An increased number of students with allergies is the impetus for a new bill that aims to put epi-pens in all public schools, but the state’s teachers association is concerned teachers are going to be forced to do work beyond the scope of their training.
Senate Bill 1266, introduced by state Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, would require public schools to stock epinephrine auto injectors, commonly known as epi-pens, on campus. The medicine can be administered quickly and safely if a student suffers from a serious allergic reaction during school hours, according to the author. Current state law allows public schools to stock epinephrine, but does not require it.
“I carried some school medical bills in the past,” said Huff. “It’s an important issue for the safety of our kids.”
According to Food Allergy Research & Education, an advocacy that sponsored Huff’s bill, as many as 15 million Americans suffer from life-threatening allergies to things such as bees, shellfish or nuts, gluten or latex. It is estimated that nearly 6 million of these people are children under the age of 18. Approximately 25 percent of first-time allergic reactions that require epinephrine happen at school and these potentially lethal allergic reactions are skyrocketing, according to Huff’s office.
So far, it’s gotten through various committees and Huff said he is cautiously optimistic about its passage.
Meanwhile, the California Teachers Association is opposed to the bill, fearing it could put teachers in a position beyond their training. Each school would designate one or more school personnel on a voluntary basis to receive training regarding the storage and emergency use of an epi-pen from a qualified person. Each school would have one administrator or designee to administer the drug to a person exhibiting potentially life-threatening symptoms of anaphylaxis at school or a school activity when a physician is not immediately available, according to the legislation. The teachers unions would rather see more school nurses hired on to administer epi-pens.
“It basically boils down to the health and safety needs of children are really best met through services of credentialed school nurse,” said Mike Myslinski, spokesman for the California Teachers Association. “Educators are very concerned they could be called upon to perform medical procedures that are beyond the scope of any training they have received. It could pose significant threats to students’ health.”
In contrast, state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who co-authored the bill after San Mateo’s Sharon Wong, spokeswoman for California Advocates for Food Allergies, made a case to the senator about the benefits of requiring epi-pens in schools. Hill has past experience with bills that addressed providing emergency immediate treatment in a school setting.
“I said ‘this is legislation I’d like to carry,’” he said. “I found out Huff had carried it before and then co-authored it because I see the need. Certainly when you look at the statistics, it drives the discussion that we need to have this in the classroom.”
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