Expansive School Food Allergy Policies Passed by State House

Reps Kupchick and McCarthy Vahey

After establishing the Task Force to Study Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools and receiving the group’s final recommendations, Connecticut’s House of Representatives passed legislation to improve food allergy policies in schools across the state.

“We proposed the Task Force that produced the recommendations because most Connecticut towns have different policies, many not crafted in concert with the Center of Disease Control (CDC) Protocols. This is a good first step in ensuring children’s safety in Connecticut’s 169 towns. There should be standards in every school district that comply with CDC guidelines and comply with current federal law,” said Rep Brenda Kupchick.

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“For parents of a child with a life-threatening food allergy, the simple act of sending their child off to school each day can be anxiety-inducing. This bill implements recommendations of the Task Force that will provide best practices and uniform guidelines across school districts and give families greater peace of mind,”  Rep Cristin McCarthy Vahey said. “We are committed to continuing this work to protect students with life threatening food allergies and provide support to school districts working to create effective guidelines.”

The bill introduces the following changes:

  • Requires the state Department of Education (SDE) to revise as necessary existing guidelines for the management of students with life-threatening food allergies and glycogen storage disease and make these guidelines available to each local and regional board of education;
  • Extends the deadline by which local and regional boards of education must take certain actions established in current law about the management of students with such conditions
  • Requires SDE to revise certain curriculum standards to address life-threatening food allergies and apply for funding to promote awareness about food allergies
    Requires SDE and the Department of Public Health to jointly develop and make available to boards of education a safety protocol for school bus drivers to follow when a student is experiencing a life-threatening food allergy emergency
  • Allows bus drivers to administer epinephrine to students experiencing an allergic reaction and grants immunity to the bus drivers

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The task force recommendations are summarized in their final report and serve as a model for other states and municipalities to follow suit. They include:

Recommendations of the Task Force to Study
Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools

For Overall Safety Management and Social-Emotional Well-Being of Students with Life-Threatening Food Allergies:

1. That authorization for students to self-carry an epinephrine auto-injector device be made separate from the authorization to self-administer epinephrine in the legislation.

2. That the use of food for celebrations or rewards be prohibited.

3. That food allergy awareness be integrated into school climate and wellness programs, including providing information for the entire parent/family community on food allergy awareness, management, and acceptance.

4. That standardized annual training for all school staff be required – targeted at specific roles, that must include a review of the district’s allergy plan, allergy awareness, prevention protocols, inclusion, food allergy bullying/harassment/shaming and schools’ emergency response as it relates to anaphylaxis – and include opportunity for in-person review of training topics.

5. That the ability for the parent/guardian to “submit, in writing, to the school nurse and school medical advisor, if any, that epinephrine shall not be administered to such student under this subdivision” PA 14- 176 (substitute for 10-212a(a) 2) be eliminated.

For Curriculum:

6. That school culinary programs and course curriculum implement allergen restrictions and safety protocols to allow safe participation for food-allergic students.

7. That the Healthy and Balanced Curriculum framework (circa 2006) be updated to include life-threatening food allergies.

8. That the Family and Consumer Sciences and Culinary Arts Programs/Curriculum be updated to include dietary restrictions, cross-contamination and allergen identification.

For School Food Services:

9. That the serving or selling of peanut, tree nut, or shellfish products or those that may pose possible crosscontamination during processing be prohibited in school before, during, or after school hours; and that mechanisms to prevent direct and accidental exposure to all other known student allergens are ensured.

10. That all food service directors and personnel (outsourced or district managed) be required to complete standardized food allergy training. Training must include overview of food allergies, limitations of Food Allergen Labelling and Consumer Protection Act, how to vet foods for top 8 allergens (potentially 9 if proposed legislation to include sesame as a major allergen passes), avoidance of cross contamination, how to make food substitutions, and effective cleaning and sanitation practices. In addition, food service providers must implement consistent/standardized practices for the accommodation and safety of food allergic students, in compliance with USDA regulations.

For CSDE and DPH:

11. That the Connecticut State Department of Education creates a mechanism to monitor implementation of district food allergy plans based on revised Guidelines.

12. That all districts be required to complete annual survey questions that address implementation of district allergy plans, incidence of anaphylaxis and other food allergic reactions, use of epinephrine, implementation of 504 evaluations, and social-emotional indicators (modeled after the collection of concussion data in the annual School Health Services survey).

