The school’s culture is a kid’s culture. It needs to encourage them as teenagers to speak up about their allergies, to avoid risk-taking with food just as they learn not to get into a driver’s seat after drinking. The culture can help to drive home that they must always protect themselves. Many B.C. schools have anaphylaxis guidelines, but they are not consistent and consistently good throughout the province.
That’s why a private member’s bill – the B.C. Anaphylactic Student Protection Act, known as Bill M 210 – deserves to be passed. On March 28, David Cubberley, the New Democrats’ education critic, introduced the bill. It requires that every school board:
* Establish an anaphylactic policy with strategies to reduce exposure to allergy triggers;
* Have a plan for communicating information about life-threatening allergies to staff, students and parents;
* Offer staff regular training on serious allergies, including the use of an auto-injector.
It is fair, workable legislation, modeled after Sabrina’s Law in Ontario. That law is named for Sabrina Shannon, another 13-year-old who died of anaphylaxis – after eating French fries in her school cafeteria.
But instead of Bill M210, Education Minister Shirley Bond is proposing a “policy advisory group” to begin looking at anaphylaxis in B.C.’s schools. This is inadequate. It fails to address the new reality, the soaring incidence of food allergy in the schools and the level of risk. There is a need – now – for province-wide preparation for anaphylactic emergencies.
To be able to think fast in an anaphylactic crisis, an educator needs to be confident about when and how to use the EpiPen with its sheathed needle. It’s easy to use, but people often delay using it. That’s dangerous: Carley and Sabrina succumbed swiftly. So did another teen in Edmonton last year, and others in the United States.
Sabrina’s dad, Mike Shannon, today lives in Victoria and has spoken in support of Bill M 210. There are now too many parents in this city who have lost daughters to anaphylaxis, too many devastated young friends.
It’s time to develop a comprehensive anaphylaxis approach in the schools, in the hope that this may raise awareness just enough to prevent more tragedies. Legislation is needed to protect students with allergies. All it takes is the political will.