Question: I heard recently that all schools now need to have EpiPens in the office in case of emergency? What is this all about, and what does this mean for me?
Answer: The following explanation comes courtesy of Robert Mazzotta, co-ordinator of the ATA’s Member Services program area.
A private member’s bill was passed in the legislature last year which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2020. Bill 201, the Protection of Students with Life-Threatening Allergies Act, ensures that every school in Alberta has at least one epinephrine autoinjector device (EpiPen) for use in the event of a severe allergic reaction. The act requires that a minimum of one EpiPen and/or EpiPen Jr. be stocked in each school operated by the division.
While most schools will already have a plan in place for those students who are known to have a life-threatening allergy, this act mandates all schools to have a plan in place for those students who do not know that they may have a life-threatening allergy. With that, all schools shall have a policy that includes a strategy that reduces the risk of exposure to anaphylactic causative agents in the classroom and common areas, a communication plan for the dissemination of information on life-threatening allergies, and mandatory training for all employees.
While it is Association policy that teachers are not medical practitioners and are not to administer medication to students, the injection of an EpiPen on a student is the one exception. EpiPens are foolproof and do not require the careful, uninterrupted measuring of a medication prior to injection. The user simply removes the safety cap, places the tip against the fleshy part of the student’s thigh, and pushes the tip into the skin or through the child’s clothing.
The act also protects a teacher from any liability from the use of the EpiPen on a student. Assuming the teacher acts in good faith and is not acting out of gross negligence, a teacher would not be held liable if the EpiPen was injected in error. The Emergency Medical Aid Act also applies here to protect individuals who were acting in an emergent situation where it was deemed that the use of an EpiPen was required.
Members are reminded that for other medical situations, administration of medication or care of students is to be left to a non-certificated staff member who can provide uninterrupted care of that student. A publication entitled Administration of Medication: Rights and Risks can be found on the ATA website at teachers.ab.ca > News and Info > Publications > Teacher Guides. Further information is also available by calling Member Services in Edmonton or Calgary. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Dennis Theobald at Barnett House (firstname.lastname@example.org).