The Illinois Public Act 98-0795 that became effective on August 1, 2014, is designed to make Illinois’ schools safer for students and staff. The most important part of the law, sponsored in the nate by State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill), expanded access to life-saving epinephrine auto-injectors or epi-pens. Epi-pens are used to treat a person in anaphylactic shock due to an allergic reaction.
Since August of 2011, with the implementation of School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act, schools were allowed to stock and utilize epinephrine auto-injectors (often known as “EpiPens”) in the case of life threatening allergic reactions. Since 2011, District 81 has not afforded the student population the additional protection that this law offered to the children.
“More and more children are being diagnosed with food allergies, with peanuts, eggs, milk, soy, and wheat as the most common triggers,” Manar said. “Ensuring timely access to this life-saving medication can mean the difference between life and death for a child.”
A growing percentage of children in the United States are being diagnosed with food allergies. Recent studies suggest that one in 13 children are affected by food allergies. Nearly 40 percent of thechildren with food allergies have a history of severe reaction, and 30 percent are allergic to multiple foods. The most common food allergen is peanuts, followed by milk and shellfish.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis include difficulty breathing due to swelling and/or spasm in the airways, loss of consciousness, and loss of heartbeat. Anaphylaxis results in the hospitalization of 300,000 children each year. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, administering an epinephrine auto-injector is the best response to a child having an anaphylactic reaction.
The law now allows trained school employees and volunteers as well as nurses previously approved in 2011 to administer an epi-pen to anyone at the school. The law sets training requirements for school personnel, and with parental consent allows a student to carry and administer their own epi-pen as well as their asthma medication.
Furthermore, this law provides for the administration of undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors (undesignated(owned by the school) by a pupil, school nurse, and trained personnel.
Studies show that 25 percent of first-time allergic reactions among children occur at school. Many schools in Illinois lack a full-time nurse on staff, raising concerns that the life-saving medicine may not be readily available in an emergency.
The law does not mandate that a school carry undesignated epinephrine auto-injectors or train school personnel, but the law simply allows for it. The stipulates designated personnel must submit to the school’s administration proof of completion of a training curriculum to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis.
The new law also provides liability protection for school districts and employees when an EpiPen injection is administered as did the earlier 2011 legislation for nursing staff
To date, Schiller Park School District 81 has not availed itself of the opportunities for protecting the school children. I have written today to Dr. Boryszewski, encouraging her to consider recommending to the Board of Education to adopt a policy to implement PA 98-0795 as well as the earlier 2011 legislation as soon as possible.
I encourage the members of the Board of Education to proceed rapidly with no delay in implementing PA 98-0795 and its 2011 predecessor legislation. The Board of Education needs to remember that experts say that at least 8 percent of children have some sort of food allergy, which works out to an average of about two per classroom. And while students with previously diagnosed allergies are expected to carry their own EpiPen or leave one with the nurse, others aren’t aware of their condition until their first reaction. That’s when having a backup EpiPen at the school can be lifesaving.
Katelyn Carlson, 13, died in 2010, when she had an allergic reaction to the Chinese food she at an after-school party. The seventh-grader at Edison Regional Gifted Center in Albany Park was allergic to peanuts, of which the Chinese food contained trace amounts. Even as she entered anaphylactic shock, school officials had little recourse beyond calling 911.
Today, there would be more options. Under the new law, school nurses or other trained staff can inject an undiagnosed student with an EpiPen if they believe they are experiencing an anaphylactic reaction. Students with a food allergy diagnosis can carry their own EpiPens and have school officials inject them if they go into shock.
As Chicago Public Schools students return this Fall, each building will be outfitted with EpiPens that a nurse or other trained staff member can use even if a student doesn’t have a previously diagnosed allergy. CPS purchased more than 3,700 EpiPens, said Dr. Stephanie Whyte, the district’s chief health officer. Many suburban districts including Oak Park schools are also stocking the medication, providing reassurance to students and their parents.
Schiller Park School District 81 has not secured EpiPens. It is very important for schools to have EpiPens available, because of the high number of students with food allergies and the fact that many children suffer their first allergic reaction in school. Schiller Park School District 81 has failed to act in the best interests of its students since such protections were afforded by State law in 2011.
Now is the time for the Board of Education to consider the drafting and approval of a policy to implement the 2011 and 2014 Illinois laws providing the availability of EpiPens for the safety of the children of Schiller Park School District 81.
This discussion should begin at the Schiller Park School District 81 Policy Review Committee scheduled for Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 5:30 pm
We need to move on this immediately to afford the highest level of protection for our children.
I gave the Superintendent a memo today, and asked for her to pursue the implementation of this legislation for the good of the children of the District