With an eye on the food allergy community as a unique group of consumers since 2008, we're on a quest to find and share ways to continue enjoying the good things in life.


13 August 2009

Food Allergy Buzz Looks for Answers re: Epipens on School Buses

Hands down, one of the best food allergy resources I have found is the wisdom and experience of food allergy families who've already been where I am. Today I have a question from a Food Allergy Buzz reader, and I have no answers at all to give her, having no experience with this particular situation. We live only 1/10th of a mile away from our school, so busing is not an issue for us--we're "walkers". I am cutting, pasting most of her email below.

We are still running into trouble when it comes to the bus company. The principal stated that no medications at all are allowed on school buses, per the school bus company policy. No epi-pens, no inhalers, no insulin aparatus, etc. The bus company is First Student...The thing that is troubling...is that we cannot be the only parents out there encountering this issue, but people must be just agreeing to follow this rule because neither of us has heard anything otherwise. Are there any towns in MA that allow epi-pens on buses?

Does anyone have any experience with the issue of epipens on school buses that they'd be willing to share? In Massachusetts or elsewhere?

FYI, here is a 2008 article from the Newburyport News about epipens and the inability of bus drivers to administer them: Father Pushes to fill school bus safety "gap". Urges Epipen training for drivers after son's allergy went untreated.

9 comments:

Ruth Smith said...

Jennifer,

As you know, I have exchanged emails with the reader who had the bus questions and encouraged her to contact the father mentioned in the article you linked to-to see what progress he has made since he is also dealing with the same bus company. Great things come to those who work together.

I do not have experience with this particular bus company, but recently came upon the same problem when looking into having my son ride the bus for this upcoming year.

I was told that the bus driver would not administer the epi pen because of liability reasons.

Since I know that Massachusetts requires that all children that live 2 miles from the school are entitled to free public school transportation by law and that all children with disabilities can not be denied 1. equal access or 2. be discriminated against-I encouraged your reader to contact her sped department regarding the issue as this is a sped issue that should be covered under a 504 plan or IEP.

Often times we think the school principal is the know all or be all of the school when in fact they are just one person in the link of the school chain. If the principle can not help in such situations then I encourage your reader and others to contact the superintendent of schools and/or the special ed director.

While this process may sometimes be lengthy and confusing-it is the way the current system is set up for those who want immediate solutions/results. If there is a school committee, I also encourage readers with problems to bring those problems to the attention of such a committee.

Bus companies are under contract through the school/district. The school chooses/decides which bus company to use. The school is also responsible for keeping all children safe and offering an inclusive and equal environment that extends or at least should extend to bus services.

The accommodations should not be made with the bus company but with the school-who in turn should work with the bus company.

There are 2 options:

1.the school can work with the bus company to give them epi pen training and they can agree to administer epi pens if needed. (This is what ended up happening in my case after I involved the principal, superintendent, and sped dir.)

2. the parent can request an epi pen trained aide (at the cost of the school) to ride the bus with the child to administer the epi pen if necessary.

The third option-as used by the father in the article-the child can ride a school van or special education bus where that driver on and aide on the bus would be trained to administer the epi pen.

Is the system flawed overall? Of course it is. But until each individual steps up and asks for these accommodations-there will not be a state or system wide change.

For additional resources regarding 504 plans and disability law your readers can visit my site at the following link:

http://www.bestallergysites.com/allergy101/resources/allergy-resources/

Food Allergy Assistant said...

We live in PA. My son has carried an Epi-pen® on the bus since kindergarten. It is written in our Healthcare Plan. Do you have a written plan (such as a Healthcare Plan, a 504 or an IEP) with the school? In the past, our school nurse trained our bus driver in the use of an Epi and the bus driver had a copy of our Plan on a clipboard near the driver's seat.

This was not typically done when my son started school. I met with the superintendant and told them what we needed. I'm very concerned to hear of a school bus company that wouldn't allow life-saving meds.

I suggest going above the principal to the superintendant, the school board and/or your district's Director of Special Service.

Good luck!

Food Allergy Assistant said...

While doing research for an article, I came across the MA Dept. of Ed. plan for dealing with food allergies. Check out http://www.doe.mass.edu/cnp/allergy.pdf

On page 35, it clearly states the responsibility of the bus company in regards to food allergies.

Print it and take it to your next meeting!

Mandy Vasir said...

Hello i just got back from School bus orientation for my kindergarden bound peanut allergic child. I was told that she will be riding the special ed bus where the a matron will have an epi-pen. Is this fair to my child? Or am I feeling too sensitive? I feel that she should ride the regular bus, I don;t want her to feel different. Can anybody please give me some advice. Thank you

mike said...

This is sad, I would complain all the way to the state board, the squeaky wheel gets the grease. We all need to stand up against this and make our voices heard.

Rational Jenn said...

WHAT? No Epis, no insulin, no asthma inhalers? That is just ridiculous, not to mention dangerous. What if a kid had an asthma attack on the bus?

I hope she can get this worked out with the company. Squeaky wheels and all that....

And I don't know what to think about the Special Ed bus. Is it because the bus drivers don't want to/can't be trained? I can see that kids in wheelchairs need a special bus to accommodate their disabilities. Yes, food allergies are considered disabilities for children. But does she really need to ride the bus that is designed to accommodate wheelchairs and other equipment for kids with ambulatory issues? At the same time, if there is an adult on there who is willing to be trained to use Epipen....I just don't know. Sounds like you would need to evaluate the risk to her on the regular bus--is it a long bus ride? Are the kids allowed to have snacks? Would she be allowed to carry Epi? Will the bus driver learn?

Wow....complicated stuff. Sorry I have no answers for any of it, but just know that I'm with you in spirit!

Mandy V said...

Thank you for your advice regarding my comment. I'm in New York on Long Island. The bus ride is only 15 minutes and they are not allowed to eat on the bus. BUT 15 minutes is too long if there were to be an anaphylactic shock. I spoke to the superindent afterwards and he stated that they are making an accomedation according to the law by allowing her to ride the sped bus. I really think it's not fair. I don;t want her to be teased or feel 'different' from everyone. I have worked very hard for five years for her to particate inthings from birthday parties to sports, with no problems. Now a simple bus ride is becoming a big issue. Hopefully we can band together and something done soon.

Karen said...

As a child I carried an Inhaler on school buses, field trips and in the classroom.

One bus driver told me that my allergies where on her list of students with medical needs and asked about my reactions. This was in grade school now with children of my own.

Now I walk my kids to school, I have not heard of any of these issues. Our local bus drivers are CPR trained including epi pen use.

Yes I am Canadian

Mandy V said...

I have realized that Canada seems more progressive than the US when it comes to food allergy issues.

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