As of the 2024-2025 school year, high school students in Illinois will be taught how to recognize and respond to anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction caused by a food, drug, insect venom, or environmental substance.
The new law signed on June 30 by Gov JB Pritzker results from a social studies project by Darby Elo while taking a Peace and Conflicts class at Naperville Central High School.
For the project, Darby reviewed school health protocols addressing allergic reactions after realizing many of her friends had severe allergies and thought more could be done.
After learning CPR at school, she thought it would be equally important to learn how to administer epinephrine — the only drug that can halt and reverse the progression of anaphylaxis — in an emergency.
There wasn’t really anything taught to us in a classroom environment about EpiPens or allergies especially, and I just thought it would be kind of cool to introduce that.
She approached Seth Brady, the teacher of her social studies class, who connected her with Rep Janet Yang Rohr and her chief of staff, Donna Wandke, both former Naperville District 203 School Board members. Yang Rohr has two children with life-threatening allergies of her own.
The women worked with Darby to draft legislation requiring students in grades 9-12 to learn the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, steps to prevent allergen exposure, and how to administer an epinephrine auto-injector safely.
Said Yang Rohr:
We then started getting in touch with other representatives and other districts and other senators and just really trying to pitch the idea to others who would also support the bill.
The Illinois Assembly passed the resulting bill with a 91-9 vote and the Senate by 38-17 in May.
Said Darby who is now a summer intern for Yang Rohr:
When I found out the bill was signed, I think our entire office was super excited. And it was really awesome to be able to let my teacher Mr. Brady know.
Five bills by students in Brady’s Peace and Conflict class working with Yang Rohr have been passed by the Illinois General Assembly.
The fact that Darby chose to go beyond the course and seek to pass legislation to ensure that all students would know how to act in the case of a profound allergic reaction is not only amazing, it illustrates the principle that we all can play a role in bringing about a more peaceful, just world.
Darby plans to pursue political science at Indiana University at Bloomington and is considering a political career.
I think it would be really awesome to do something similar as far as career goals go. I love the work.
I think that Janet [Yang Rohr] and Donna [Wandke] are amazing role models. They’ve done a really great job showing us how they do community outreach, and I think that they’re really giving us that real-world experience that I would like to pursue in my future.
We at SnackSafely.com applaud Darby Elo’s efforts and the efforts of Janet Yang Rohr, Donna Wandke, and Seth Brady, who are making the world that much safer for the food allergy community of Illinois.