Joel Parkes is a veteran social studies teacher at Salvador Castro Middle School in Los Angeles. On Feb. 1, 2018, a gun discharged in the classroom next to his, and two 15-year-old students were hit, according to NBC News. A 12-year-old girl who had brought the gun to school was booked on a charge of negligent discharge of a firearm. Parkes said the shooting convinced him that it is nothing less than “obscene” that schools do not have full-time nurses.
That’s why, he said, he is part of a massive strike by educators in the second-largest school system in the country. The labor action began Jan. 14, seeking higher pay and more resources for strapped schools, including more counselors and nurses.
This is his story, in his own words:
Last February 1 at Sal Castro Middle School in Los Angeles, a gun brought to school by a student unintentionally went off during first period in the room next to mine. Some panicked students ran into my room and told me a girl’s vein had “exploded,” she was bleeding, and I had to come.
When I got into the room, I saw saucer-sized blood spatters on the floor, and desks pretty much all over the center of the room. The teacher had herself been hit by a bullet fragment and was not there. A female student, who had been shot through the wrist, was sitting on the floor bleeding.
I used my belt as a tourniquet and stopped the bleeding and sent for the principal. When he arrived, I said we needed the nurse ASAP, and was informed that the nurse was only there two days a week and was “not here today.” My heart sank and I felt sick. He then told me the EMTs would be there any minute.
That was not the case. LAPD [Los Angeles Police Department] arrived and had to search every seventh-grade student in case there was a second gun. (The first gun was confiscated almost immediately.) That took about 45 minutes. So for that time, I would not have known what to do if the girl had gone into shock or fainted from loss of blood. Unknown to me, a second student, who had been struck in the head by the same bullet, was in the office being tended to by another staff member who also was without formal medical training.
Both students survived, but my views about part-time nurses in L.A. schools have changed. I used to think the policy was merely stupid. Now I think it is obscene.
At the time of the shooting, Parkes was 65 years old. He had no formal medical training but said he knew how to apply a tourniquet because his mother was a registered nurse and showed him when he was an adolescent.
Parkes is now in his 22nd year as a teacher, 19 of them teaching seventh-grade social studies.
He said he heard an emergency room doctor say a school nurse would have been no better trained than he was — and having a nurse would have made no difference. His response?
I disagree. I was lucky to remember how to apply a tourniquet, but if the girl had subsequently fainted or gone into shock, I would have been at a total loss. I believe a nurse would have at least known what to do had either of those things happened.
Two weeks after this shooting, a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and killed 17 people. After that, Parkes said the shooting at his school was quickly forgotten.