‘She got a cold towel and a pat on the back but she was dying’: Virginia student dies after passing out in school

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia mother is balancing heartbreak and frustration after her 16-year-old daughter had a medical emergency at school and died before reaching the hospital.

Mother Keyonna Stewart told Nexstar’s WAVY that her daughter, Kaleiah Jones, had a documented heart condition. Her family has reviewed video from the day she died, and now they want to know why there was a nine-minute delay before the teen received CPR.

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There was nothing unusual about Tuesday, Feb. 20. Stewart said the day started as it did every weekday. Her daughter had breakfast and then went to school at Menchville High School in Newport News.

Kaleiah Jones
Kaleiah Jones (Photo courtesy of Keyonna Stewart)

At around 1:10 p.m. Jones passed out in the hallway.

Stewart said the school called her boyfriend, telling him Jones fainted.

“She had bradycardia and she recently had a surgery, so they were aware of that and given documentation for her accommodations,” Stewart said.

Stewart met the ambulance at the hospital, where she found out her daughter had no pulse. She later viewed video from that day.

“Security showed up quickly,” Stewart said. “The nurse showed up around two minutes.”

Stewart said her daughter laid on the ground for nine minutes before CPR was rendered by a police officer.

“I don’t understand why the nurse would stand by and not do her job to assist my baby,” Stewart said. “That’s the part that hurts the most. She just laid there without help. She got a cold towel and a pat on the back, but she was dying.”

A spokesperson for Newport News Public Schools told WAVY that every teacher, administrator, security officer and school nurse is trained in CPR as required by the state. Every school is equipped with a defibrillator and each high school has three.

The school division told us an AED was brought out, and when EMTs arrived, an AED was used. NNPS confirmed a school resource officer, who is a sworn police officer, started CPR on Jones and that a nurse assisted.

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When asked how long after Jones fainted that CPR was administered, the district spokesperson said she did not have that information.

Stewart, along with her two sisters Porscha Frank and Shondale Cross, spoke with WAVY from California.

“I know that you are trained to perform life-saving measures, especially when you take a job at a school,” said Frank, who is a registered nurse. “All of those students are your patients.”

Cross works with the American Heart Association.

“Every single person on this campus let her down,” Cross said. “They failed. I teach third grade and my kids in third grade are learning to do hands-only CPR — the same thing that those on this campus are certified to do and didn’t.”

While the family searches for answers, they’re holding on to 16 years of memories. Jones was an avid baker and wanted to be a marine biologist.

“Kaleiah, she was super smart, creative and always happy,” Stewart said. “She loved to bake. She’d bake all the neighborhood cakes for their birthday parties. She was an honor student. Just a bubbly, happy kid.”

Cross stressed the importance of telling her niece’s story.

“I want to make sure that this entire community, this school district, this state, the United States — whoever we can get across to — hear her story and that changes are made in her name,” Cross said.

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