Board puts off vote on allergy policy

Posted on: Mon, 05/16/2005 - 8:51pm
synthia's picture
Joined: 10/05/2002 - 09:00

Board puts off vote on allergy policy
By Geoff Mosher / Daily News Staff
Tuesday, May 17, 2005

WALPOLE -- Faced with a battery of complaints from parents, the School Committee last night postponeda vote on its new policy for students with life-threatening allergies.

"With the information we received tonight, it's probably the smartest thing to take a look at what we have," said School Committee Chairman Ed Thomas, who instructed parents with concerns about the policy to put them in writing and forward them to schools Superintendent Kathleen Smith.

"That would help us to formulate our ideas and what we want to do," Thomas said.

About a dozen parents whose children have life-threatening allergies attended last night's meeting to explain the policy's shortcomings or say they support school officials including their feedback in a revised policy.

Alice O'Brien, whose 12-year-old son has peanut and walnut allergies, said, "When I dropped my son off at pre-school, I didn't cry because I would miss him. I cried because I was worried he wouldn't come home alive."

Drew Feng, whose son is severely allergic to peanuts, said, "It's a very emotional issue. We'd just like to have a voice on this."

Fiona Murphy, whose 6-year-old daughter is severely allergic to peanuts and sesame seeds, asked the committee to delay its vote and consider the concerns of parents like herself.

"The draft policy, as written, does not offer a comprehensive plan that sufficiently protects the safety of our children...nor does it adequately protect the school district from liability," Murphy said.

[b] She presented the committee with about 50 pages of documentation, which she said shows how the six-page policy does not comply with federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, which both define students with life-threatening allergies as "disabled." She said the policy also falls short of specific guidelines from the Department of Public Health and the Department of Education. [/b]

The six-page policy, developed by a subcommittee, has three stated goals: preventing the occurrence of life-threatening reactions, preparing for allergic reactions and responding appropriately to allergy emergencies that arise. It lists specific responsibilities for the school department and any school staff and volunteers who may come into contact with allergic children, as well as parents and students.

Murphy said the responsibility of teachers "never speaks to the actual implementation of protocols," the after-school section does not provide "adequate" safety protocols, and the recess and physical education class section fails to state what type of training is required for recognizing symptoms, what communication devices will be used and a plan for emergency response.

( Geoff Mosher can be reached at [email][/email] or at 781-433-8368. )

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[This message has been edited by synthia (edited May 17, 2005).]

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