Local Student Battles Epilepsy

A Hartford couple claims their son, who has epilepsy, is not being properly monitored by school personnel. Parents believe that a few students are intentionally trying to cause him to have life threatening seizures.

Joseph Coker is a senior at Geneva County High School. He has a learning disability and suffers from epilepsy.

At 20-years-old, Joseph says he's determined to graduate this year.

His mother, Dorothy Coker, says Joseph can have a seizure if a student sprays body scent, cologne, or perfume near him. "My son doesn't have the opportunity to an education in a safe environment,” she said. “And if there is a health problem, it is not a safe environment."

In the event of a seizure, the school has created a health network. It includes his younger sister, Shelinah, who is an eleventh-grader at Geneva County High. "Actually, it's pretty scary,” she says. “You don't know if he's going to come through it. He’s shaking real bad, he turns red. His heart is racing."

"By using body spray, cologne, hand lotion, they put it on to see if I have a seizure,” Joseph says of his peers. “And if I do, they sit and watch and laugh."

When contacted by phone, Geneva County School Superintendent David Snell took exception with the parent's contention, that everything was being done to help Joseph.

Snell says that Joseph’s teachers have been advised of his medical condition, and they've been instructed to tell fellow students not to apply lotion, or body spray in the classroom.

Snell says personnel will continue to do everything possible to provide a healthy environment for all its students.

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  • by Evelyn Location: Hartford on Oct 29, 2007 at 01:01 PM
    He has been a nice person to me ever since i meet him that time at Sammy's that time we were out there and A.J. introduced us to one another he is a nice boy to everyone when they aren't trying to be mean to him.
  • by sam Location: dothan on Oct 22, 2007 at 07:32 AM
    You have got to be kidding me! As much as I feel sympathy for this young man, you cannot possibly tell these other students what fragrances they may or may not wear to school. If this young man's health is in such jeaopardy why is he not home schooled? What happens in other public places when he smells perfume or lotion? I believe there probably is some truth to this but I believe there is probably a little parental drama involved. Maybe they are just looking for an excuse to sue someone.
  • by Fay Location: Dothan, Alabama on Oct 16, 2007 at 08:27 PM
    In my 64 years, this is my first ever letter in response to a news item. Joseph Coker's plight greatly alarms me. It is a PUBLIC HEALTH issue, as over 5% of individuals have a severe allergic, even anaphylactic, response to odorous chemicals. It is a MEDICAL EMERGENCY for Joseph. Odors can trigger seizures (to the apparent delight of a few of his classmates), elevating blood pressure to potential STROKE range and raising heart rate to the point of tachycardia and potential CARDIAC ARREST. I am an MD, specialty boarded in Psychiatry and Neurology and a PhD whose research emphasis was the physiology and biophysics of olfaction and taste...and I KNOW OF WHICH I SPEAK!!! The student perpetrators are just as guilty of ASSAULT as if they had used stones or a gun. Teachers, principal, superintendent, and school board have a ethical - and LEGAL -responsibility - and accountability - to protect this student. For them to fall short of doing so is unconscionable!
  • by ????? Location: Alabama on Oct 16, 2007 at 08:18 PM
    This is why I will not send my kids to public school
  • by carolyn Location: Hartford on Oct 15, 2007 at 05:33 AM
    Joseph has been part of my life since he was a baby - not yet walking. According to all the medical "experts" he isn't even supposed to be here, having battled and overcome very tough and heartbreaking obstacles to his life. He's tough, but a person can only take so much. His dream, which he has yet to let go of, is to graduate, get a job, preferably in caring for animals. His heart is so full of love and my heart is full of admiration for this special young man.
  • by peggy Location: alabama on Oct 14, 2007 at 08:49 PM
    It really saddens me to know that parents are not teaching their kids to be mindful and respectful of others and their feelings if we as parents would encourage our kids to treat others as we want to be treated we would not have this problem in our schools. If we would teach our children what we were taught by our parents we would be way ahead of the game as parents and grandparents. Joseph My God Bless you and keep you safe in his arms while you are amoung these kids who is cruel today. If our country would allow Gods word in our public schools i believe we would see a huge difference in the people in our cruel world. "Good Luck with getting anything done in Geneva County School System" If you do you will be the first..
  • by Eric Location: California on Oct 13, 2007 at 09:00 AM
    Yeah right, like administrators really know what is going on in the hallways of the school. They just have to say 'they are doing everything they can'. Because if they dont say that, then they are admitting they arent doing all they can. Not saying that might open up avenues for a law suit as well. Kids will be kids and its terrible to say that, but lots are malicious. Bullies find out your weakness and pick on that. Its really too bad these kids cant find something more constructive to do with their time.... like learn.
  • by Jacqui Location: Daleville on Oct 12, 2007 at 11:53 PM
    Honestly, it boggles my mind as to why people insist on being cruel to others. Adults and children alike project their own problems and issues onto others, and enjoy the false superior feelings they derive from treating others badly. Regarding the position this young man's school is taking, well... that's the norm for all schools around here. It's someone else's problem, and if it doesn't benefit the school, nothing will be done to help another person. Nice southern hospitality. Not. It sure would be nice to see our children- "the future of America"- lead by positive example for a change and get over themselves. Being kind to others feels a lot better than being cruel, thoughtless and heartless.
  • by Daniel Location: Alabama on Oct 12, 2007 at 08:12 PM
    Joseph Coker is and will always be my friend from school, and I hope everythings okay for him and his family! Please be careful Joseph!
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