not have helped here had it occurred. Not only with the principal, but also the witnesses who followed what the principal felt like doing instead of what should have been done (call an ambulance!) The principal wasn’t the only one who failed to act, which is a bigger organizational problem.

        The bell can’t be unrung here and I agree that there should be serious consequences for this lack of judgement. That doesn’t mean there should not be a plan for what to do in emergencies in the future.

        1. Tina Belcher*

          When I do safety trainings, I often remind people that they will be required to disobey the orders of their superiors who may be threatening them with termination in order to properly attend to safety matters.

          I also teach them how to protect themselves via documentation if they do give in to the boss.

          HR will back them against the boss if they are following procedure, but you *know* the boss who gave the bad order will throw them under the bus if something goes wrong.

    1. LadyL*

      As I read this letter all I could think was, “please contact an employment lawyer ASAP, please sue the shit out of this school”.

    2. Middle School Teacher*

      The teachers’ union here is currently suing a school board (and a school in particular) because a teacher slipped and fell last winter and broke his leg. The school had not plowed the parking lot and suggested the teacher was at fault. If what the LW described happened to me, you better believe I’d be getting my union to sue.

      Accidents happen, and the first day of school is always crazy. But the principal’s behaviour was egregious. Another commenter mentioned that the principal probably didn’t want parents to see emergency vehicles and think the school isn’t safe, and I get that, but it’s not like calling an ambulance would have summoned 50 cops in riot gear. A little common sense would have gone a long way here.

      1. Seal*

        Seems to me that not being willing to call an ambulance in an emergency such as this is the very definition of how to make sure your school is seen as “unsafe”.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        I should add that since I’m in Canada, in my province at least, the Workers Compensation Board would also have to be notified, since it happened at work.

    3. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)*

      This. The union should get her one, if she doesn’t have one already.

    4. Wintermute*

      Sadly they really don’t unless they suffer specific financial damages because of this. A common misconception but with RARE exceptions you need financial damages to sue.

  11. Amanda*

    Let your union know, let your superintendent know, let the school board know. God forbid this happens again, someone needs to call 911 anyway.

    This is unconscionable.

  12. Nan*

    Woah! You don’t move people with a head injury. And you certainly don’t wait for it to be “convenient” to call an ambulance. I’m sorry my emergency is inconvenient, boss! That’s why it’s an emergency.

    You know what they did teach any kids who may have seen the accident? To ignore serious issues and medical emergencies. Ugh.

    I’d raise hell with the teacher’s union, and that principal needs a serious dressing down from the superintendent. If schools weren’t very political and unionized, I’d hand the principal a box and tell her not to let the door hit her on the ass on the way out.

    1. Lady Phoenix*

      NOthing they did was ok and could have risked further injury or death. Principal is lucky they are not head deep in lawsuits (yet).

    2. Thursday Next*

      I read that part and couldn’t believe it! A head or spinal injury is serious—there are very strict and standard responses to those injuries!

    3. Not So NewReader*

      This was a person who was denied access to medical care for a substantial period of time (anything over a few minutes is substantial). What if this person had died while waiting for an okay to call the ambulance? This is the kind of story that makes nationwide headlines.

      The sad thing here is that the principal is the only one who looks bad. The school board can just fire that principal and resolve any concerns the public may have about that school.

  13. Laura*

    If I were a parent, I’d be far more worried if I heard that the principal refused to call for an ambulance than if I’d seen one on the first day of school. Seeing an ambulance means “someone needs help and is getting it.” Refusing help means “the principal cares more about appearances than other people’s well being.” What would she have done if it had been a child? Carry the child into her office and hope it kept breathing until she could contact someone–even an older sibling–to make the problem go away?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      This is exactly what I was coming here to say. Sure, it might be a little disconcerting to see an ambulance when you roll up to school (especially on the first day) and it might be a little scary to little kids, but I wouldn’t be comfortable leaving my kids in the care of someone who was more concerned with appearances than the health and well being of a fellow human.

      1. Anon for always*

        It might be disconcerting to see the ambulance, just as it is when I see the ambulance or fire truck outside my 90 year old neighbor’s house. Which the kids in the neighborhood can see as well and never seem to be traumatized.
        I can tell you what my thought would be upon seeing such a sight at the school. “Gosh, I hope that whoever that is here for is ok! Thank goodness there was someone around to know to call the ambulance.” And I would walk my child in knowing that staff in this facility actually took care of people and so I could know my own child would be ok in case of an accident.
        I can say for certain I wouldn’t be frightened. (Way to infantilize the parents of your schoolchildren, madam principle). Now that this is all said and done, principal should be even more concerned about the talk in the community surrounding this incident, because this will get out and there will be talk. And there will be concern about the abilities and judgment calls of this principal.
        And OP – just to echo others – call the school board and your union if you have one. This isn’t ok in any way.

        1. J.B.*

          Well, I would want to know generally what was going on and that it was safe to walk my kid into school. After! calling the ambulance the principal should have alerted the teachers running carpool and office staff that someone had an accident and needed to be checked out, no students and other staff would be affected. That is all it would take.

        2. Tuxedo Cat*

          I think this is a good point. Little kids probably wouldn’t have made the connection because they probably don’t have the experience of knowing how serious an ambulance showing up could be. I’m not a parent, but it’s ambulance not the SWAT team or the FBI.

    2. No Parking or Waiting*

      Same. So if my kid falls on the playground, they won’t call an ambulance because other parents will find out and deem the school unsafe? So help me god, if you call me and tell me that you MOVED MY CHILD and I have to take him to the hospital because YOU WON’T CALL AN AMBULANCE, you should probably go ahead and call one for yourself. You’re going to need it when I get there.
      Violence is always wrong.
      I don’t think I’d care.

      1. Lynca*

        My elementary school did exactly that. I passed out on the way to the water fountain in 1st grade. I got picked up and moved while still unconscious. They called my mom who was an hour and half away and told her she had to come get me.

        Had to wait until my mom got there- then I got taken to the hospital. My parents kept their cool when they got there but let’s just say the school dreaded seeing my dad show up in the office after that.

          1. Lynca*

            The school hung their hat on “Well we can’t release the child into the care of someone other than their parent.”

            Which went over like a lead brick with my parents and the school board (and their lawyer).

              1. Lynca*

                Well there wasn’t a nurse at any of my schools growing up. But the teachers that picked me up were not fired. This was back in the 90’s and they had little emergency training/knowledge. I believe the principal was fired (or maybe reprimanded by the board) which made me very unpopular with school staff and my parents more so. I don’t really remember exactly what happened to the adults involved but I know something did because of the aftermath.

                The school board instituted a policy change that went out the next school year outlining when emergency services would and would not be called so that parents were aware.

                1. tangerineRose*

                  Assuming this was the 1990’s, I still think the teachers should have known better. At the very least, they could have gotten medical help for you right away.

        1. Tina Belcher*

          The same thing happened to me.

          I was injured in an assault at school and the school held me in “office detention” for two or three hours. They did not allow me to go to the nurse or call a parent, and I definitely was not allowed to call 911. They sent a school psychologist to tell me I was not assaulted and was not injured. Then, they did not let me go home at dismissal either, even though my mom was waiting outside for me worrying.

          BTW, still suffering from that injury 20+ years later.

        2. Rhoda*

          How bizarre.
          When I did a paediatric first aid course the emphasis was very much; you’re dealing with other people’s childeren then err on the sidee of caution and diall 999.

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        I probably wouldn’t resort to physical viokence and wouldn’t be any good at it anyway (too short and too old to intimidate, much less overpower, anyone bigger than a 6 year lol), but by the time I was halfway through the verbal tirade I’d unleash, they’d probably wish I’d just punch them out and get it over with!

    3. Thursday Next*

      Exactly my thoughts. OP, I might consider letting someone in the Parents’ Association know about this incident. you know the situation best, though—if it seems like that would be counterproductive, of course don’t do it. But as a parent, I’d want to know if the principal of my kid’s school treated a staff member in this way.

      1. Christmas Carol*

        I might consider letting someone at the Washington Post and 60 Minutes know about this incident.

    4. Nonnon*

      Maybe I’m just incredibly cynical (and attended a school that did a lot of covering up for the sake of ‘appearances’) but I’d also be wondering what other dirty secrets the principal was trying to hide.

      1. No Parking or Waiting*

        Now is exactly the time to for OP to look around at other policies and procedures created/demanded by the principal.
        What other things are you forbidden to do or required to do, that show their true outlandishness in light of this.
        Fund raiser money must be provided in cash?
        All class room supply donations must go to the principal’s office to be doled out “equitably” to each teacher?
        Sick time or vacation time requirements seem a little draconian?
        See how deep the water is boiling around all the frogs in that pot.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is a pretty insecure person. Most people read “calling the ambulance” as “acting in a responsible manner”, but NOT this woman.

      3. Sylvan*

        I’ve said in the comments on this post before that I might be over-the-top here (personal tl;dr), but I don’t think you’re being too cynical. This is very strange.

    5. Anon Accountant*

      And if a child had an anaphylactic reaction? Should we delay an ambulance because it might look bad for others to see an ambulance there? Should we just hope the epipen would be enough?

      What other medical emergencies may be delayed in receiving treatment because of this principal?

      Teachers union all the way for this. And I think a call to the school board wouldn’t be out of line either. This principal needs something done.

    6. WillyNilly*

      I am a parent of school aged children and this was exactly my thought: this is not a safe environment for my child. Not because of a slip & fall, accidents happen, but because authority figures will actively and purposely work against best care practices.

  14. k.k*

    That’s awful! Principal is worried about how the school looks….well now it looks like a place that doesn’t take injuries seriously! I’d be worried to send my kids there is I heard about this.

  15. Recently Diagnosed*

    I’m at pretty maximum rage levels over this. Alison’s advice is spot on, and my GOD, would I love an update post-haste.

  16. Myrin*

    her desire to hide the situation from parents (which is a weird desire to begin with — people fall)

    For real, this is so weird to me. Since this was before school even started and people were only just dropping in, no parent would worry that something had happened to their child specifically since they’d still be by each other’s side. And even if (say, a parent came back after dropping of their kid because they forgot something), such situations take about ten seconds to be explained and there wouldn’t be any more chaos than there usually is when an accident happens somewhere.
    The principal behaved like the teacher somehow committed a felony by slipping and cutting her head open, goodness gracious.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      If the principal thought that a slip and fall reflected poorly on her ability to be a leader then she needs to get out of leadership because she has NO concept of what leadership actually is.

    2. This Daydreamer*

      Also, it would have taught kids about what to do in an emergency. That’s a lesson this horrible, unprincipled principal should’ve learned long ago. Gah, this one has me furious.

  17. Dotty*

    The principal refused to let someone with a head injury get immediate medical care. That could have resulted in permanent damage, if not death, for the teacher. She’s lucky it was “just” a concussion and some stitches. Don’t brush this off as lapse in judgement; the next time the principal pulls a stunt like this somebody could die.

    I agree with the other commenters. Raise hell with your union and whoever else you need to in order to get this addressed. And if you’re ever in a situation like this, where your boss is telling you not to call an ambulance for a seriously injured person because it will “look bad,” ignore them and do it anyway.

