CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Emma Staggs is 6-years-old. She has a twin sister named Sara. Emma, has a tracheostomy tube to help her breathe. Both girls are enrolled in CMS schools in the Exceptional Children program.
Because of Emma’s trach tube—her mom Stacy Staggs says sometimes certain situations require them to remove it and then place it back in, so that Emma can breathe. For this to happen safely, Stacy says she requires atleast two people in the room who know what they are doing—one of those people is always a 24-hour traveling nurse by Emmas side.
But Stacy says CMS wont agree to providing that second trained person.
“I mean, she’s turning blue, she’s turning gray, I have seen the light go out of her eyes.. while we are working to get her reinstated," says Stacy.
60 seconds. That’s how long the mom says they have when they’re trying to put her tracheostomy tube back in—so she can breathe again.
“The reason it has to be that tight and that specific is because her airway is trach dependent. When her tracheostomy tube comes out, her airway immediately and completely collapses. She won’t survive the wait for EMS to arrive," says Stacy.
Time can quickly run out—and Stacy says its one of the reasons, a second—trained person in the classroom could improve Emma’s chance of survival if her trach tube were to ever come out at school.
“The issue that we keep bumping into is that they're looking at Emma more as a liability than as a student or a child”
Seven Individual Education Plan meetings with CMS and one year later; Emma still doesn’t have a second trained person in the classroom to intervene if necessary. Which Stacy says is too much of a safety risk in her eyes to send Emma to school. Stacy even offered to physically volunteer at her daughter’s school to be the second trained set of hands. But an expert in Disability resources says they don’t suggest parents being in the classroom at that level.
A disability resource expert says having a parent inside the classroom to that extent could jeopardize the learning environment for teachers and other students.
“And of course, everyone knows the clock is ticking Emma’s missing school while we’re figuring this out," says Stacy
With no resolutions from meetings, Stacy filed a due process petition. Two days later she says CMS sent them a truancy letter saying Emma was missing too much school.
“A parent can ask for anything, but the school system is going to say what they can do based upon either laws or capacity," explained an expert.
By law CMS cannot comment on Emma’s situation because of student protection laws.
You might be wondering if the school’s nurse could qualify as a second trained person for Emma’s situation, Stacy says the district told her legally, nurses would not be able to help re-install Emma’s trach tube in those situations because they call the procedure “too invasive”.
Stacy says the district has not offered to send a teacher to the Stagg’s home for individual teaching with Emma. However, Stacy and Emma’s in home therapists agree, because Emma is so active and advanced, a real classroom, in home setting, is what Emma’s needs to get the most quality education CMS can provide.
Since WBTV’s original airing of this report, Stacy has since offered a correction in what she initially told WBTV. Stacy says CMS has offered homebound services for Emma and she declined. Stacy says the district was offering 1 hour per week in place of three days of school.