House approves bill to improve food allergy policies

State Representative Cristin McCarthy Vahey (D-Fairfield), State Representative Brenda Kupchick (R-Fairfield) and State Representative Laura Devlin (R-Fairfield, Trumbull) announced House passage of legislation to make schools safer for students with potentially life-threatening allergies.

“This bill is the product of a lot of work by a lot of people,” Rep. McCarthy Vahey said. “Our goal was to make students safer while in school and on the school bus.”

“I started work on this process years ago when two Fairfield moms reached out to me for advice on changing the Life Threatening Food Allergy policy in Fairfield,” said Rep. Kupchick. “I learned that every school district in the state has a different policy and very few if any follow guidelines by the Center of Disease Control (CDC).”

The legislation is the product of recommendations of the Task Force to Study Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools, and the work of advocates from around the state, including Fairfield parents Tricia Donovan and Jessica Curran.

“We want our schools to be safe for all students to learn and grow,” Rep. McCarthy Vahey said.

“As it stands now, we are basically allowing lay people on local school boards to create policy regarding a medical issue,” said Rep. Kupchick. “Jessica and Tricia also pointed out to me that children with life threatening food allergies are not protected on their school bus to and from school. I believe every child has a right to equal access regardless of disability or medical condition. I am encouraged because, today, the House passed a bill that protects the civil rights of children with life threatening food allergies.”

“The members of the task force took their work seriously and made significant and possible life-saving recommendations for schools, students and their parents. I was happy to support this legislation today, it is a welcome step forward to help protect Connecticut children,” said Rep. Devlin. “There is nothing more important than our children’s safety. And for affected parents and their children with life-threatening food allergies, this proposal fills a critical gap.”

The bill requires the state Department of Education (SDE) to revise 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.

“This legislation will protect children in mortal danger. Extreme food allergies are a growing threat, affecting millions of children and adults nationwide. Ensuring all children with life-threatening allergies can carry EpiPens – and that these can be used on school buses – will save lives,” Rep. Andy Fleischmann (D-West Hartford), House chair of the Education Committee, said.

The legislation allows students to self-carry their EpiPens with permission of a parents and doctor.

According to the Task Force to Study Life-Threatening Food Allergies in Schools, an estimated eight percent of school children have food allergies, which equates to as many as two kids in every classroom in the state.

The bill requires school transportation providers to train school bus drivers on life threatening food allergies — training can be provided online — and provides Good Samaritan protections to bus drivers who provide an emergency EpiPen injection.

More than a decade ago, Connecticut passed a law requiring school districts to have certain rules about foods that are served, sanitation and rules about administering medication, especially for EpiPens, that are required to be in all schools.

The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.

Rep. Andy Fleischmann, Rep. Brenda Kupchick Rep. McCarthy Vahey, Rep. Laura Devlin after the House vote on food allergy policies.

Rep. Andy Fleischmann, Rep. Brenda Kupchick Rep. McCarthy Vahey, Rep. Laura Devlin after the House vote on food allergy policies.

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