Friday, September 28, 2012

Epi-pen Legislation and How it Affects our Students

On April 26, 2012 Governor Bob McDonnell signed House Bill 1107 (Greason) and Senate Bill 656 (McEachin), which require local school boards to adopt and implement policies for the possession and administration of epinephrine in Virginia's public schools.  Speaking about the legislation, Governor McDonnell said, "Virginia must do everything it can to ensure the safety of our young people while they are in school."

The biennial budget included $200,000 to support the purchase of epinephrine injectors for public schools in Virginia during the 2012-2013 school year. State-level guidelines were developed on July 1, 2012 and school boards have adopted and implemented the new policies for this school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported an 18% increase in food allergy among school-aged children from 1997 to 2007. According to a clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 16% to 18% of children with a food allergy have experienced a reaction in school and approximately 25% of allergic reactions or treatments for anaphylaxis occur in children whose allergy was previously undiagnosed.

CCPS revised current policies to become compliant with the new legislation to provide at least two doses of auto-injectable epinephrine (non-student specific or stock epinephrine) in each school.  A few important things to note with the adoption of these policies are as follows:

  1. Non-student specific epinephrine is not intended to replace student-specific orders or parent-provided individual medications.  Parents of students with known allergies are still required to complete the appropriate paperwork and provide prescribed medication for their student.
  2. This medication is to be administered by a school nurse or employee of the School Board who is authorized and trained in the administration of epinephrine to any student believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction on school premises, during the academic day.
  3. This policy does not extend to activities off school grounds (including transportation to and from school, field trips, etc.) or outside of the academic day (sporting events, extra-curricular activities, etc.).  This policy also does not extend to activities held at a school facility that are held before or after school and sponsored by an outside organization, such as a PTA.
  4. Building level administration shall be responsible for identifying at least two employees, in addition to the school nurse (RN or LPN), to be trained in the administration of epinephrine by auto-injector. Only trained personnel should administer epinephrine to a student believed to be having an anaphylactic reaction.
Although the Parent Teacher Association works very closely with schools and students in educational settings, it is critical that parents are aware that these policies do not apply to the PTA.  Although parent volunteers associated with a PTA may supervise CCPS students during before and after school events or enrichment programs sponsored by the PTA, we are in fact a separate entity.  Some critical points of discussion within your local unit should include the following:

  • PTAs/PTSAs do not have access to student files or information including those regarding medication or student health issues.  When registering students for PTA sponsored programs, you may wish to ask if the student has any specific medical needs or allergies.
  • The PTA does not have a nurse or authorized person who may access and administer medications.  PTA volunteers are not employees and are not required to participate in any training including CPR, First Aid or medication administration.  While volunteers are encouraged to participate in any available training, the National PTA does not currently support a resolution requiring volunteers to seek training.
  • PTAs/PTSAs do not have access to medications kept on school property such as the clinic. This includes both prescription medications and non-student specific epinephrine.  While your local unit may be sponsoring the program or event using your school facility, the organization is simply renting the facility outside of the academic day, just as any other organization would.  
  • Although the school clinic or school office may still be operating during the hours of your before or after school event/program, employees who are trained in the administration of epinephrine may not still be on school property.  For example, the school nurse may leave right after the final bell rings dismissing students, however, your program may take place after school.
Suggestions to enhance overall student wellness during your PTA sponsored event may include:
  1. Ensure that parents of students participating are aware that your PTA does not have access to student files, information pertaining to student health issues, medications kept in the clinic, etc.
  2. Gather information regarding student specific medical needs or allergies when registering students and keep this readily available during your program.
  3. Purchase at least 1 first aid kit including gloves and keep it in an area accessible to your parent volunteers.
  4. Require outside vendors or businesses participating in your program or event to sign a general liability statement.
  5. Ask parents to sign a waiver explaining their rights and responsibilities.  Be transparent.  Make sure they understand what your PTA is capable of handling in the case of an emergency or medical need.
  6. Talk to and partner with your school Administration and encourage parents to also speak with their school if they have questions pertaining to student wellness.
  7. Provide resources and literature to your membership and reinforce the importance of parental involvement in student wellness in schools.
  8. Start a Health & Safety Committee within your local unit.  
  9. Take into consideration certain health needs or allergies that students may present with when planning activities, events and programs. 
  10. Attend training opportunities or encourage members of your PTA Board to attend if they work directly with students.
  For more information regarding legislation specific to epinephrine in schools, please visit Virginia's Legislative System.  To review the Chesterfield County Public School's policies (4130, 4131, 4133, 4134) as mentioned above, please visit Board Docs.  

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