    1. the gold digger*

      That could have resulted in permanent damage, if not death, for the teacher.

      I fell off my bike and hit my face. A random person took me to urgent care (he wanted to take me to ER, but I thought I just needed stitches).

      Urgent care refused to treat me. I took a photo of my face and sent it to my sister, who is a nurse practitioner. She yelled at me, telling me that Natasha Richardson died because she didn’t get the proper diagnosis with a head injury and that I did need a CT scan.

      I ended up in the ER, where they stitched me and gave me a CT scan. Fortunately, everything turned out OK. And when I am cranky about spending $2,700 for the ER, I remind myself that I would rather spend $2,700 to know that everything is OK.

      1. PSB*

        Natasha Richardson is exactly the example I was just thinking of. Head injuries are not something to mess with.

        1. I'm here again*

          I have a cousin who died from a head injury after a bicycle fall. He said he was OK, but friends urged him to get checked out. A few hours later, he was brain-dead. Awful, awful awful and Natasha Richardson’s accident sounds just the same.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        I had a bicycle accident, too. Lost consciousness briefly, arrived at the emergency room with blood coming out of my ear. (From a sharp piece of gravel in the ear canal, it turned out.)

        I got a *lot* of attention, including at least two department heads.

        I’d like to think that if I’d been there for this incident, I’d have looked the principal in the eye and dialed 911. And if she’d interfered in any way, they’d have needed a second ambulance. I’d like to think that.

        Now, after the fact? Yeah, union involved if there is on, school board definition – go to the next meeting with as many teachers as you can arrange and demand that this *never* happen again. And if the school board is as ridiculous as the principal, maybe Facebook and hope for a slow news day.

      3. Dotty*

        (warning for child death)

        There is no way to know how serious a head injury is until you get it checked out, even seemingly insignificant ones. When I was in about fourth or fifth grade a friend’s little brother fell off the monkey bars and banged his head. They took him to the nurse’s office, he was crying obviously because it hurt but he wasn’t bleeding and otherwise seemed okay. He was back to talking and laughing pretty quickly, acting totally normal, nobody worried about anything. Just a little bump. Do you see where this is going? A teacher left to call his parents to come pick him up and before they got there he was gone. In this case it was tragic accident; nobody was at fault or negligent. But I think about it every time the topic of head injuries comes up.

        This principal thought it appropriate to hold a teacher hostage after she’d cracked her skull open on a concrete step. How can she be trusted to respond appropriately when a child is injured on the playground?

        1. No Parking or Waiting*

          That is a terrible event. I’m sorry for you and his family.
          And yes, that was an accident. And accidents like that are the reason there are protocols now regarding head injuries.
          It’s just insane to take chances.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          The parent of my daughter’s first best friends was a brain surgeon. It was rough, because while she encouraged her daughter’s fearless exploration (kid was brave, curious, confident, and very determined), she had been there in the aftermath of the times the almost-never thing happens.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          This happened to a kid when I was at camp in college. A fellow camper was playing flag football and took a knee to the head in a fall. He felt mostly ok but had a mild headache, so he went to sleep it off, and he never woke up. You do not mess around with head injuries.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        I fell while skating in January 2016–banged my head and gave myself whiplash. I got off the ice immediately, but the pain in my neck just got worse and worse. So I went to urgent care, and they made me sit and wait. When I got back to the room, the doc who came to look at me got really worried when I told him I’d also hit my head. He slapped a collar on me and did a neurological assessment. They sent me for an x-ray.

        Fortunately, I was fine–no bleeds, no fractures. I had just sprained my neck and had a goose egg on my scalp. I wondered later why they left me sitting and waiting–I’d told them at the desk that I hit my head. I was in the lobby for a good half-hour before anyone came and fetched me. I also wonder if he yelled at them, haha.

          1. else*

            Even then, if there’s a rush and you don’t say exactly the right words they’re looking for, they’ll leave you sitting if they overlook something. I have asthma; generally when you end up in the ED with that, they assess you very quickly. Once I showed up in a new ED; the nurse didn’t see what she expected when I told her I was having an asthma attack, I guess; she hummed at me and I had to wait for a while even without too many other people there until I passed out on the floor from lack of oxygen. Definitely unlike my usual experience, where they typically catch it and stuff a nebulizer on your face asap. It had been a few years, anyway, so maybe the protocol has changed.

    2. anon24*

      Yes. Had she been bleeding inside her skull the buildup of intracranial pressure could have killed her or permanently disabled her. You don’t mess with head injuries. I’m disgusted with the principal and I’m also a little disgusted with the nurse. I understand that what the principal did was most like not illegal, but I do wonder if the nurse couldn’t face disciplinary actions from her board for this.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      There is a lot about head injuries they are still piecing together. Some head injuries come back later in life and cause other problems. Matter of fact other types of falls and injuries can become problems later on.

  18. neverjaunty*

    As a lawyer, my eyebrows just climbed so far up my forehead that I had to send an emergency retrieval team to get them back down.

    Also: if your principal is willing to forego calling 911 for appearances in a medical emergency, what else is she willing to do?

    1. No Parking or Waiting*

      Well, she’s not going to close the school if the water main breaks, because parents will be upset. We will just remind the children that they can’t flush and to use these handy diaper wipes after going to the bathroom. It will be fun.

      1. Lady Phoenix*

        If this was in Baltimore during the big freeze, then the principal probably didn’t shut down school even though the heater stopped working.

        … Yes… topical.

      2. Sometimes yes, sometimes no*

        That sounds remarkably plausible. “Ugh, it’s an extra $1,000 for the water maintenance people to fix this right now versus waiting for tomorrow. We can deal with another half day with no water.”

    2. Hills to Die on*

      You can’t send an emergency retrieval team for your eyebrows. It will look bad. Go hide and wait for someone to help you pull them back down.

      1. OP*

        Hahahaha I’m the OP and I just busted out laughing at this. Thank you for that much needed comic relief

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I think we better find neverjaunty’s family members/SO/whatever, first though before we let just anyone pull those eyebrow’s down.

      3. still in hiding until the EERT rescues me*

        I’ve been waiting for about 35 years now. Where the hell are they?
        Are there really that many displaced eyebrow emergencies that the waiting list is that long?!?!?

  19. Laura H*

    Just reading the headline, that’s bizarre. I’ve had a few tumbles at work (minor and just left a little achy and shaken up after) but my supervisors ALWAYS have asked (multiple times, and bordering on annoyance to me) if they needed/ I wanted them to call an ambulance. I decline, but always keep extra attention on it in the days following on the chance that I was an idiot/ stuff pops up that wasn’t there initially. The policies are there for a reason.

    And if there aren’t, there should be.

    Good luck OP.

    Also, dude, principal- your prioroties were WAY outta whack and I seriously hope that your reprimand is coming- so not ok!!!

    Also… um I’m no doctor but isn’t moving a fall victim (who doesn’t get up on their own or is clearly injured) anywhere a less than stellar idea?

    1. MLB*

      I don’t have a medical degree either, but have a lot of close friends that do. You NEVER move anyone with a head injury. She could have broken her neck and moving her could have paralyzed her or even killed her. Bad idea all around.

      1. MamaSarah*

        I keep a wool blanket in my car for this very reason (my kid was/is a crazy climber). You shouldn’t move a person after a bad fall/head injury, but you can/should keep them warm.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I thought the rescue squad should have placed her on a board to protect her neck/spine. Up and walking around? A big no-no.

    3. Steve*

      Also… um I’m no doctor but isn’t moving a fall victim (who doesn’t get up on their own or is clearly injured) anywhere a less than stellar idea?

      I am a doctor (acupuncturist but licensed PCP in NM), former EMT-Basic and former Wilderness First Responder. You are 100% correct. The risk is that there could be a spine injury in the neck which can be made worse by movement. Since this would be considered a low risk MOI(Mechanism of Injury) I would expect a competent EMT/First Responder to attempt to rule out a spinal injury at the scene of the accident. However, in many departments protocol would be to immobilize the neck with a cervical collar and have the physician clear the c-spine at the hospital.

      The one thing that gives me pause about ruling out spinal injury here is:

      she says she was in such a daze that she went along with what the principal decided

      All the current non-imaging recommendations for clearing the c-spine without imaging require the patient to be fully alert and oriented. Without having seen the teacher who fell, I can’t say if this criteria would be met. Additionally the NEXUS guidelines require no painful, distracting injury which it sounds like the scalp wound that ended up needing 8 stitches and caused a week off work probably qualifies.

      None of this is to suggest that not calling an ambulance is in any way justified. Even a suspected concussion should be transported ASAP. Prohibitions against moving are to avoid aggravating spinal injuries. Even a moderate concussion can be a life threatening event and time is of the essence with regards to treatment.

        1. sstabeler*

          what “low risk mechanism of injury” means that HOW the injury was sustained carries a low risk her neck broke- she slipped, and I assume fell head-first onto the step, which- depending on what part of the step she hit- may mean her neck didn’t actually bend much, let alone in a way to cause the neck to break. As such, it’s worth attempting to figure out if a spinal injury can be ruled out – as in “this person 100% certain hasn’t got a spinal injury” since not needing to immobilise the neck simplifies transport. Steve also goes on to say that in this case, the laceration probably would be sufficient to preclude confirming there was no spinal injury.

          Basically, the “mechanism of injury” was that the teacher hit her head. Therefore, they follow the “hit head” protocol, which is a low risk protocol. The laceration is one of the things that would be used by the paramedic to assess if they could confirm the spine isn’t broken. It doesn’t mean you skip checking and go straight to immobilisation.

  20. Knitting Cat Lady*

    Oh wow. Where I live (Germany) your principal’s actions would be illegal. And they’ve been cracking down on that recently, too.

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if your colleague is talking to a lawyer for a civil suit.

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      That’s so sad that they’ve been “cracking down”, because that means it’s not such a rare occurrence! I can’t fathom that a functioning human with a brain would think to do otherwise.

    2. Marie*

      I’m not German but I saw a news story several months ago about people who got prosecuted in Germany because an old man collapsed (I think in a bank) and they ignored him and stepped over him instead of calling the emergency services. I thought this was a good policy.

  21. PSB*

    I don’t understand how some people can get their priorities so out of whack that they make their ego more important than safety. Last year, the school district in my southern city decided not to close for weather, despite a heavy snow storm clearly approaching the area. The snow hit around 7:00 am, just as high school students were arriving and elementary students were getting ready to leave home. Roads became slick as the snow fell, but still the district did nothing. After both a student’s family and a teacher were in car wrecks on the way to my son’s elementary school, the principal unilaterally put out a call telling everyone else to stay home because of the road conditions. Instead of commending her for taking decisive action to keep her students and staff safe, the principal’s boss reprimanded her for not following the school closing protocol.

    1. Sometimes yes, sometimes no*

      I went to school in a district subject to snow days and let me tell you, I do NOT envy anyone the job of deciding how to handle them when they crop up.

      The district says you only get so many make-up days per year, and the rest then get tacked on to the end of the school year or else you lose the attendance money.

      The parents have work and get pissed if you call them off just because it was snowing heavily during the day when OBVIOUSLY the roads were fine and OBVIOUSLY the snow was due to stop.

