Monday, January 9, 2012

Response From the County

Here's what I wrote to Chesterfield County schools (our county) in regards to the peanut allergy story from the other day:

To Whom it May Concern:
I am obviously saddened and in shock concerning the recent allergy-related death of the Hopkins Elementary student. One of my three sons has a peanut allergy and will be entering Kindergarten in the Fall of 2013. I am terrified now to send him to school in our county because of this incident. At a minimum, I hope that there will be increased training for staff on how to recognize a severe allergy reaction, how to treat a severe allergy reaction, and the removal of peanut butter sandwiches from the daily lunch menu. Even if there is a system in place that supposedly protects allergic students from purchasing the sandwiches, kids are kids and will find a way (intentionally or not!) to gain access. From what I have heard, the reaction on the part of CCPS has been underwhelming thus far, and I pray that changes will be made so that this poor girl's life was not lost in vain.
Allison Shenk

This is the response I received:
Thank you for sharing your concerns. As you likely know, federal and state laws prevent us from disclosing certain information about students. These same laws can hamper our efforts to correct misinformation that is provided to and reported by local media outlets.
That said, the school division has an extensive plan in place for managing severe allergies. One that has been vetted and approved by the leading allergists in our region. This policy and plan (which includes training for all school-based staff members) can be found on the school division's website. Key to the plan is a parent's ability to provide the school with accurate, timely information; a health plan approved by a local physician; and access to the medical resources necessary to execute the plan. When the resources are not available, execution of the plan cannot be continued.
Our school division welcomes medication, as noted in Policy 4130, and advocates for a safe, supportive and nurturing environment for our students. Our schools do have EpiPens brought in by students; they are not prohibited and execution of the device is done as prescribed.
I write to you as a staff member and a parent who has a child with a peanut allergy attending a Chesterfield elementary school. With all of the necessary information and resources in place at the school, I do not think twice about entrusting my child to the care of those at his school.
Again, execution of the plan is dependent on the parent's ability to inform the school of needs and to provide the appropriate resources. When any or all of the resources are not provided, the public health nurse makes contact(s) with the family in an effort to obtain the necessary medication. As I shared earlier, if one piece of the plan is missing, the doctor's orders cannot be carried out.
The safety and security of our students and staff remains a top priority of our school division. We work daily to make sure that we address that priority.
Thank you for allowing us time to correct misinformation shared within the community.

Tim Bullis
Director, Community Relations
Chesterfield County Public Schools

What do you think?


Haley said...

I think it sounds like they just placed all the blame on the parents. Sounds like a "he said, she said" war going on between the school and the family/news media. Unfortunately we probably won't ever know the full truth of what happened.

I for one however did sign the petition for having epi-pens available in schools for ANY student that experiences an allergic reaction. School staff need to know how to identify the signs of a reaction and what to do for any student experiencing a reaction whether there is a written plan in place or not!

Allison Peretin said...

This is a scary topic for sure, and I think I would also be terrified if my child had an allergy - but teachers cannot be held responsible for any possible allergy for every student. It is the parent's responsibility to inform and certainly make sure the plan is in place, and then of course the school's responsibility to train the teachers what to do for these children. What's the news saying? (Can we even trust the news? Were they at fault?) My only point is that there are no facts to support that the ball was dropped.. it's unfair to put yet another responsibility on the teacher. Many times their hands are tied even when they wish they could do more. Teachers are not health experts and should be following the instructions they are given.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Allison, I used to be a teacher and every year had multiple children in my class who were allergic enough to need Epi-Pens. Various allergies, too. It absolutely *was* my responsibility to make sure that these children were not exposed to the things they were allergic to and to respond in the way that we were expected to per their doctor's instructions. We also received training on how to recognize an allergic reaction, how to administer epinephrine, etc.

The issue with the news story was that the child's tongue began to swell from the allergic reaction and instead of calling 911, the school called the mom and told her to come pick up the child because her tongue was swelling. Not good. Is this true? Who knows. It's what the news reported. :/

Andrea said...

I agree with Haley that they just placed all of the blame on the parents. If the schools are aware of an allergy, the responsibility is on them as well as the parents to do everything they can to keep the child safe. I do understand that that is not always possible. My husband is a teacher and when he taught at a very large public high school, one of his students who had a severe peanut allergy, put his arms on his desk in my husband's class. A candy wrapper lined with peanut oil had been on that desk earlier in the day. Just that small transfer of the oil (which couldn't be seen) was enough to send this kid into anaphylactic shock. My husband had been trained in the use of an epi pin and administered the kid's epi pin quickly. All was well, but it was very scary.

Ali Foley Shenk said...

Well, I think what the man who wrote back is alluding to is from other reports I have heard. I have *heard* in the community that the mom hadn't supplied the school with all her daughter's necessary medications for her allergies. So unfortunately, even if a school has the correct intentions to act and help the student, if the parent has not provided the medications and/or the action plan described by the doctor, etc., the school is not allowed to do anything. It sounds like the ball was dropped on both ends. :(