“I feel scared because I don’t know what will happen if I don’t tell anybody,” said CJ Rivas, a third-grader at Dolores S Whiteley Elementary School in Bakersfield, CA.
CJ’s mom, Amabely Arellano, explained that CJ is severely allergic to milk which causes him to vomit, his throat to swell, and him to break out in hives. She says his reactions get worse each time.
Arellano claims the school accidentally gave her son milk last Wednesday, the second time at Whitely after a similar incident at Horizon Elementary School when he was in kindergarten.
They gave him a different milk that he normally doesn’t drink and he told the cafeteria worker, “Hey this isn’t right” and she assured him that it was correct.
When CJ showed signs of a reaction, the school called his mom. She said:
As soon as I got there the nurse was watching him anD he started breaking out in hives, so I just told them to immediately call 9-1-1, to get to the hospital fast, so they can administer the EpiPen.
KBAK Eyewitness News who reported on the incident, contacted Chris Hagan, an attorney with Chain Cohn Clark, to ask what the policy should be.
If the student has a food allergy that’s so bad that it could be life-threatening, that school has an obligation to meet with the student’s parent or guardian and to develop an individualized care plan.
Said CJ’s mom:
How can this happen three times? What is wrong with the school system to where are they not taking kid’s allergy seriously?
CJ returned to school this Monday. His mom says the school started a two-person check verification policy to make sure the right milk is being given to him, but she told him not to drink milk at school.
Here is the Eyewitness report about the incident:
We are grateful tragedy was averted and CJ is OK despite what appears to be gross negligence by the school.
Aside from the cafeteria worker making a critical error by giving the boy the wrong milk, the nurse’s response could well have led to tragic consequences. Assuming she had no access to epinephrine, she should have immediately called emergency services, then notified the mother.
It appears the school nurse was simply reacting without a script for what to do in an anaphylactic emergency when seconds can make the difference between life and death.
We firmly agree with the attorney quoted in the report that every child with a food allergy should have an individualized care plan — as provided for in Section 504 of the Americans with Disabilities Act — in place with the school.
Part of that formal document should be an Emergency Action Plan that explains in detail the steps that must be taken should the child suffer anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction to a food, drug, insect venom, or environmental substance like latex.
We recently published an article describing how to establish an EAP:
Here is a webinar from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) entitled “Serving Students with Food Allergies: Adjustments, Auxiliary Aids, and Documentation” that describes the importance and process of establishing an individualized 504 plan with your child’s school:
We urge you to take the steps necessary to safeguard your child should the unthinkable happen at school where reactions often occur.