13. That the Department of Public Health collaborate with the Connecticut State Department of Education to pursue Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding to promote public awareness and education about food allergies.

14. That the State employs an ombudsperson to serve as an advisory resource and for the reconciliation of disagreements between parents/guardians and districts about 504 plans or district policies that apply to students with life-threatening food allergies.

For Transportation of Students with Life-Threatening Food Allergies:

15. That there shall be training regarding the symptoms and treatment of anaphylaxis, including the administration of epinephrine auto injectors to identified students, provided to all transportation personnel on an annual basis and upon hire throughout the year.

16. That the training shall be the responsibility of the transportation company, possibly utilizing the school nurse or nursing supervisor, EMS personnel, or physicians.

17. That all transportation personnel have specific knowledge of the students on their vehicle who are identified as having food allergies. Identification is to be kept in an obvious location in the vehicle and available to all drivers, including substitutes. This is to be a shared responsibility/collaboration between the student, the parent and/or guardian of the student, designated school personnel, and the transportation company.

18. That all transportation vehicles are equipped with functioning emergency communication devices (e.g. cell phones, two-way radios and/or walkie-talkies). In the event that a vehicle is in a “dead zone” the driver is properly trained to respond to the student experiencing an allergic reaction at any time while being transported.

19. That food is not to be eaten on the school bus or any transportation vehicles unless indicated by an IEP or 504 plan.

20. That, to ensure the safety of students with life-threatening food allergies during school transportation, transportation personnel be mandated to follow the American Academy of Pediatrics Standard of Care. For Revision of Current CDSE Guidelines:

21. That the Connecticut State Department of Education Guidelines for the Management of Life-Threatening Food Allergies and Glycogen Storage Diseases be updated to reflect current evidence-based practice and promote safety and inclusion of students with life-threatening food allergies. The updated guidelines will include the following essential elements:

a. Clarified legal requirements with regard to Section 504, FAPE, USDA regulations for accommodation of food allergic students in school nutrition programs

b. A model district plan to facilitate implementation and promote practice according to revised guidelines

c. A standardized emergency allergy plan that integrates a medication authorization indicating epinephrine as first-line medical treatment for anaphylaxis

d. Specific criteria for foods used as part of a curriculum, including procedures for allergen avoidance and means for including all students

e. Specific plans to address the social and emotional aspects of lifethreatening food allergies and means for school districts to promote the psychosocial well-being of students with life-threatening food allergies.

f. School staff (including but not limited to teachers, paraprofessionals, administrators, related service providers, nurses, cafeteria staff, bus drivers) and students should be provided with education and training regarding risks, reactions, signs, and symptoms, as well as proactive safety and inclusion strategies and practices for students with life-threatening food allergies.

g. The roles and responsibilities of school districts and other school personnel as listed in the CDC Guidelines

h. If parents choose to opt their child out of an allergen-free table in the cafeteria, the school team and parents will work together to provide the child with a safe alternative that all agree upon

i. The recommendation that all students with a known life-threatening food allergy have a 504 plan that includes an Emergency Health Care Plan; evaluate all other students with reported life-threatening food allergy for medical diagnosis and Section 504 with Emergency Health Care Plan; and promote collaborative partnerships with parents and their healthcare providers to identify accommodations that promote the safety and inclusion of each individual student for all school related activities (including but not limited to regular school day hours, school nutrition programs, transportation, field trips, school-sponsored before and after school activities/events, and athletics

j. Recommendations for how to make every learning environment safe for all students with known or unknown life-threatening food allergy

k. Procedures for how to promote no food sharing to minimize the risk of accidental exposure

22. That glycogen storage disease guidelines be separated from guidelines for the management of life threatening food allergies (Connecticut State Department of Education Guidelines for the Management of Life Threatening Food Allergies and Glycogen Storage Diseases).

23. That, pending guidelines revisions, CSDE issue a circular letter clarifying the need for all districts to comply with existing state and federal legislation, including the requirement for an IHCP and EHCP, and application of Section 504 to all students with known or reported life-threatening food allergy to have accommodations that address the safety and inclusion of each individual student.

24. That the work group for the Guideline revisions be co-chaired by a representative from the Connecticut State Department of Education and a member of the Task Force to Study Life- Threatening Food Allergies in Schools and include at least two additional Task Force members, at least one of whom is a parent advocate.

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