Death of Child ( Allergic Shock in School)

Nov 13, 2017 by

A three-year old boy, allergic to dairy products, recently died after he ate a cheese sandwich at a private child care center that the boy’s parents claim had been notified of their child’s life-threatening sensitivity.

The boy went into severe shock but might have recovered had a simple Epi-Pen been used immediately.  These injections of adrenaline are easily obtainable and simple to use. Either there was none on site or nobody had knowledge of it or presence of mind.

Even in the absence of an Epi-pen, the boy might have been saved had EMS been called right away. Instead, the child care center reportedly contacted the child’s parents first.

In the aftermath of of avoidable tragedies that might implicate them in any way, city bureaucracies responsible for oversight reflexively went into damage-control mode, offering thoughts and prayers and coughing up an innovation: enhanced staff training and festooning of informational posters about food allergies.

Well, but not well enough, and good ,but not good enough.

With a million kids of all ages attending private and public institutions on every level, there’s bound to be tragedies. But  special precautions must be taken when life itself can be at stake.

Teachers should have the unrestricted right to summon first-responders, without being hobbled by formal approval protocols.They are highly-educated adults to whom independent action in such emergencies can be entrusted.

Many principals demand total control over everything that happens in the building, including incident reports and emergency calls. They suppress problems, even when nobody is to blame, because exposure may contribute to data which, when identified with their school, may  negatively impact its rating.

It’s not fair that principals have been conditioned to have to watch their backs in such situations.

In some schools, staff members are forbidden from calling “911”. They must first contact the principal or the principal’s designee, although it is not uncommon for them to be inaccessible by phone or their location unknown.

Staff members who take the initiative, whether out of “abundance of caution” or even clear necessity, may face disciplinary action.

Imagine a child  on an errand or bathroom break who suddenly bolts out the building’s exit doors onto a busy street, unobserved except for a lone off-duty staff member in the hallway who rushes after him and returns him forthwith to school unharmed.  Never mind an administrative thank you. The staff member may be subjected to a drawn out special investigation for failure to provide prior notification to his superiors.

Or a teacher who was asked to call off ( as though it were a pizza order) a “911” call after a student had a brain seizure in class and partially recovered.

School staff should be trained in the use of Epi-pen, defibrillators and CPR.  The DOE should spell out clearly the circumstances under which staff members can take action and be held harmless, and it should be included in every school’s safety plan.

Legal action may be required to relax certain privacy restrictions on students’ health, so they could be made aware of per-existing conditions. Of course, this must include strict rules against needless disclosure.

Parents also need to be more diligent about providing complete and updated information to the school on the “Home Emergency Contact Card” they are given each September.  It’s amazing how many of them don’t bother.

None of this bears on the parents of the three-year old boy who died of allergic shock. They seem to have done everything right and are very spritually strong people. “While we can no longer protect him, hold him in our arms or kiss his sweet face little face…we must fight for kids like him.”

Such sorrow. Such compassion. Such courage.

Ron Isaac

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