For any parent, having their child return home from school in tears is heartbreaking. However, when one mom learned that her son’s tears were due to the school dentist, she couldn’t believe it. Then, she looked inside his mouth.
Shanda Flemming lives in Baltimore City, Maryland, with her son Michael. In January 2017 the nine-year-old boy was in the third grade at Beechfield Elementary School. And, so far as we know, his studies there were going well.
However, in January 2017, an incident occurred at school that left Michael’s mother furious and the little boy in tears. It all began when the youngster brought home a permission slip for his mom to sign. Believing she was simply agreeing to have her son’s teeth cleaned, Shanda just signed it and returned it.
The form had come from Baltimore Public Schools. The school district has been running dental programs for a long time. However, the practice has been more prominent since 2007, when a boy in Prince George’s County, MD, died of a tooth infection.
The child in question was Deamonte Driver, who was just 12 years old when he reached his untimely death. According to the Washington Post, an $80 procedure to remove his infected tooth could have saved his life. However, his mother had no insurance and simply couldn’t afford the operation.
Left untreated, the infection in Deamonte’s tooth was able to spread. Finally, it entered his brain. The youngster spent six weeks in hospital and underwent two procedures. But doctors were still unable to save him.
Deamonte’s death led the state of Maryland to enact sweeping changes in children’s dental care – changes so significant that they were lauded by the Children’s Dental Campaign. The hope was that, with more intervention, preventable deaths like Deamonte’s might not occur.
So, when young Michael caught the bus to school that day, his mom no doubt deemed it a good thing that a dentist would be cleaning her son’s teeth. However, she was utterly outraged when he returned home later that day three teeth short of when she last had last seen him.
Shanda was furious that no one had informed her of the serious dental procedure. She also claimed that the permission slip she had signed misled her to believe that her son was simply undergoing a cleaning. Instead, her son now had three noticeable gaps in his smile.
“I’m angry about this. I don’t think that it should have happened like that,” she explained to Baltimore TV station WJZ in January 2017. Shanda added that the first she knew of the procedure was when her boy returned home with a swollen mouth.
To make matters worse, Michael was clearly troubled by what had happened to him. He couldn’t talk about the experience without bursting into tears. “They just said they was gonna clean my teeth,” he managed to explain through his sobs.
And Michael’s ordeal did not end when he left the dental chair. Due to the procedure, the youngster missed his bus home. As a result, he had no choice but to walk the near one-mile journey back to his house.
This fact just added insult to injury for Shanda. She felt that the school had put Michael in danger by allowing him to make his own way home. “He walked home alone after having three teeth extracted from his mouth. He could have fell out or anything,” she fumed.
As CBS Baltimore noted, there were a whole host of unanswered questions. Why did no one consult Shanda before removing her son’s teeth? Why did he walk home alone after the procedure? And why had no one given him medication to aid his recovery?
To help her get to the bottom of her son’s traumatic ordeal, Shanda took her story to WJZ. Explaining how she felt about the incident, she told reporters, “I just don’t understand how a school or a company can take it in their hands to do something like this to a child.”
On Shanda’s behalf, the news station reached out to Baltimore City Schools for a statement. However, the school district refused to comment. It said it was concerned about breaching privacy and health insurance laws.
Because of the laws, Baltimore City Schools said that they couldn’t divulge any details of a student’s healthcare. But they did point out that Michael’s mom, Shanda, had signed and returned the permission slip.
However, Shanda maintained that she had believed the slip was agreeing to a routine cleaning and nothing more. She also told WJZ that she had already scheduled Michael an appointment with the family’s dentist. As a result, any major work could have been carried out then.
Thankfully, Michael’s mouth started to recover soon after his procedure. However, there’s no real telling whether he’ll ever get over the shock of having his teeth pulled out when he was merely expecting to have them cleaned. Hopefully the experience hasn’t put him off the dentist forever.
After all, to avoid deaths like Deamonte Driver’s, kids need to feel comfortable in the dentist’s chair. In the United States tooth decay is the most common disease among children. However, it is not only treatable, but also avoidable.