      The other schools are also waiting to see what the others do so that there’s some kind of synchronicity/agreement on the state of affairs.

      So if you’re making these calls, you have to please the budget, your bosses, the parents, your fellow teachers and other staff, the students (tests! grades! activities!), the local media, other schools, and of course your own sense of dignity and safety.

      There’s an inch of snow on the ground. It’s very cold, the snow is wet but maybe not yet icy. The forecast says it should be about 6-12″ of snow today, but may be more or less depending on the wind. The de-icing machines are slow — it’s the last snow of the season, probably, and they packed things up prematurely — and if you call this day, you’ve exceeded the pre-allotted amount of snow days and will be adding to the school year. It’s right after a three-day weekend so a lot of working parents are trying to catch up with everything, of course.


      (Tongue-in-cheek… I generally agree that there are some obvious emergency situations — like those with an ice storm — but whew!)

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yeah, I’m currently watching one person have a complete melt-down on social media because we had an early release Tuesday, and two days closed now due to snow. And I get it! The roads are clear and dry now, where I am – but the district has an awful lot of areas (entire schools’ worth, I believe, or close to it) that are at a higher elevation, and I can see the snow up on even the low hills visible from my office. Also, our local road-clearing stuff is *terrible*.

        She’s very upset because people need to work to pay bills. And she’s not wrong, but I don’t think they’d sign up to risk their kids in buses on snowy/slushy/slippery roads that go up and down hills and around curves, if they were being paid money to take the risk – and that’s basically what it would be.

        So…yeah. By now it *might* be safe to send all the kids in or it might not. Oh, and the normal school day for primary students would already be more than half over.

        1. PSB*

          That’s our situation too. Schools here are county-wide, the county covers a huge area with big changes in elevation, and state law requires the entire district to be open or closed. A couple of years ago kids were out for an entire week because shady areas in the north end of the county still had icy roads while everything was bone dry on the south end. The other problem is that our district has absolutely no institutional knowledge retained when superintendents change. About 15 years ago there was an incident where the schools waited too long to declare an early dismissal, and some kids didn’t get off their buses until 11:00 at night. Then superintendents changed a couple of times, and the same thing happened a few years ago. Last year we had a new superintendent who brought his entire leadership staff from a colder climate and had nobody familiar with local weather or road conditions in the loop on closing decisions. Anyone familiar with the area who saw that snow storm coming on radar would have known to at least have a delayed start, just in case, since our roads become slippery at the drop of a hat and nobody here can drive on ice or snow.

          Of course it didn’t help that the administration ignored the pictures the principal sent them of the road conditions in our area until after they had school buses sliding off the roads.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Yep! If it were not for your second sentence, I would be so sure you were from where I am. Been through all of that! (I don’t know if any buses actually slid off the roads in the incident I know about with an admin from an area with better road-clearing services, but I know they got sent out and I know it was not good.) And it was just a year or two ago that an early dismissal was called too late and some kids spent 4 hours on a bus, I gather. So not quite 11 at night at least! But not good.

            And then the rant inevitably turns to why we don’t have the stuff necessary to totally clear the roads within hours of the event starting (or at least stopping), but if you only need them for 0-5 days a year, does it really make sense to pay to buy / store / maintain enough to do that efficiently? And either way, once you’re in that situation, I’d really rather close the school and not have the situation get people hurt.

          2. Observer*

            The State law is idiotic. Unless a district is geographically small this makes NO sense. And it penalizes EVERYONE, as well as creating real safety issues. Whose brainchild was this?

          3. Rovannen*

            I understand the issue of the Superintendent not having/listening to the institutional knowledge. We had a supt 10 years ago insist we run on normal schedule because where he came from, schools didn’t close for snow. Same state, but he was from the dry side…we live on the wet side (PNW). One bus went in the ditch. The supt drove out to the scene and landed in the ditch also. Thankfully, no one was hurt. That’s what it took for him to understand that we’re not worried about snow; it’s the ice!

      2. teacher*

        Don’t forget that in poorer areas, they also need to consider the fact that kids stuck at home might not be getting enough (or anything) to *eat*. That happened in New York a few years ago: they reopened the schools earlier than some people wanted because they wanted to make sure the students who needed school meals were getting them.

  22. pcake*

    Contacting the union is a must imo – so is talking to Osha, and so is contacting the school district powers-that-be.

    What if that poor teacher had a broken neck? Walking her in could have paralyzed or killed her. And if the distract and principal doesn’t care about that, they might consider the lawsuit they’d be paying settlements on and the bad publicity they’d be getting if that teacher or future staff is more seriously injured or is angry that they aren’t receiving medical care in a timely fashion.

  23. MuseumChick*

    *trying to pick up jaw from floor* OMG. I don’t have any additional advice to suggest that others haven’t already. WTH????

  24. please*

    Speaking as the parent of a kindergartener, the principal’s behavior is probably stupid from an educational standpoint. It’s good for kids to see a bit of drama – I’m serious. Seeing a teacher is hurt and then ambulance coming and people helping is interesting, and could be a good teaching moment about reality. Kids might be a bit shaken up, but would also appreciate being shown and told these things in a caring way. “When someone is hurt, we call for help. The ambulance is outside helping. Etc.”

    1. MuseumChick*

      This is a really good point. This would be a real life way to teach young children what to do in an emergency:

      “Ms. Smith tripped and fell down and got hurt. When someone gets really hurt like that, even an adult, here is what you do.”

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I was actually thinking this. It would be a great teaching moment. And make it less scary. I grew up with my mom having asthma attacks and going to the ER. Either by my dad driving us or the ambulance arriving. I am not afraid of the hospital or calling 911 (I know people who are which I do not understand.) When I or someone I know is hurt/sick, my first instinct is to get help.

    3. Mimmy*

      That is a really good point. It just shows how sensitive society has become these days, not allowing people to be exposed to the sometimes-harsh realities of life. Yes, the children would be scared, but explaining what is happening on their level could go a long way.

    4. Lala*

      Yes, this! It’s also really good for kids to see that even teachers aren’t invincible, and that anyone might need help. And for parents to know that the school won’t hesitate to call an ambulance if there’s even a chance it might be needed.

    5. Bea*

      Right? My mom needed to be taken to the ER a couple times as a kid. SCARY AF but it taught me hospitals and doctors fix things and bad things can be handled.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Good reference. (He is soon to be a stamp!)

        If I knew about this as a parent I would be furious. Not just on the teacher’s behalf. Because if my child is bleeding, or otherwise needs help, and the school’s response is “Appearances first! No awkwardness!” that is not reassuring.

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          There is also apparently going to be a Funko Pop Mr. Rogers!

          (I’m from Pittsburgh so he’s a local hero.)

    6. This Daydreamer*

      I was thinking the same thing. In addition to being the freaking RIGHT THING TO DO, it would have shown kids what to do, and what happens when you call 911. It’s a lesson they absolutely must learn, not something they should be shielded from.

      Now, if the teacher had been more seriously wounded, I would have understood keeping the kids away, but not by pretending nothing was wrong and making the teacher notify their own next of kin!

  25. Aphrodite*

    OP, you said this happened in September. What was the follow-up? Did anyone go above the principal’s head? Did it get out at all? Was anything done? Did the teacher who fell ever take any action?

    1. Adlib*

      It doesn’t sound like any of that happened, and things just went on as normal. That’s why a lot of comments are advising that OP go to the union, board, or whatever.

  26. Simone R*

    I don’t understand why parents would be mad or upset about an ambulance? It just means there’s an emergency for one person, not a suggestion that anyone in the school might be whisked away by EMS for no reason whatsoever. I could understand being worried about getting like 5 towns fire departments to show up because that might imply something larger was a problem, but one ambulance??

  27. Argh!*

    I don’t think the by-standers have standing to do anything about that particular situation, but if you have a union you could negotiate on this for the next contract.

    Meanwhile, I look forward to voting for this principal in the worst boss of the year contest.

  28. Jam Today*

    Oh my god, call your union rep ASAP. This is unbelievable. I also wonder (although I understand being caught flat-footed in a moment and not being able to make sound decisions) why people just didn’t call an ambulance *anyway*? There’s a pretty bright line between the right thing to do and the wrong thing to do here. Just do it, and let the union (and the insurance adjusters for the town’s liability policy) deal with the aftermath.

    An hour is more than enough time for what seems like even a seemingly-innocuous blow to the head to become fatal. Just look at poor Natasha Richardson.

  29. Ramona Flowers*

    I am just horrified by this. You don’t move people with head injuries! You don’t move people who have fallen and may have back or neck injuries! You just don’t! A couple of months ago someone fell in the road outside my house and was bleeding from her head so various passers by set up a makeshift roadblock while waiting for EMS as we couldn’t move her.

    I think you need to get some advice from whoever is relevant in your country, eg OSHA. And I would also be job hunting.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yep.When we fell off the motorcycle, my husband landed on the white line. People stood IN the road to route traffic around him.

      1. please*

        I’ve done this. Car in front of me, on a highway, crashed into the barriers. I was first on the scene (very scared too – driving in as close as possible while worried about having deal with major injuries). Luckily for me, the two people in the car got out under their own power. A nurse was in a car a couple spots behind me and took over first aid, while me and another guy dealt with traffic. It was scary.

        And I also did the same with a guy who crashed his bike and was seriously injured on a suburban road. We were first on the scene, flagged down a car which had a cell phone (this was 20 years ago so my friend and I – also on bikes, didn’t have one). Then we warned traffic to slow down as a passing nurse and policeman dealt with the injured person. Also a bit scary. But it had to be done.

        1. Thursday Next*

          As terrible as these accidents are, I’m glad so many passersby stopped to help in every case. It gives me hope.

  30. Mimmy*

    Wow….my jaw was hanging open as I read the entire letter. There aren’t any laws that I can think of either, but the teacher probably has a really good civil case (for medical bills, damages) if she chooses to go that route. Thank goodness she is okay–you never know with head injuries. Where I work, an adult student fainted and fell to the sidewalk (the two students who witnessed this said the impact of his head onto the ground was loud), splitting his head open; he was hospitalized with a serious head injury and I think he had to get rehab. He never did return to our program.

    I do have a (probably stupid) question: Since this incident happened back in September–nearly 6 months ago–how could the group explain why they’re bringing this up now?

    1. Lynca*

      By bringing up this goes against medical best practices (you DO NOT move someone with a head injury unless they’re in more danger) and there should be a concrete and consistent plan on how to deal with emergencies. For both staff and the children, ideally.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Not hard to explain this one. Apparently only a few people witnessed it. So it took a bit of talking to others to process the shock of the moment and then a little bit more time was involved in figuring out how to proceed. They can’t go to their boss because the problem IS the boss. And they can’t proceed willy-nilly, because they want an actual resolve here, so this means planning strategically. This takes time.

    3. Tuxedo Cat*

      I don’t think it really matters why they’re bringing it up now… It’s not like what happened was so out there that it couldn’t happen again. Maybe not a fall (although falls are not uncommon), but there are tons emergencies that warrant outside help. Heart attacks, strokes, allergic reactions, and those are only the health ones.

