GEISMAR — An Ascension Parish mom says Dutchtown Primary officials inexplicably waited four hours before alerting her that her daughter needed treatment for a snake bite — a delay she says led her to pull the third-grader honors student out of school for the rest of the semester.
Ericka Rochon said Tuesday the incident happened May 2, a LEAP test day, when her daughter was bitten by a snake while walking to the school bus about 7:45 a.m. Rochon said the girl told her teacher when she got to school, but she wasn't brought to the office for help until four hours later when she complained of the bite burning.
Rochon said her daughter later told her that when she got to school, her teacher told her to get a band-aid from a bin in the classroom and to sit down.
Another teacher soon came in to administer the LEAP test, Rochon said.
After her daughter finished the test, she told that teacher the bite on her leg was beginning to burn, Rochon said.
A short time later, the classroom teacher sent the girl, along with a classmate, to the office, and Rochon was called by a school nurse at 11:48 a.m. Rochon then rushed to the school, along with her daughter's uncle.
Rochon, a registered nurse who knew her daughter would need to be at a hospital large enough to treat a possibly venomous bite, headed for Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center. The limping third-grader was carried into the emergency room by her uncle.
An emergency room doctor showed the girl photos of snakes on his phone to try, unsuccessfully as it turned out, to get an identification. He then said he was going to assume that the snake either wasn't venomous or that, if it was, the venom didn't get into the child's blood system, Rochon said.
Her daughter's bite wound was treated with a prescribed topical antibiotic, and she is doing well, Rochon said.
In a statement Tuesday, the School Board said, "The safety and security of our students is always our highest priority, and we thank our dedicated employees for their commitment to that priority.
"Whether it is an incident we observe or an incident that we have second- or third-person information about, once we become aware that a student is experiencing discomfort from such an incident, we work to respond accordingly by taking the appropriate actions.
"Those actions include reducing or minimizing risk to the student, maintaining comfort for the student, contacting the appropriate parent or guardian, and possibly seeking expertise for additional support. As always, every incident has unique circumstances, and we will always look at ways we can improve our services and strengthen our response protocols."
Rochon, meanwhile, said she's had several meetings with the school staff and School Board personnel since then, including on Tuesday.
"I've given them a piece of my mind," Rochon said, adding that she called the school's principal, Patricia Espinoza, from the hospital emergency room on May 2 to try to learn why she wasn't called immediately after her daughter reported the snake bite.
Her daughter will not be attending school for the remainder of the school year, which ends in two weeks, and her absences will be excused, Rochon said.
A classmate who lives next door to the Rochon family is bringing school work home to Rochon's daughter, who is going to Dutchtown Primary periodically to take tests, Rochon said.
"I don't trust how they operate," Rochon said of the school. "I don't trust their system for listening to children."