Family questions cause of Atlanta student’s death

The brother of a student who died after collapsing at Bunche Middle School said Friday he believes the eighth-grader was pushed too hard during a P.E. class in 86-degree heat.

Eugene Bussey said his brother, 13-year-old special-needs student Melvin Bussey, might have been saved if school staff had acted more quickly Wednesday when he became over-exerted.

The coach in the class should have known Melvin was experiencing fatigue when he refused to walk anymore on the school track, Bussey said.

“We didn’t know he would be pushed that far. It’s clearly stated in his documentation he needs to not walk that much. He needed to rest,” said Bussey, who said he talked with the coach, a physical therapist, a nurse and teachers about the incident.

Bussey said the coach picked his brother up from the track and drove him back to a classroom. Then Melvin collapsed and started to vomit, and a physical therapist called for the school nurse.

“She told another teacher to call 911, saying ‘this is real,’ ” Bussey said.

By the time a nurse took over, Melvin had stopped vomiting and collapsed again, and he never woke up, Bussey said. He said Melvin was autistic and couldn’t communicate when he was hurt, but school staff should have recognized warning signs.

“It doesn’t sound like they were treating it like a real emergency,” Bussey said. “It’s frustrating, and we’re not getting any answers.”

Atlanta Public Schools wasn’t able to provide additional details about the incident, said spokeswoman Mikkal Hart Murunga.

An Atlanta police report said an officer was dispatched to the school at 3:20 p.m. on a call about a child who wasn’t responding to CPR. It’s unclear how much time passed before 911 was called.

A physical therapist told the officer Melvin was exercising outside when he appeared to be weaker than normal, and then he came inside and sat with his head down, the police report said. Shortly afterward, he was seen lying on the floor and wasn’t responding.

Melvin was a playful, happy child who liked to play with dinosaurs, said Bussey.

An autopsy will determine Melvin Bussey’s cause of death. Police have said there’s no criminal investigation underway into the child’s death.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.