      If someone demands why they didn’t bring it up sooner, the group can explain they they weren’t sure what to do.

    4. OhNo*

      In addition to what others have said, they could also frame it as coming up again in their minds as a result of certain other news stories right now. As in, the teachers were talking about emergency plans after Florida, and they realized that they would have really benefited from having an emergency plan for this kind of event as well.

  31. rj*

    This happened to me at work in the first week of school (private university). 1. colleague who was volunteer firefighter was first responder until EMS arrived. 2. all medical needs covered by workers’ comp. They were a huge hassle to deal with, and they called me several times to make sure I was not lying (while I was still pretty immediately post concussion) but they pay in full so it was worth it.

  32. Accountant*

    As a parent I would be way more concerned with the fact that the principal was worried about appearances over safety of a person. What happens when next time the injured party is a student? I wouldn’t want my kid going to a school where the principal might not get my child immediate medical attention when it’s needed and the nurse isn’t assertive enough to speak up and demand it happen.

  33. LavaLamp*

    I. . I what?

    When I was in elementary school, we had a dispatcher from 911 come to my school with a fancy pretend telephone that had two receivers. She played the part of the 911 operator and we each had to go up and pretend to call 911 with a pretend emergency to learn how to do this. We were required to give her our name and address and what was wrong and we were THIRD GRADERS! Is this a skill that’s not being taught anymore? Because it sounds like this person needs remedial training on how to call for help.

    Small humans are not afraid generally of ambulances and fire trucks and police officers if exposed to them regularly in the the way I was. We regularly had presentations from fire rescue about the Stop Drop and Roll, and after fire safety we got to see the fire truck. We regularly had police officers doing stranger danger and explaining the good/bad touch and all those things you tell children because it’s scarier if they don’t know.

    Is this nut going to ban all safety presentations by local law enforcement and fire rescue because an ambulance or fire truck is unsightly? Go to your higher ups OP. Go to the school board. Go to SOMEONE because this is how people die.

    1. Toads, Beetles, Bats*

      I call shenanigans on the whole “but kids will be scaaaaared” thing, too. For decades, rescue personnel have done an exemplary job of introducing themselves to kids through school programs, community festivals, parades, etc. On the first day of school, those kids are bringing all kinds of fears into that building, but a fear of ambulances probably isn’t on the list.

      1. Goya de la Mancha*

        For the most part I agree, but if you have kindergartners walking into school on their first day – their anxiety is probably already at a high enough point that noise/commotion would be freaky. NOT that this should have prevented the principal from calling, just that it is a plausible thought that the kids might be kinda freaked..

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yes, but a calm adult explaining “Mrs. Jones fell down and got hurt. The ambulance people are helping her be okay. Let’s go in and find our seats now,” would take care of that in two seconds. A five-year-old can understand that.

  34. A Teacher*

    Fellow teacher and a licensed athletic trainer that is well versed in concussions. What the principal did was reprehensible. The union should very much be involved and as an athletic trainer that was really involved in the work comp sector for a number of years before becoming a teacher, this is info that the work comp insurance and probably her attorney will need to be made aware of. Concussions are serious business and the chances of her having a lifelong side effect(s) for this are pretty significant.

  35. Anne Marie J.*

    Frankly — and I’m sure I’m not the only one here who thinks this — if I were a parent with a kid in that school, I would NOT want this principal running things. Her judgment was so questionable and wrongheaded, I could never trust her to make humane and reasonable calls under pressure. How she hasn’t already lost her job over this is unbelievable to me.

  36. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    The thing I can understand, having had my mom teaching for decades, is that parents are vicious, even more so now, and small kids do tend to panic easily.

    But that doesn’t mean don’t call 911! Do it anyway, and if you’re worried about kids/parents freaking out, take the teacher inside while you wait and get EMS to a side door. It’s generally okay to move people as long as they aren’t trapped in anything, won’t bleed, etc. worse if moved, and can feel/use their legs. If you’re not sure, the 911 dispatch can help you. I don’t know about elsewhere, but EMTs generally move people fairly quickly where I’m at. It’s a safety thing- get them out of the way/cold.

    Also, why didn’t anyone text 911 if they didn’t want to panic people or anger unreasonable boss by being seen or heard as calling? One can also explain the situation with the many other people and potential for panic around- EMTs are trained to evaluate the whole accident scene and can be discreet or calm people if needed.

    1. Bea*

      No. No. No. You do not move someone with a head injury unless they are in more danger where they land. That’s basic first aid.

      1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

        I didn’t think so because I read that back boards for moving people in emergencies are no longer always necessary; but that’s a recent change and they may have gone to just c-spine collars instead. Also, my area might be an outlier because getting hit by a car or train/freezing to death < making injury worse.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          Rule is that you don’t touch the head or move the body. If there is danger, then you can move the body but you have to pick up the body in a way that supports the head. Bridal style carries are an absolutely NO.

        2. Naptime Enthusiast*

          I would still leave it to the trained professionals to make that call and help move the person, rather than someone who’s trying to prevent a scene.

        3. anon24*

          You’re right that a lot of time back boards aren’t used anymore. Studies aren’t showing that they help much, if at all, and most people find them extremely uncomfortable and painful (not me, I could sleep on those things). But we definitely use C-collars, and EMTs/Paramedics are trained on how to evaluate when it’s safe to let a person get up and move V when we need to carry them out of their current location on a litter. I doubt the principal was trained to do this, and even the nurse may not have been since she’s used to dealing with normal sicknesses/minor injuries not serious emergencies. Of course if the teacher was in danger she should have been safely moved. We are trained in EMT school that you should always protect spinal integrity, but if it comes down to it a potentially paralyzed patient is better than a dead patient.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Well, it’s about time. I laid on a board for 9 hours in the ER waiting for a doc to see me. (It was hell night at the ER.) The doc mocked me when I could barely stand up and was shaky trying to walk after laying on that board for 9 hours. I knew I did not need the board, but I am sure that the board added to my injuries from that accident.

    2. please*

      “small kids do tend to panic easily.”

      Maybe (I have a 5-year old and haven’t seen this). But part of education, especially of little kids, is teaching them about life. Call 911 and then spend time talking to/reassuring/educating the kids about emergencies. That’s a good thing. Kids getting a little scared is normal – it’s part of life. The role of educators and parents has to be to help them learn to deal with that.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Vicious parents and panicky kids come with the job. It’s part of the job and we have to learn and teach ourselves how to handle these types of things.

      I keep a box of kleenex on my desk because it is normal for me to find myself talking to a crying person. You know, it’s amazing, offer a crying person a kleenex and most of the time they start to pull themselves together. Little things work and work well. Sometimes we can pick these tips up from others or we can discover them on our own.

    4. ..Kat..*

      No no no no no. EMTs move people with head trauma AFTER immobilizing them.

      Current nurse, former EMT

  37. DowntheUpstaircase*

    I wonder if this school has an ’emergency plan’ or protocols at all? What would they do if anyone was hurt on premises? What would they do if a child was hurt on premises? What to do if a teacher collapses in class? etc. What should the employees do if there is an injury and the principle is not onsite – who makes the decision to not call the EMTs then?

    1. Goya de la Mancha*

      I know our district health/safety director would have a FIELD day with this principal, especially once the parents/media got wind ;)

  38. Bea*

    This monster needs removed from anywhere near humans, let alone in charge of children. If I were a parent of a child there and knew this happened I would climb so far into the school boards collective butts. You do not deny emergency services to anyone is disgusting.

  39. Amber Rose*

    If it were here I can think of at least one law that was violated, but I’m not sure where you are. But please maybe look up your own OHS laws, because if someone is hospitalized for more than two days as the result of a workplace incident, our law requires us to contact the government and report it within 24 hours. Not calling an ambulance probably would have netted a fine among other things. Not calling any authority would DEFINITELY have netted a fine, and probably closures.

    Either way, not cool. Just a couple of months ago we had an incident in my area where a guy tripped and bonked his head, seemed fine, and then died two days later due to complications. It was a freak accident but head injuries can be extremely misleading, and dangerous.

    1. Amber Rose*

      OK, I screwed up my sentence. The rule is hospitalized or misses more than two days of work.

      Sorry, I was so appalled that I botched that one pretty good.

  40. Goya de la Mancha*

    I’m so glad that you had a nurse available when it happened. With funds being cut, too many schools are relying on school secretaries (aka little to no medical training) to act as the nurse. Your boss was WAY out of line, but if the injured employee was me, I’d feel so much more comfortable that a nurse was there VS just the principal and I. I agree that you need to contact your union, and school board. I assume she put in a Workers Comp complaint as well? If the principal didn’t want a “scene” why wait until after all was said and done to start calling family?! Call a family member, get them there right away and escort outside a side door if it’s only about appearances.

    1. Gyrfalcon*

      No. Don’t move someone with a head injury. And the nurse should have called 911, not gone along with this frighteningly negligent principal.

    2. ..Kat..*

      Except that the nurse didn’t follow proper medical guidelines. What she allowed the principal to do could have severely injured or killed the teacher.

  41. Phoenix Programmer*

    I think referring to the principal as a cartoon villain is unfair. I understand where the principle was coming from. I think people are assuming principals thought process was person is hurt > ambulance makes me look bad > don’t call them…. But in reality I could see myself thinking teacher is hurt > call ambulance > wait everyone is arriving for school > they may panic and think active shooter > more people could be hurt > I’ll ask injured of she is ok waiting.

    1. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

      I hadn’t even thought of it that way! But that makes things more understandable. Still awful though.

      1. ..Kat..*

        No, this is not understandable. One ambulance does not show up for an active shooter. SWAT, Emergency Response Teams, black helicopters show up for active shooters.

        This principal delayed vital emergency medical care for this teacher.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      I understand that if it’s a broken leg, I guess. (Trying to think of something less severe than a head injury here, not trying to be a cretin.) But if it’s a head injury and the teacher’s head was split open… call 911. Have them come around to the side if need be. Don’t leave it up to the patient. Even if they’re lucid, they may be in shock and not thinking clearly. Maybe the principal ISN’T a cartoon villain, but either way this shows a huge lack of judgment on her part.

    3. Aurion*

      I would not give the principal that much credit. Maybe the dispatcher up above can clarify, but I’ve never seen dispatchers send police to emergency situations when they weren’t necessary. A medical situation requires an ambulance, and sometimes they’d send a fire truck along as well because most/all firefighters are trained to respond to medical situations. But they’re not going to send armed cops in because someone hit her head.

      And the principal didn’t ask the teacher if she was okay waiting; she ordered her (and everyone else) to wait.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Actually the second part of the letter implies she asked since the injured said she was dazed and went along with it.

        1. Aurion*

          The letter also said the principal was intimidating and overrode the nurse’s decisions. When framed that way, it sounds far more likely that the principal made the decision and did not asked for the injured teacher’s approval, and the teacher was so dazed she could not advocate for herself further in the moment.

        2. cryptid*

          She had a head injury! She had a concussion, and she couldn’t have consented to wait because she literally had a brain injury. I dearly hope you’re never in a position to make someone wait for medical treatment for a potentially life-threatening injury. The principal got lucky it was relatively minor; you can’t count on also being so lucky.

