The family of a Seminole Heights Elementary School first grader, Keith Coty, 6, who died in a classroom one year ago today from a brain hemorrhage filed a federal lawsuit against the Hillsborough School District over how educators handled the boy's 911 call, according to court records.
"If you see a 6-year-old blue on a floor, you should call 911," said Keith's mom, Kaycee Teets. "No matter what policy is in state, no matter what. They should immediately call 911."
Teets hired attorney Steve Maher, from the same law firm that handled the Isabella Herrera case from two years ago. That special needs child needed emergency help but the 911 call was delayed because policy at the time stated the bus driver must radio dispatch first. Herrera ended up dying and the Hillsborough School District settled with her family and changed the 911 policy for bus drivers.
"This case is strikingly similar. Teachers at the school were not allowed to call 911 on their own," Maher said. "All 911 calls had to go through the front office with the consent of the principal."
Maher said it took 34 minutes after Coty first complained of a severe headache and began vomiting profusely before a 911 call was placed from the front office. Maher said the nurse did not attempt CPR on Coty even though he wasn't breathing and didn't use a defibrillator.
"Had 911 been timely called, and CPR and or the defibrillator used, Keith would be alive today," he said.
Maher also said because the 911 call was placed from the front office, not from the classroom where Coty was lying unresponsive on the floor, the secretary could not answer important paramedic questions.
"My main purpose of doing a lawsuit was to make sure that Hillsborough County has new policies or has employees that are better able to handle situations," Teets said.
Hillsborough School District spokesman, Steve Hegarty, said it's standard procedure not to comment on pending lawsuits.
Through a public record's request, Bay News 9 obtained a policy memo that all district employees must read and sign. The memo does state an employee must immediately contact a supervisor so a 911 call can be placed but it also states there's an exception to the rule, "However, based on the circumstances at the scene of the incident, if a cell phone is more readily available, the employee can contact 911 directly, then follow up by contacting the appropriate office or supervisor to confirm the location of the incident."
Teets said she hopes her lawsuit prevents another child from dying in the care of the Hillsborough County School District.