By Jeff Noble, Staff Writer
Along with losing nurses supplied to them by local health departments, when the current school year ends in May, five school districts have another concern sticking in their craws.
It is House Bill 172. It passed both houses in the Kentucky General Assembly earlier this month and awaits Gov. Steve Beshear’s signature.
The bill requires schools to keep at least two EpiPens on the premises for students who have severe allergies. EpiPens are auto injectors used to treat severe allergic reactions, and those who supported the bill think the measure will save lives.
There are concerns, statewide, from those who are concerned that school staff members not trained in using the pens could inject a student who’s not previously been diagnosed with an allergy. According to the website pageonekentucky.com, it was noted the Kentucky School Boards Association was “fighting tooth and nail against putting EpiPens in schools.”
One health care official in the Tri-County thinks putting EpiPens in the school is a good idea.
“Personally, I think it frees the school systems up because it’s easier availibility. If you have a child with an unexpected allergic reaction, having EpiPens is a good fit. The schools will have to be trained how to use them, which they will,” said Gail Timperio, director of the Whitley County Health Department.
In fact, one distributor and marketer of EpiPens has created a program that would donate the pens to qualified schools with a prescription. And, according to one school administrator, it can work.
“As long as we have nurses that are trained in medical emergencies, that makes it easier for us,” said Jane Chandler, the director of special education for Corbin Independent Schools and principal of Corbin Preschool.
Corbin Superintendent Ed McNeel noted, “We do have a lot more students that use the EpiPens than they used to years ago. But we’re asking what are all the implications in regards to it? We’ll wait and see.”
Other officials are also keeping that thought in mind, such as Superintendent Denny Byrd of Williamsburg Independent Schools.
“We’ll keep an eye out and see if the governor signs this bill, then we’ll go from there,” he said.
“We were aware of that going on through the General Assembly, but we don’t have enough information to make a decision just yet,” echoed Barbourville Independent Schools Superintendent Larry Warren.
Two districts have confirmed that once the bill is signed by the governor, they will go along with the law.
Knox County Schools public relations director Frank Shelton said, “Once House Bill 172 has been signed into law, we will follow it in our schools. Generally, all of our parents of children with allergies have provided an EpiPen that we can use should we need to. At this point, we feel that most of the parents of kids with allergies, or has tested positive for an allergy, has come forward and notified us of such. Again, it is important that parents and guardians notify their child’s school of any special medical conditions that the child presently has or develops in the future.”
“We will take the safety of our students very seriously and look forward to complying with this law in the best interest of our students,” said Whitley County Schools Superintendent Scott Paul.