      2. anon24*

        In my area we definitely have police respond to medical emergencies in certain cases. Partly for protection/crowd control but also because they are trained in first aid and can begin basic care and collect information before the ambulance gets there. But for an injury like this you’d get one police car, and it would be very low key.

        I also thought that the principal might be worried about parents thinking about an active shooter or other threat but seriously, you’d rather one of your employees die than concern some parents? It’s not that hard to have someone out there assuring parents that everything is fine.

        1. Aurion*

          Might be an availability thing then; I concede that point. I imagine police are also all trained in first aid.

          That said, even if a police car arrives first, it would be very low-key like you said–whereas for an active shooter armed police would show up in very large numbers. It’s very easy to tell the difference between “small incident” and “active shooter incident”. No matter which way you slice it this principal is full of fail.

      3. ..Kat..*

        Actually, firefighters respond because they have EMS training (not all firefighters do). In the US, a fire station paramedic is closer, because there are more fire stations than EMS stations (or availability). The firefighter/paramedics get there first, and begin providing life saving care. The ambulance arrives and continues care and transports to an appropriate hospital.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I don’t think seeing one ambulance (and maybe one fire truck, depending on if they are the first responders) is going to make anyone think “school shooting”.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I might kif I pull up to school and see fire truck and ambulance. They are often there before police. Also could think bomb threat etc.

      2. Sylvan*

        This might not be standard, but IME for guns, bomb threats, or anything else that required a lockdown, police came first, in very large numbers. It was very easy to tell the difference between those situations and when somebody was hurt or sick.

    5. please*

      I wouldn’t call him a villain – as in want to hurting people. But part of being a principal is having judgement and dealing with complexity. If this sort of incidence is too much for the principal’s judgement, then he is incompetent.

      He is responsible for a groups of kids. There will be emergencies of some kind. Hopefully not life-threatening ones like shooters, but there will be some. Plan for it in a general way. Be reasonable and not just reactive. Be capable. Or get another job.

      1. ..Kat..*

        The fact that the principal didn’t default to what the nurse would recommend is troubling. I don’t expect the principal to know medical protocol. But I do expect the principal to not insert his inexperienced, unknowledgable judgement for the judgement of others.

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      My mind went straight to “parents will think active shooter.” But I think that’s a negative you have to deal with: For example by positioning teachers, or calm parents, at the periphery to explain, and then sending an all-parent email in which you explain that someone fell and needed an ambulance and the school prioritizes safety. What teachers took from this is that their health and literal lives will not be a priority if the immediate optics could be awkward.

      If parents know, that’s the lesson they are taking, too–that if protecting their kid might cause someone somewhere a feeling of awkwardness, the kid won’t be protected. And that is not good.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Seriously, my experience from many PTO-run events is that if the principal had reacted “A, you keep pressure on her head. B, call 911 and explain the situation. C and D, can you go to the edges and explain what’s happening, draft some people to help” you would have had someone step up to direct traffic, some experienced parents at the periphery calming people and helping with logistics of dropoff , and a situation that in the end was NOT an ideal first day but at the same time reassured most parents and staff about how the community could step up and manage when tossed an emergency. Not by hiding the emergency and pretending it wasn’t there, which is not at all reassuring.

    7. Amber Rose*

      For any other injury, sure. But head injuries, even ones that seem minor, can be deadly. You don’t move someone who’s injured their head without a medical professional. Period. Even children learn this.

    8. Phoenix Programmer*

      I agree ultimately it was the wrong call but in this era of mass shooting in the US I have heard of teachers keeping their students in class during fire alarms just in case waiting for gun shots. What if a well meaning teacher exposes a student to needless harm for their decision? It’s easy to judge after all the facts but people are justifiably panicked about being gunned down in the US right now.

      1. Stop it.*

        I lived through a school shooting in our area and despite the constant fear we still call 911 in the event life is in danger. You’re reaching so far it’s upsetting as a survivor of such events.

        1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

          Thank you. I’ve been through one as well. I’ve also been in locations since that time when 911 has been called. The difference has been obvious.

          I mean. People do ask, “Hey, why is an ambulance/firetruck/squad car outside?” It’s a sign that Something is happening. But not Something Terrible. Also, people are nosy.

    9. Gorgo*

      There is logic, and sometimes faulty logic, and I have some sympathy for that.

      But seeing with your own eyes someone bleeding badly from a head wound, and not giving every priority to their well-being? I think that’s cartoon villain territory.

    10. Not So NewReader*

      Or you can send people out to clear the way for the ambulance. I have done that, I have sent a couple people with the idea if they need more people, one can stay out there and the other can come back in to get more people. But it’s always been my idea that someone should be out front to flag down the ambulance and point the way. There never seems to be a lack of volunteers to do this part.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        I am not reaching. I literally just read an account of someone who held there students in when a fire alarm went off Just in case.

        I stand by my comment that the principal made the wrong call but isn’t neccasarrily a monster or villian for it.

        1. Phoenix Programmer*

          That’s a bit extreme for my comment that essentially states “woman made the wrong call but it’s a bit much to demonize her. It’s also against Alison’s commenting policy to attack commenters.

    11. Tuxedo Cat*

      But the principal didn’t want to call for an ambulance period. The teacher had to find someone among her personal contacts to take her.

      I don’t think the characterization is unfair at all. The principal and the injured are lucky that things seem to have turned out okay, but head injuries are serious. I’d be really concerned where this principal’s limit is- how serious of an injury or health problem must occur for her to decide that a call to 911 is warranted?

    12. Student*

      No. That justifies absolutely nothing.

      Ambulances show up all the time, all over (as do police and the fire department) and NOBODY assumes that means there is an active shooter situation as the most likely reason there are emergency responders present. Even if people did assume any car with flashing lights implied an active shooter, the need of the teacher to get emergency medical help far outweighs the chance that somebody might be upset by a vehicle with flashing lights.

      Actual head injury >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>…>>>>>>>>>>>>possible angst about EMS vehicle.

    13. Someone else*

      I don’t. A 40 minute delay with a head injury can easily be the difference between life and death. The first thing I thought of when I read this was Natasha Richardson.
      This principal is either cartoon villain evil or cartoon villain incompetent. I understand the hypothetical you describe but it doesn’t really jive with the description we got. There’s a MAJOR difference between “I don’t want to cause a panic so I’ll see if this person can maybe wait” and explicitly telling staff NOT to call an ambulance and that they MUST wait. Also a single ambulance showing up should not remotely make people assume an active shooter situation is happening. This principal needs to be fired yesterday.

    14. Matt*

      The “cartoon villain” thing is still something that comes to mind … I immediately thought of Mr. Burns or the like.

  42. MCL*

    The spouse of one of my former colleagues passed away after hitting their head in a similar way – on a set of stairs while traveling abroad. The injured person was briefly conscious and did not seek immediate medical attention, but then very quickly went into a coma from which they never recovered and eventually passed away. It was incredibly tragic. This is just to say, head injuries like this are not just scary, they can be life threatening. Your principal’s priorities are dangerously misaligned. I hope your union can fight on your behalf, and that your administration puts policies and training in place so that this never happens again.

    Frankly, if I were a parent at this school I would really worry – the principal is clearly more worried about good appearances than actually dealing with a real emergency. What if my kid required medical attention? I would not be confident that my child would receive prompt and appropriate medical attention at this school.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      More worried about good appearances than actually dealing with a real emergency.

      I would expand out from medical emergencies to all the other sorts of problems that can arise for students–a boss who instinctively prioritizes appearances over all else is not who I want in charge, if my child’s well-being is on the line. Or my own, as a teacher.

      1. Bye Academia*

        Totally agreed. This makes me think of USA gymnastics…they were so worried about appearances and medals, they enabled the abuse of hundreds (thousands?) of kids over decades. This principal has shown they do not have the moral judgment necessary to put the students and staff first.

        (sorry if this double posts…I got a timeout error and I’m not sure whether the comment isn’t here because it’s in moderation or if it didn’t go through)

  43. MommyMD*

    Not allowing her to get medical care is horrific. You cannot hold people against their will. It’s a crime. The injury doesn’t sound like it required EMS involvement as the 911 system is overtaxed but Principal should have allowed a staff member to take patient to the ER immediately. Agree. Get the Union involved.

    1. JeanB in NC*

      You don’t think a head injury from falling down stairs requires EMS involvement? I think I’d call 911 and let them make that call.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Blood was pouring out to the point they gave her towels.
        Head wounds can bleed pretty good, I always thought that is the body’s way of keeping itself clean.

    2. MoodyMoody*

      You may be an MD, but you weren’t there. I respectfully disagree. My father fell, and my brother immediately called 911. Unfortunately, there was an accident on the road to the hospital; a drive that normally would take 15 minutes in a car took over an hour in an ambulance. If the ambulance had been able to reach the hospital sooner, it’s possible that my father would be alive today.

      I am not blaming the ambulance or the paramedics; they couldn’t control the traffic. It is certainly possible my father would have died even if he’d reached the hospital in 10 minutes. My point is that my father’s injury didn’t look that serious but he never came home again. A head injury serious enough to eventually require 8 stitches and caused dazing should have EMS! Exclamation point, end of sentence!

  44. Radius20*

    I think the others behaved badly too. I understand about “group think,” but if you see someone is hurt, you call 911. This should be a lesson to them as well.

    1. Gorgo*

      OP has said elsewhere that the principal made a lot of effort to keep the situation from the staff as well as the students.

  45. Falling Diphthong*

    Her desire to hide the situation from parents (which is a weird desire to begin with — people fall).

    I don’t find it at all weird, because some parents be crazy. Typing as a parent. (I could see the same thing happening at a camp, especially on Day One.)

    I do think this was a bad judgment call due to first day anxiety, and may not indicate deeper character flaws. That doesn’t make it all right. As a parent, this reminds me of someone who broke up with her fiance after the nephew they were watching choked–he freaked out and dithered, she Heimliched, even though it was a one time freak event, may never happen again, your actions in a moment of crisis may not reflect your overall character–sometimes an emergency drops on us, we are the person in charge due to adulthood or not having a head injury or being the boss, and it’s fair to call our wrong decision a Wrong Decision. One that had, or could have had, very grave consequences, and people don’t have to discount the bad decision because stress.

    (Had the principal done the right thing she would have called an ambulance, sent an email to parents to explain why there was an emergency vehicle (I get these regularly), and countered the “How could you risk scarring my baby!” parents with the much larger number who would have gone with the common sense approach–the approach they would want applied to their kid in this situation, as they would have pointed out to the panicking parents.)

    1. Madame X*

      I have a hard time not seeing this as a deep character flaw. This was not just a split second decision. The principal delayed critical care to one of their staff members for over an hour. Nothing in the letter indicates that the principal later recognize the error in their judgement, a heartfelt apology for their behavior and a concrete commitment to establish some sort of protocol in place for contacting emergency services in the case of any future medical emergency.

