Killeen, Texas: Anthony Ruelas watched for what seemed like an eternity as his classmate wheezed and gagged in a desperate struggle to breathe.
The girl told classmates that she was having an asthma attack, but her teacher refused to let anyone leave the classroom, according to NBC affiliate KCEN. Instead, the teacher emailed the school nurse and waited for a reply, telling students to stay calm and remain in their seats.
When the student having the asthma attack fell out of her chair several minutes later, Ruelas decided he couldn’t take it anymore and took action.
“We ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse,” a teacher’s report quotes him as saying, according to Fox News Latino.
And with that, the 15-year-old Gateway Middle School student carried his stricken classmate to the nurse’s office, violating his teacher’s orders.
The teenager later texted Ruelas to let him know she was fine, according to KWTX, but that didn’t stop school officials at the alternative school in the Killeen Independent School District from punishing him. Ruelas was written up by his teacher and eventually suspended for two days, according to KCEN.
“I was like what?” Ruelas told the station. “I’m suspended for this? Like, I was trying to help her.”
A teacher’s report documenting the incident appears to correspond with Ruelas’s version of what transpired:
“During 5th period another student complained that she couldn’t breathe and was having an asthma attack,” the report states. “As I waited for a response from the nurse, the student fell out of her chair to the floor. Anthony proceeded to go over and pick her up, saying ‘[expletive] that, we ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse.’ He walks out of class and carries the other student to the nurse.”
Mandy Cortes, Ruelas’s mother, told KCEN that she assumed her son - who has been suspended in the past - was to blame when the school informed her that he had been suspended again.
“I wasn’t trying to hear it,” she said. “I was like, ‘No, they already told me what happened - you walked out of class.’ And he was like ‘Okay, forget it.’ But I can tell - you know, you know your kids - I could tell he was upset.”
Cortes told KCEN that when she found out what prompted her son to walk out of class, she was proud of him but frustrated by the school’s response.
“Especially with it being an alternative school I feel like the kids hear enough of ‘they’re bad’ or their behavior,” she added. “For them to not be rewarded for really something that is brave, you know, he is a hero to me.”
“He may not follow instructions all the time, but he does have a great heart,” she said, noting that she was now considering home-schooling him.
John Craft, superintendent of the Killeen Independent School District, released a statement on Wednesday addressing the incident:
“The District is unable to provide details related to the matter as it pertains to information involving student discipline and/or health records,” the statement said. “In an effort to protect students’ rights to confidentiality granted under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the details of the investigation and/or disciplinary actions may not be provided by the district at this time. The Killeen ISD maintains the safety of our students, staff and campuses as a priority and applauds the efforts of students who act in good faith to assist others in times of need.”
Ruelas told KCEN that he’s more concerned about his classmate’s health than his suspension. Asked whether he would make the same decision again if he was given the chance, he sounded confident.
“Most definitely,” he said.