Assemblyman Joe Howarth, of New Jersey’s 8th Legislative District, introduced a bill to the state Assembly on Thursday that would increase safety in schools for children with food allergies.
Asm. Joe Howarth’s legislation would increase safety in schools for children with food allergies by incentivizing employee training in the use of epinephrine auto-injectors. (SenateNJ.com)
The bill would provide a tax-free solution by incentivizing school districts to have their employees volunteer for training with a school nurse in the administration of an epinephrine auto-injector, or EpiPen, for anaphylactic, a severe allergic reaction that needs to be treated immediately.
Under the bill, an assessment on staff training in epinephrine would be added to the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum, or QSAC, and a district would receive points for the percentage of staff that are trained.
“More and more children are affected by food allergies each year. The growing concern requires increased vigilance in schools so we can look after what is most important, the safety of our students,” said Howarth, who is a special education paraprofessional at the Lenape Regional High School District. All staff is trained in the administration of epinephrine at the district.
Every three minutes, a food allergy reaction sends someone to the emergency room, according to the nonprofit Food Allergy Research & Education. From 1999 to 2009, food allergy prevalence among children increased by 50 percent, according to the nonprofit, which states that one in thirteen children, or roughly two in every classroom, indicated having a food allergy in a 2010 survey of more than 38,000 children.
“With the prevalence of food allergies in schools, it’s not enough for one person to be trained in administering epinephrine,” Howarth said. “By encouraging more educators and district employees to get trained, we can enhance public safety and provide a more secure environment for our students at no cost to taxpayers.”
Currently, state law requires only a school nurse and volunteers designated by the nurse to be trained in administrating epinephrine. The bill would introduce a QSAC assessment. QSAC is the Department of Education’s evaluation system for public school districts that assesses districts in five key components – instruction and program, personnel, fiscal management, operations and governance.
A district’s performance is measured by assigning point values to quality performance indicators. Under the operations component, school districts would receive 0.5 points for having 25-50 percent of its employees trained, 1 point for 50-75 percent and 1.5 points for 75 percent or more.
Senator Dawn Marie Addiego, of the 8th Legislative District, introduced the bill in the Senate.