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School and Allergies, Asthma

“Ryan’s Law” Aims to Protect Asthmatic Students

Ryan Gibbons Legislation in the province of Ontario to protect students with asthma is getting closer to becoming law.

Bill 135, also known as “Ryan’s Law”, is designed to protect students with asthma, and ensure that any Ontario child or teen can carry asthma inhalers at school – so that rescue medication is immediately available in an asthma attack. According to the Ontario Lung Association, approximately one in five Ontario children has asthma.

The law is named for Ryan Gibbons, a 12-year-old boy from the London-area of Ontario who died from an asthma attack at school. It was during recess on October 9, 2012 that Ryan began experiencing a severe asthma attack. He did not have his inhaler with him, as it was kept locked in the principal’s office. Sandra Gibbons, his mother, has said Ryan was trying to head to the office, and others were trying to help carry him. The details are not entirely clear, but he lost consciousness before reaching the inhaler.

“When Ryan passed away, it was like losing everything that I lived for,” Gibbons told Allergic Living. “After burying my son, I knew that this was a preventable attack. To me, if people had appropriate training and knew what to look for when a child was in distress, he would be here today.”

Introduced as a private member’s bill by local member of provincial parliament Jeff Yurek, Ryan’s Law has now passed second reading, with all-party support in the legislature. It will require Ontario school boards to establish standardized asthma policies (which must include strategies to reduce risk of exposure to asthma triggers), provide regular training for staff on recognizing and managing asthma symptoms, and allow students to carry their own asthma medication with physician and parental approval.

It also will require that school principals to develop individual plans, and maintain files for, each student with asthma, while allowing staff to administer asthma medication if it is believed a student is experiencing an asthma attack.

“My hopes with the legislation is to ensure children have their inhalers on their person at all times with a backup in a location that is easily accessible,” Gibbons said.

While focused on asthma, the bill is modeled after to Sabrina’s Law, the widely known Ontario legislation that protects students at risk for anaphylaxis. It was introduced following the death of 13-year-old Sabrina Shannon, a teen with multiple food allergies, who was exposed to dairy through cross-contamination in her school cafeteria.

The Ontario Lung Association and Anaphylaxis Canada are both urging the public to show support for Ryan’s Law, which is now in committee. Anyone in Ontario interested in seeing this bill pass is asked to contact their local MPP, and anyone (no matter where you’re from) can write in support of it to the minister of education and the premier of Ontario.

See also: Full text of Ryan’s Law.

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