      1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

        Not only that, but the principal purposefully hid the incident from most of the staff (including OP) until the teacher went to the hospital. The best good faith reading I can give is the principal just kept digging a deeper hole out of panic and stress. Like when you know you made a mistake but you irrationally double down anyway. That still puts the principal’s character in question because not only did she endanger someone for optics, she wasn’t even transparent about it. I’d be severely shaken if my supervisor messed up like this, even if it was a panic-driven decision. I’d not only question her judgment in other potential emergencies but also whether she’d be open about fraught situations (even mundane things like budget cuts or unpleasant news, though I realize that’s a slippery slope). As a principal, she should be able to handle emergencies with integrity.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Citing a Vorkosigan novel again–the rare ability to charge halfway to a really bad outcome, and stop. You have to admit fault, people will insist the moment you stopped and changed course was too late, and there’s a strong instinct to keep doubling down and try to bull your way through by sheer inertia. In a leader, course changing is an important quality. As is dealing with sudden crises as they unfold.

  46. Jaydee*

    Putting on my mother-of-an-elementary-student and wife-of-a-teacher hat: I mean, the principal is right about one thing – elementary school gossip spreads fast, so word would have gotten around almost instantly. That said, it’s going to get around no matter what. Which is better, calling the ambulance promptly, having someone standing at the door as kids and parents walk in to allay fears about why an ambulance is there with something like “Oh, one of the teachers took a tumble down the steps – what a way to start a new school year, amiright?! Nurse Wakeena is looking after her, but we of course want make absolutely sure that she’s fine,” and then sending a note home that afternoon with all students with basically the same explanation; or waiting to send the teacher to the hospital in a private car, having her miss weeks of school, and having word get around through the gossip mill that “Ms. Llamacuddler fell down the steps and split her head open and her brains were on the steps and Nurse Wakeena had to scoop them back in her head and the principal wouldn’t let her go to the hospital and now her class has a substitute for three weeks and I’ve heard Ms. Llamacuddler has a big old scar on her head and is maybe a zombie now and when she comes back she’s going to eat her students’ brains because she lost part of her brains on the steps,” and having parents speculating about what really happened and wondering if their kids are safe in a school with a principal who won’t call an ambulance for a head injury?

    Putting on my lawyer hat: GAH! NO! STUPID! BAD! This is going to make the worker’s comp process a nightmare, set the district up for a civil suit by Ms. Llamacuddler and probably some OSHA fines, get the local press all up in our business, and get cranky, ill-informed parents showing up at school board meetings. And it’s only the first day of the school year! Why you make your lawyer’s life so hard? Why?!

  47. Matilda Jefferies*

    I feel like we need a tag for the “worst of the worst” – above and beyond a just an ordinary level of suckiness, there are a handful of people in the world who really take being a terrible human being to a whole new level.

    Off the top of my head, there’s this one, the chemo-interrupting boss, the forced organ donation boss, and the two (!) coworkers who refused to pass along critical messages to their colleagues (the one whose horse was sick, and the one whose wife was sick.) Also the leaving a note at a gravesite one. Honestly, who are these people, and where is their sense of general decency?!?

  48. Madame X*

    And what would the principal have done had the teacher died from her injuries? This principal was incredibly reckless. The OP should definitely get the union involved. If another teacher is unlucky enough to be injured on school grounds again, their medical care can not be delayed and this needs to be made clear to the principal.

    1. Dzhymm*

      I suspect that if the teacher died the principal would have sent someone to the funeral to ask if she’d left behind any lesson plans…

      1. OP*

        OP here. Same principal actually made a teacher who went into early labor at school CONTINUE A SPECIAL ED MEETING OVER THE PHONE ON HER WAY TO THE HOSPITAL… so yeah, honey your example was probably meant as hyperbole but it’s not too far off from reality

        1. Madame X*

          I’m so sorry that you have deal was such a terrible principal. She has no concern for the safety of her teachers. I really hope your schools system can bring her in line or replace her with someone much better.

        2. NotMsFrizzle*

          Ugh – I really hope this becomes enough of an issue for your district to get rid of her (even though I know in public schools, “getting rid” of admin is almost impossible). Maybe at least put her somewhere with less power over people. Working with an administrator like that really makes teaching hard.

  49. Oxford Coma*

    This is gross, but not surprising. I’ve seen administrators twist themselves into knots keeping on-campus incidents out of view (and especially out of the news). What ends up being reported is often very far from the truth, especially when student violence is involved.

    This woman should call her union rep, ASAP.

  50. Kix*

    Sounds to me like the school was trying to avoid footing the bill for the ambulance and the ER care. I hope the teacher files a grievance or gets an attorney.

  51. Caledonia*

    Aside from being horrifying etc, it’s how you handle it that matters. If the ambulance had been called at the time then all that would’ve needed to be said was that Miss Jones had an accident in a very matter of fact way. Possibly a diversion of children to a different route or something.

  52. Narise*

    I think this needs to serve as a warning to all of us in case we are found in this situation. If someone who has authority over an office or school states not to call an ambulance or police in a situation where it’s clearly needed we need to recognize their authority doesn’t extend past normal office decisions. We have to watch out for one another and look at this fool saying ‘don’t call ambulance move the person who just fell’ and say ‘I am calling the ambulance right now and no one should move her or she could suffer additional injuries.’ Say it flat with no emotion or with a bit of incredulous at the suggestion that an ambulance is not called. This takes aware their power as it will hit others in the group that action needs to be taken. Even if they continue to argue and threaten you just pick up a phone or borrow a phone and call.

    Believe it or not it is more likely in a group or crowded place for people not to take action because people assume others will take action because ‘everyone saw it.’ In this situation one person stated don’t do anything and once no one person objected everyone acquiesced and agreed that no one was calling. It’s much harder to go against a group of people who appear to agree with the stated action then say ‘wait no this is wrong,’ and take action against the group.

    1. Beaded Librarian*

      Exactly, I work in a library and honestly staff has made mistakes in the past by not calling an ambulance as soon as they should have because there was miscommunication and misunderstanding. Thankfully there were no ill effects and out director has made it crystal clear if we are asked to call an ambulance for any reason do so and if we REMOTELY think that an ambulance should be called for something DO SO the paramedics can sort it out.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yep, that’s right.

      Don’t be afraid to use the collective pronoun “we”. Sometimes you can get the same message across and soften it by saying, “No, WE need to do X instead.” (As opposed to “I will do X instead.”) This might be helpful to use if someone is in a situation where they are wondering, “Will I get fired for this?” Well, by using the pronoun “we” that might change the tone so it feels like the tide turned and the group has decided to something else. It also leaves the door open for gentle guidance, such as, “I can see your concern, boss, but some of us will go out front and help keep things orderly. We just can’t let her keep bleeding like this, we have to get her help. We really don’t have a choice here.”
      With an insecure leader such as OP’s principal this MIGHT work well for unforeseen reasons.

  53. copier queen*

    If you work in a public school district, there should be an assistant superintendent or superintendent who directly supervises your school and acts as your principal’s supervisor/manager. I would inform this person immediately. The principal definitely needs training/professional development on how to act in an emergency situation.
    The way most principals would have handled this is —
    1. Seek immediate medical attention for the teacher
    2. Reroute carpool/bus arrival to accomodate ambulance
    3. Once teacher was receiving treatment, make an automated call/email to all parents notifying them of why ambulance was on campus (employee injured in a fall) and that campus is safe, secure and the school day is proceeding as scheduled.
    6 years in a public school district has taught me a lot – and rule #1 is to keep everyone safe – students and employees!

  54. This Daydreamer*

    The LAST thing a school needs is a principal who shows dangerously poor judgment in an emergency. How would she handle a fire? An unconscious kid? Or, all the gods forbid, a guy with a gun? I don’t think I’ve been more horrified by a letter to AAM. Call the union, OSHA, the police, the school board, the press, your state representative, your member of Congress, ANYONE who can fix this disaster waiting to happen.

  55. voyager1*

    That thud, that was my mouth hitting the floor. I don’t even know what to say. This whole situation is just horrid.

    1. AKchic*

      My brain hasn’t even finished processing this whole clusterfrak of a scrumnugget to let my jaw relax enough to hit the floor yet.

  56. Beaded Librarian*

    This may have been said already as I’ve only scanned the comments, but if I was a parent I would be more comforted to see that an injured person was being taken care of promptly and appropriately. If I saw that schwas being hustled off or heard about this later I would be concerned that they would treat my hypothetical child the same way and refuse to get them prompt treatment.

  57. Observer*

    Ihaven’t read the comments yet, but one thought.

    The principal was trying to hide something from the parents. Well, guess what? He CANNOT guarantee that the parents won’t find out about it. And if word gets around how this was handled, he’ll REALLY have a problem on his hands. It’s possible that calling an ambulance right away would have hyped up the Helicopter Brigade. But THIS will both turn out the Helicopter Brigade if full force, but also also bring out the dormant Mama Bears. There are lots of parents who don’t get involved in every little thing, but threaten their kid, and OH BOY! Well, a LOT of parents are going to see this as a threat to their kids. And that group is going to have a contingent of the “best” parents – the one who are cooperative and helpful but don’t constantly make stupid or petty complaints about the special snowflake. In other words, parents he CANNOT dismiss.

    “If word gets out that you put someone at risk to hide an accident, parents are likely to start worrying about what else you are hiding and about the risk to their kids if they get hurt in school.” Might be your strongest argument.

    Go above his head if you need to. And if you are unionized, THIS is what unions were created for!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I am feeling that dormant Mama Bear thing and I am not even near the situation.

      I am surprised that coworker and OP have not quit. Failure to get proper medical help might be a deal breaker for me, I might be saying bye-bye.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      That’s a really good point. The injured is a teacher- someone had to sub for her and I bet the kids and the parents might have questions why she wasn’t there. It would be concerning what else this principal is willing to hide for the sake of the school’s reputation.

      1. Becky*

        I’m wondering why the principal thinks that having an ambulance present is a hit to the school’s reputation at all or looks bad.

  58. LouiseM*

    Can I just say…this is a great example of why EVERYONE should be in a union. We had a similar incident at my workplace where a terrible boss’s negligence caused injury to an employee. Since the professional staff here is not in a union, there was very little to be done. Allison’s advice to “speak up as a group,” while occasionally useful, relies on the goodwill of the boss (whose interests do not lie with the workers). Unions give workers the power to negotiate as a group even if the boss, like the principal in this case, is a nutjob. OP, I’m rooting for you! Solidarity forever!

    1. CutUp*

      I’m in absolute agreement Louise.
      ALL industries need robust unions. If this happened at my job I’d have no formal group redress. Everyone who’s shouting for her to contact her union should be shouting for UNIONS FOR ALL.

    2. The Supreme Troll*

      Though I cannot honestly say that I am in 100% agreement, I will say that I loathe meaningless union bashing from those that just repeat one-sided talking points. Unions have done a lot for the people of this country and the world, and the mindless pile-on against unions needs to stop already.

    3. Observer*

      Actually, talking as a group shifts the power balance, especially if you are also willing to go up the chain. It’s not a matter of good will, but of shifting the playing field. There is a reason why the NLRA exists, and why employers go to such lengths to keep employees from talking to each other and as a group despite the law.

    4. Anonymous for school union*

      I agree unions have effected tremendous social good, but there are many who feel that school unions in particular have too much power.

