FAAMA: Inside the U.S. School Allergy Law
GS: What can you tell us about the incentive grants to encourage schools to adopt the guidelines?
CW: The act says money is to be made available to school districts who can demonstrate that they have embraced the national guidelines. The logistics of that are being worked out.
GS: Do you have the precise content yet for the new guidelines, or is that yet to be developed?
CW: It’s in the works. There’s a division of the CDC [the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] called DASH. They actually started working on these guidelines about three years ago. DASH had the foresight to see that FAAMA would eventually pass. So they started creating some guidelines with the help of FAAN, NASN [the National Association of School Nurses] and NSBA [the National School Boards Association]. We’ve been collaborating with DASH for about three years now on creating guidance materials.
GS: What types of things are you looking at, Chris?
CW: Nothing has been published yet, but directionally we’re looking at a stricter set of guidelines. It’s almost like a tool kit, which will have various components geared toward specific people of the school. You’ll have a component which might be a manual with an accompanying DVD for school nurses. You’ll have a component for administrative [including teachers and staff]. You’ll have a component for parents. [Update: the guidelines were released in 2013.]
GS: Some people are concerned about whether a federal law with voluntary guidelines will carry as much weight as a state law. What can you tell them about that?
CW: Well, I’m not sure about that statement. As I said before, 12 states have guidelines. Now, the laws that were passed – some of those guidelines are the result of laws.
So, for example, New York is one of those states, Illinois is one of those states, where you had a bill introduced into the state legislature. The bill called for the creation of state-wide guidelines. The bill was signed into law therefore the state had to create state-wide guidelines, which they did.
GS: So then if I’m taking my child with food allergies to school, right now if I happen to live in Illinois, there will be good allergy training and accommodation. But if I’m in another state without such a law ….
CW: Yes – that’s another reason why passage of this national law is so important. Because if you are in one of those 38 states that does not have guidelines, well guess what? Now you’re going to have guidelines.
GS: So just to confirm, despite the word “voluntary”, this is a very big deal for families of students with food allergies?
HOW FAAMA PASSED
GS: What was it like on the day or days that FAAMA seemed like it would finally pass?
CW: It was really nerve-racking. Between October and December of last year, it was like a yo-yo. It was like, “OK, they’ll consider the Food Safety Bill today”. “Oh no, they won’t, they’ve re-scheduled it.” “Oh, they’re going to reconsider it.” “Oh no, they re-scheduled it.”
So there was this kind of back and forth where, we here at FAAN, one week we were very optimistic but the following week we were convinced the bill was on life support.