Taking Caution Against Allergies
By JORDANA PEARLMAN
Over the past few years throughout New York State, policies have been put in place in order to ensure the safety for all students with food allergies.
New York State does not have a set of requirements regarding allergy safety, although there are guidelines. In an FDA letter written by New York State, districts are advised to “train teachers, bus drivers, and other school staff to recognize and treat allergic reactions and anaphylaxis.” During this life-threatening allergic reaction, an individual’s airway closes. The FDA letter also suggests caution when handling food in the cafeteria, reading unspecific labels on art and science packages, foods brought in for bake sales, and lunches provided during field trips.
The Food Allergy Management and Prevention Plan (FAMPP) was designed for schools by New York State, and includes all methods and training requirements in order to take care of allergies within a school. The school and the community should stay in constant communication since it is crucial to create an allergy-safe environment for students. New York State advises that schools send to all staff and families the districts’ policies including plans for handling food allergies.
Regarding Jericho’s allergy policy, school nurse Ms. Reshef said, “We make sure the students can carry their own EpiPens after I train them.” She added, “They understand what it means to have an allergic reaction.”
Approximately 5% of Jericho High School students have a food allergy, which means about 1 in every 20 kids. When it comes to teacher requirements regarding knowledge of allergies, Ms. Reshef said, “If a teacher is going on a field trip and the teacher has one or more students with an allergy that are supposed to carry their own EpiPens, I usually email the teacher and they have to take a mini course.”
A policy that the Jericho School District enforces in order to help keep the school a safe, nut-free environment, is that teachers don’t allow students to bring nuts into the classroom. Eighth grader Jack N., who has had a severe allergy his entire life, said, “The school has always been very responsive to my allergies.” He added, “With sports, the coaches always have to travel with my EpiPen.” He also added, “They don’t serve anything with nuts, but kids do bring nuts to school and I know to stay away because I’m used to it.” He went on to say that he has to wipe down seats before he can sit in them, and he sometimes breaks out in hives at shared tables and seats.
Jericho Middle School teacher Ms. Scalera is one of the few faculty teachers with a highly severe nut allergy. As a teacher with an airborne allergy, while working in one of the most high-risk places where nuts are brought into, she has had to set ground rules in her classroom in order to make sure she is always safe. Regarding the school’s policy, she says, “Given the circumstances, the school is doing everything they can to protect me. But, it’s really important to be prepared with an EpiPen at all times. I don’t use the smartboard in my classroom because I don’t feel that it can be cleaned adequately.” She continued by saying she washes her hands throughout the day and her students cannot eat anything in her classroom.
Jericho School District is one of many districts in New York State that continue to develop policies due to the growing awareness and severity of nut allergies. Taking caution in order to prevent allergic reactions is extremely important in every zone of the school, and the district does a great job staying on top of it.
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