      My personal example: a health-and-safety school aide was supposed to escort my autistic kindergartener from his bus to his classroom, which was a locked trailer in the schoolyard. She dropped him off at the door without making sure he was in the classroom (I.e., handing him off to another adult) then left. He was too small for anyone to hear him knocking, and the rear entrance to the school was locked, so he couldn’t enter the main building. This person was not disciplined at all. If “safety” is part of your job title, and you’re responsible for the safety of special needs children, you should be fired for a single act of this kind of negligence. Children die from mistakes like these. We were lucky nothing happened to him that day, but we left for a private school because of that incident.

      1. Anonymous for school union*

        But actually, this is another instance of school administration acting to preserve face rather than engaging in good safety practices.

        1. Observer*

          In this case, the union probably protected the aid, who definitely fell down on the job.

          It happens. Good unions do a LOT of good. But it does happen that unions protect people who shouldn’t be protected.

        2. Anonymous for school union*

          Union procedure protected her from any disciplinary action. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

  59. Bacon pancakes*

    I am curious whether the teachers/administrators at the school have First aid training. Because this would have violated ALL first aid training to wait to call on a head injury!

  60. Ann Furthermore*

    I live in a county where the former BOE voted to get rid of the union. So while it does have a presence, it does not have any authority to negotiate or advocate for the teachers in any official capacity. This is a county where people would probably think more highly of you if you told them you were a serial killer rather than a member of the teachers’ union. (And it’s the teachers’ union that is specifically demonized, not the unions for police or firefighters, which I don’t get, but that’s a whole other topic). Anyway — suffice to say that there is no union in our district, nor will there be for the foreseeable future, even though the former BOE was just tossed out on its collective ear in November.

    However, there are some very active community Facebook pages. One is a page for residents of the community, where school, teachers, and education are always popular topics. The other is specifically set up for people to discuss school district issues. I’m pretty sure if this story ended up on either of those pages, people would be rightfully furious, and there would be A LOT of discussion about it. School board members are often tagged in conversation threads, and often, they do respond — even those from the hugely unpopular former regime. Something like that would gather steam pretty quickly.

    So LW, if you don’t have a union to help you with this, put the word out on social media.

    1. Julianne*

      Teachers unions are predominantly female, which I sincerely believe plays a role in how they are demonized. It took my teachers union two years of negotiations to agree on a new contract that simply preserved the status quo. The police and firefighters’ unions in my city, which are predominantly male, negotiated contracts during that same period in a matter of weeks each, and they received many more of the things they wanted in those contracts. Our mayor has talked openly about his desire to cut teacher salaries by 30-40% because we are “overpaid.” And I am a member of what is arguably the strongest local teachers union in the U.S.

  61. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    Gosh. I don’t normally feel comfortable making these kinds of pronouncements, but yeah, this principal needs to be fired. This was an egregious lack of judgement that could have gotten someone killed. It needs to be escalated until the principal is fired, whether that’s to the union, to the superintendent, or to the media.

    1. nep*

      The entire time I was reading the post I was saying to myself — ‘This person could have died!’

    2. Observer*

      Yes. This person needs to be fired – and given a REALLY bad reference. They should NEVER be in a position of authority again.

  62. V*

    Even if the principal did not violate any criminal laws (and she may have, depending on bystander laws), if her intervention and refusal to allow the nurse to call 911 caused the teacher greater injury, or further complicated the injury, she is very likely liable for personal injury to the teacher. And because the principal is an agent of the school, the school would be liable as well. The teacher should consider speaking with a personal injury attorney. At a minimum the teacher likely qualifies for workers compensation, but given the likely negligence/recklessness (as in, the legal definition of those terms) of the principal, the teacher may be able to go beyond workman’s comp on this. Obviously the teacher should proceed delicately if she pursues this, because suing your employer can be like throwing a fire bomb on your career. But it is worth taking with a personal injury lawyer to figure out what the options are.

  63. WorkerBee*

    At my first job, I was out on the “floor” and due to an accident, ended up with a deep cut to my face and a concussion. I was sent to the dr by my boss, however, my coworker that drove me ended up asking things like “is a tetanus shot OSHA reportable? Because if it is, then I don’t think she needs one.” (I did get one) Then at my return to the office, my boss said “oh, I have to do paperwork, but have a meeting that is 2-3 hours long, can you just sit here and wait for me to get done?” I sat, quietly holding ice packs and gauze to my head, for fifteen minutes and then left. Sometimes people are just TERRIBLE bosses.

  64. Not So Super-visor*

    My husband’s work is dealing with something like this b/c they’re being sued. An employee said that he couldn’t do his job because he fell and hit his head in the parking lot. The operations manager asked him to fill out some paperwork and sent him home. The manager didn’t read the paperwork — the employee couldn’t even write his own name! It turned out that he hadn’t hit his head but was having a stroke. No one is sure how the employee got home, but by the time that family members found him, it was too late.

    1. Mortified Morgan*

      I wonder how a hefty lawsuit would “look to parents”

      This is insanity. He could have been helped and probably less affected by his stroke had someone had the sense to call 911 when he could even write his name!!!

  65. nep*

    I’m beside myself reading this. Unbelievable. Unacceptable. Just can’t fathom. So sorry you all had to experience this — particularly the person who fell!

  66. Sakura*

    I’m a teacher. Absolutely the principal should have called for an ambulance immediately. Yes, some kids will cry and be freaked out, but if the adults around them are calm and direct them they will be just fine. Children adjust to what the adults are doing and if they seem ok the students will assume things are ok as well.

    However, I can understand why the principal wanted to avoid causing a scene and having a million parents call. Through my years of teaching, I’ve witnessed how so many parents call and complain to the principal about absolutely every thing you could imagine, without addressing it with the teacher or other staff member. Examples: calling to scream that a staff member called your child an ‘oven head’ when staff member said ‘cover your head, it’s raining out’, complaining to the principal because the student has used up their box of pencils mid-year, shrieking because they sent the teacher an email in the middle of the day and did not receive an immediate response, threatening to sue the school because your child talked throughout the lesson and another child told them to be quiet so obviously they are being bullied, the list goes on and on and on and on and on. I always encourage parents to talk to me about any problem and I enjoy speaking and working with many parents, but the bar of what is reasonable and kind has dropped far below what it ought to be for more than a few. I’ve worked under some principals where their primary objective after awhile seemed to be “What can I do that will result in less harassing phone calls?”

    I believe there is a real issue in this country with schools and the culture around them.

    1. Sakura*

      After being so negative about parents, I feel like I should also point out that many can be and are an asset, and that the principal should have sent an automated text/email to parents immediately after calling the ambulance. Avoidance isn’t an answer here.

    2. Observer*

      So you are saying that the desire to avoid unreasonable parents calling the school is a legitimate factor in deciding to literally endanger someone’s life?

      I’m not a teacher, but many of my family members are (including my husband, and our home number is listed in the phone book) so I know about unreasonable calls. But, that shouldn’t keep a teacher from doing their job, even the “smaller” things like making the kids do their work, etc. Allowing that to even come into consideration for a millisecond when someone’s life is on the line?! Sorry. That is NOT “understandable”.

      1. SallytooShort*

        No what she’s saying is “[a]bsolutely the principal should have called for an ambulance immediately.”

        1. Observer*

          And then there is the “but”. And the excuse for why the principal had a reasonable explanation for why they did not do what they should have.

          I cal baloney on that.

          1. SallytooShort*

            No, they said they understand how that could happen although they explicitly didn’t condone it.

            I call baloney on faux outrage and being a jerk to people just because they dared to understand nuance while clearly condemning the action.

            1. Sakura*

              Thanks for understanding what I was saying and coming to my defense, SallytooShort. I’m sure Observer just misread what I was saying.

  67. clow*

    It is really hard to believe that you can be injured at work, and your boss can refuse to let you seek medical care without breaking any laws. I mean, I believe it, but it is incredibly sad. I hope that teacher sues. I would be looking for a new school if possible.

    1. Tace*

      You can’t prosecute people for what might have happened, and in this case the principal got lucky and the teacher recovered without complications. So there’s no reason to pursue any criminal prosecution – even though there may technically be grounds for this or that charge.

      Thay said, there’s probably several different violations of civil law and workplace regulations here, and a good lawyer could pick from several options if the teacher wanted to sue. Again, though, it may not be worth it. The compensation the teacher would get would not compensate for probably losing their job and making themselves unemployable locally. (Which is not right, but it happens.)

  68. Technical_Kitty*

    Actively denying someone under your purview access to care is illegal, at least it is here in Canada. In her position as principal she denied her subordinates requests to contact emergency services on the behalf of someone wh had been injured and had altered mental state (could mot act accordingly to the situation), this was tacitly admitted to by them not allowing her/her not being able to drive herself to the hospital. The principal was not required to help (unless there is a bystander law where you work) but actively interfering in someone accessing emergency services WHILE in a compromised mental state is almost certainly illegal. And doing it with the flimsy excuse of not upsetting kids, when the injury happened on school property is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. There’s probably some work place safety laws that cover her actions as a supervisor denying care to someone with compromised mental faculties.

    I am not a lawyer, I was however the medic (OFAlv3) for remote projects. And behavior like this is illegal under Canada’s mines act as well as under the criminal code.

  69. Student*

    Abuse by denial of medical care. Illegal confinement by not allowing her to leave promptly for an ER. On a civil and/or union side, threatening retaliation or actual retaliation for reporting a health and safety incident promptly.

  70. Wherehouse Politics*

    If I was a parent, it would comfort me to know that the school is on top of any possible medical emergency and would have an ambulance arrive quickly.

  71. Brittany Hales*

    So, a good outcome for this should be that the school implements a safety wall that they can access quickly, rather than trying to move an injured employee. My mom had a stroke while working at an elementary school and the officials immediately threw up the “emergency wall” to block the students’ view in the hallway. They got her an ambulance and got her help, and they didn’t waste time in “hiding” her from the kids, since they had this collapsible wall they could bring out. Your school needs to institute one, that’s the very least they could do.
    Other than that I’m appalled. The school needs to come up with a plan for employee injuries. My mom’s stroke happened in 2006, so it’s not like this is super new.

    1. Florida*

      There are companies that sell these types of things to police departments. As soon as they get to an auto accident, they pt up the black wall. One of those companies is called Stop Rubbernecking. I’m not recommending them as a company because I know nothing about them. I just think they have an awesome name.

  72. Candi*

    “you probably have a union to do this through”

    That would really depend on the quality of the local teachers’ union. The union here, 97% or so likely to take the principal’s side, unless the teacher was permanently disabled. If you’re below principal level, the union’s disregard toward members is ridiculous. Including benefit negotiations.

    LW, I hope you have a good local union.

    1. NotMsFrizzle*

      This! Teacher unions are unfortunately not as powerful as people imagine, and their priorities can vary.

  73. G*

    I can’t believe there aren’t any laws against this in the USA (although I have heard there are people who have to wear bracelets telling people not to call ambulances due to the extortionate cost). If this happened here in the UK there would be complete outrage. It’s illegal over here to actually prevent others from calling an ambulance, it’s also illegal to deny medical help to those you have duty of care to, which applies to employers and their employees.

