KILLEEN, Texas - A Killeen mother is defending her son who was suspended after helping a fellow student having an asthma attack.
Anthony Ruelas, 15, said his eighth grade classmate was wheezing and gagging for three minutes Tuesday morning while no one did anything. But when Ruelas did do something, he apparently broke the rules.
"He may not follow instructions all the time, but he does have a great heart," said Mandy Cortes, Ruelas' mother.
Ruelas goes to Gateway Middle School, an alternative school in the Killeen Independent School District. Ruelas has been suspended before, but Tuesday was different.
"I wasn't trying to hear it," said Cortez. When she picked her son up from school for the suspension she told him,"No, they already told me what happened you walked out of class, and he was like 'ok forget it', but I can tell, ya know you know your kids, I could tell he was upset."
The reason Ruelas walked out of class? He was carrying a friend to the nurse's office.
"I was like what? I'm suspended for this? Like, I was trying to help her," said Ruelas.
According to Ruelas, the teacher was waiting on an email from the nurse and told the class to remain calm and stay in their seats. Fearing for the girl's health, Ruelas didn't listen and after several minutes of inaction, went against the teacher's wishes to help his friend.
Ruelas' referral form from his teacher reads in her handwriting:
"During 5th period another student complained that she couldn't breathe and was having an asthma attack. 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 'f—k 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."
"I broke rules but, she need help, like she needed help," said Ruelas.
"I don't, ya know think, he should have used that language, but as far as getting suspended for walking out of class, he could have saved her life," said Cortes.
Killeen ISD released this statement Wednesday in response to 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. 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."
-John Craft, Superintendent, Killeen Independent School District
However, Cortes said instead of "applause" her son got punished for doing the right thing.
"Especially with it being an alternative school I feel like the kids hear enough of 'they're bad' or their behavior, or you know, and for them to not be rewarded for really something that is brave, ya know, he is a hero to me," said Cortes.
Ruelas said he wasn't concerned about the two-day suspension, only the girl's health, and even with the outcome would help her again if given the chance.
"Most definitely," said Ruelas.
Adding insult to injury, Cortes said the school called her Wednesday morning wanting to know why her son was absent. She had to remind them they suspended him.
As for the classmate Ruelas helped, he said he got a text from her Wednesday evening thanking him and letting him know she was 'ok.'
Ruelas can return to school Thursday, but Cortes is now considering home-schooling him.