  74. Noah*

    I’m not sure if Principal committed a crime, but :

    1. This is probably a violation of the union contract (if they are a public school, since independent and religious schools are not usually unionized);

    2. If Teacher’s injuries were exacerbated by teh delay, there’s a pretty obvious lawsuit here… against both the principal and the school. Due to this last part, this should be reported to the school board or board of directors or whatever this particular school has.

  75. Florida*

    Once I was at a library as a vendor. Through my own idiocy, I cut my finger with a small pocket knife. This was not a cut that required stitches, but it did require cleaning, gauze, etc. So I asked an employee for a first aid kit. Two separate employees asked me if I wanted them to call an ambulance. I got a kick out it.
    I just assumed it was their policy with any injury to ask if you need an ambulance.

  76. Boymom*

    Honestly I’m not that surprised by the principals reaction. I’m not saying I agree but…. my brother is a principal and he fell playing basketball and broke his neck (literally) students were starting to show up for school. Instead of having the ambulance come, he had some teachers get him up (gasp) and walk him to another area where they could quietly get him away but he delayed treatment and moved/walked with broken vertebrae. He should have ended up paralyzed based on the break but got lucky.

    He also didn’t want to make a scene in front of students and parents arriving to school, so the train of thought is there for principals.

    1. Observer*

      It’s one thing to do stupid and dangerous things for yourself. It is completely and utterly a different thing when it comes to another person.

      I have no admiration for your brother’s train of thought here, to be honest. But the only person he was putting in direct danger was himself, although he WAS sending a terrible message to any kid who saw what happened. The second you are dealing with another person that train of thought becomes not just stupid and dangerous but flat out evil. You never, ever EVER risk a person’s life or “even” health to avoid “making a scene”!

  77. Mortified Morgan*

    My thoughts on this are: I would step off to the side and call 911. Nobody would ever be able to tell me not to, when I see someone injured. If I were disciplined for doing so, I would immediately go to the media/social media about it as well. Head injuries, even appearing minor, can be fatal. I would not have hesitated to call 911. I would have stood firm in that decision. I think someone should have done it anyway. How would the principal have known? I would have stepped aside or inside and called. Period.

    I think it says a lot about every person who stood by and didn’t do anything, as well. I don’t see how the principal denying medical care would have been something I would have gone alone with. I’m sorry (not sorry) I just don’t, I would not have listened and I’m pretty sad to hear nobody stood up for her or against it. And the phone call probably could have been made without the principal even knowing who made it. I’m mortified and I see things like this are becoming more and more normal and it is so bizarre to me.

    Additionally, I honestly wonder why the teacher didn’t do more once she was back to herself again. At the very least a complaint should be filed. I think she probably could even reasonably sue if she wanted to… I wonder how that would look to parents.

    The principal could have easily sent out a memo to the students, fellow staff and parents the next day explaining the ambulances on the first day.

    This was just not okay, in any way.

    1. Radius20*

      I completely agree with everything you said. She is lucky she didn’t die like Natasha Richardson who would have lived if she had medical help sooner.

    2. Observer*

      Well, you don’t really know what the teacher is, or is not, doing. The OP may not even know. And even if they do know that’s not really the thrust of the question, because it really doesn’t affect them.

      1. OP*

        I haven’t directly asked her about it since after it first happened which was about 6 months ago. She may very well be pursuing it quietly, I don’t know.

    3. NotMsFrizzle*

      I understand where this sentiment is coming from, but schools with bully administrators get real dysfunctional, real fast. You’d like to think you’d always do the right thing, but in high-stress/low-support environments like teaching people get worn down easily. My old principal had a reputation of giving unsatisfactory reviews to force people out (and these reviews can follow you, also making it harder to get another teaching job), and depending on the strength of the union, there’s not always much you can do to counter that. The other staff may have been afraid of losing their career and not thinking straight. This is 100% on the principal.

  78. D'Arcy*

    I strongly suspect that the “school nurse” in this situation was not an actual healthcare professional, because if she was, she committed an extremely serious violation of professional ethics by allowing herself to be bullied into ignoring her professional duty towards a patient in her care. Depending on the state, it may even qualify as criminal patient abandonment.

      1. ..Kat..*

        Ha ha ha ha ha. Texas has cut funds for things like school nurses. If you think your child’s school has an on-site nurse, well think again.

        1. D'Arcy*

          Indeed. Texas makes extensive use of “unlicensed assisstive personnel” , and it’s pretty common for UAPs to be informally referred to as “school nurses” despite not being actual nurses in any way, shape, or form. UAPs are supposed to work only under the direction of actual nurses and/or physicians whenever performing duties beyond basic medical aid and administration of OTC or already-prescribed medications, but this tends to be interpreted very loosely as satisfied by having a nurse on-call for the entire district, with most or all of the actual ‘stationed in school’ people being UAPs.

  79. Nita*

    I am not a lawyer, but a quick Google search turned this up: I can see a couple of points that look iffy, such as beginning to undertake a rescue (i.e. helping the teacher from the scene of the accident) and abandoning it, and failing to report an emergency when you have a relationship to the injured party (employer-employee). I rather hope the principal gets the pants sued off them, and that the story leaks into the local media, because someone with this level of judgment has no business being responsible for anyone’s safety.

  80. Jenny*

    This is unbelievable. I’m surprised the nurse isn’t the one with the decision-making power on how medical cases are handled. Also it might only be Feb, but I expect this principal to contend for Worst Boss of the year.

  81. Stone Cold Bitch*

    And as for children being affected – I work in fire and rescue and whenever there is an incident at a school or pre-school we offer to come back and talk about what happend and how we work. Children and staff can ask questions, if the puplis are a little older we sometimes do CPR-classes. It ususally ends up being a very good experience and teaches both staff and kids what to do in an emergency.

    As someone wrote above, children should learn that an ambulance or a fire engine means that people are getting help.

  82. Betsy*

    When I was in high school a student fainted during the minute of silence to honour fallen troops. He fell straight back onto his head. No one checked that whether was OK because we were supposed to be standing in silence with our eyes closed. I can understand why the kids kept following the rules, for fear of getting in trouble, but I don’t know why the teachers waited until the whole minute was up. He made a huge crashing noise when he fell straight back onto the hard floor. Of course it’s important to be respectful during any minute of silence, but it’s also important to make sure your students are OK and not severely injured, and someone being unconscious seems quite serious to me.

  83. J. F.*

    I am 100% in agreement that a good union can be helpful in situations just like this – but I live in VA, where teachers are forbidden *by law* from striking. Really. So technically they can have a union but in practice there are no unions. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the OP is in a non-union state.

  84. Lawyer Kate*

    Oh HELL NO.
    I wouldn’t even bother with the school board. Go to the news. This is abuse of a staff member. If the principal is worried about “looks” so much, she needs to be removed from her position. I would also sue the principal and the school district for this. Unbelievable.

  85. Liz*

    Contact the State Board of Nursing, and/or the state Nurse’s association . The prinicpal is not a medical professional, and they do *not* get to override the school nurse.

  86. Bazinga*

    This is just so astounding to me. The teacher was lucky she wasn’t more severely injured. An hour of swelling on the brain could be the difference between survival and brain death. This principal is nuts. Please go to someone, OP: Union, school board, anything. Plus the State Board of Nursing (assuming this was an RN) This could happen again.

  87. Caraval*

    Wow. Just….wow. If this had happened while I was in school, I’ll tell you what would have happened–a major news blitz. Because several of the teachers would have immediately told the parents, and they collectively would have gone to the news. Because unfortunately school boards are filled with cowards like this principal who are more worried about their reputation than people’s health, and making a very public outcry would be the only way to get rid of this person. And trust me, a large portion of students would not be in class, and a large portion of teachers would not be teaching until this principal was gone.

    Because next time the teacher might not be ‘okay’. Next time it might be a student. Next time the problem might be a shooting/bomb threat and several people would die.

    Please, please, please, get everyone together and make noise about this!

  88. NotMsFrizzle*

    I was certain this was my old principal, except that school isn’t as close to a fire station! I really hope going to the union is helpful; my union allowed some shocking things to fly but I think this would be too much even for them. I’m guessing this principal has some major issues as an administrator beyond just this, so even if the action just resulted in the first steps towards getting rid of her (as opposed to a lawsuit or larger cultural change in the district) it would still be a win.

  89. Cassandra*

    Call me a rebel, but I would have taken out my own cell phone and called 911 myself. When the boss is clearly doing the wrong thing, I would not hesitate to do the right thing when someone is injured. That doesn’t solve the problem of what to do about this principal, and many employees are too cowed by their bosses to take this sort of action, but it’s something to consider.

  90. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    In my workplace we were told “before calling 911, call the company HQ for direction.”

    I advised the director = “if you’re injured or have a heart attack, I will call HQ for guidance. Anyone else in here gets a 911 call if I have anything to say about it. I’ll worry about the disciplinary action later.”

  91. Vancouver*

    Two thoughts from a first aid instructor:

    Firstly, the principal’s decision may have placed the nurse in a potentially dangerous position. Depending on the licensing procedures and laws in your jurisdiction, especially whether or not she would be considered to have a duty of care for an injured colleague, the nurse could be subject to penalties. Where I am, for example, the designated first aid attendant on a work site is legally required to provide first aid for all employees to the best of their abilities, unless it is unsafe to do so or the employee refuses treatment (there are specific regulations in place that lay out the responsibilities of an attendant versus a supervisor – almost like the foresaw this kind of thing happening).

    My other thought would be that your school may want to invest in a portable privacy screen. One public facility I work at stores a mobile screening wall near our main first aid kit so that if someone needs treatment and cannot be moved (really, you shouldn’t move patients if you don’t have to anyway) that person has privacy and you don’t have children, or their guardians, staring at a wound. To be clear, the principal is absolutely wrong – this is just a suggestion for if said principal sincerely regrets what happened and you feel like making a suggestion to help reduce stress on the principal in future. The nurse can treat the patient and another teacher can grab the screen – problem solved. (Of course, there’s still the ambulance thing and I have doubts about whether or not this suggestion will do anything other than distract the principal from the real issue of making a horrible, horrible decision. But I thought I’d throw it out there, in case anyone wants to get one for their workplace – it’s been really handy with blood, unresponsive patients, and people with chest injuries who have to take their shirts off for treatment.)

  92. Jairee Counterman*

    I collapsed in my on-campus apartment (I had been a senior administrator at a private military boarding school), and even though the CEO and other staff came to my apartment the first morning I failed to show up to work (after being sick and having reported that to my supervisor), the CEO (with support from his peers on the executive committee of the board) would not allow anyone to call an ambulance or provide medical attention for almost three days. When I finally got to a hospital, I was unable to communicate, spent three weeks in ICU (where I also had a stroke) and another three weeks in a rehab hospital, all from complications from being bitten by a brown recluse spider at a work function a few months prior AND spending almost three days lying on the floor with no water or medical attention. It’s been over a year and I’m still having medical issues. Oh, and six weeks after I was finally “allowed” to return to work full-time (employer, not doctors), in a demoted position with a 50-percent paycut, that same CEO eliminated my job entirely. There is something wrong in a society in which a CEO can not only refuse medical attention for a stricken employee, but also order other staff not to call for help.

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