Our View

Gold star on Legislature’s EpiPen decision

June 27, 2014 

Assembly Education Committee members earned an “A” for outstanding accomplishment Wednesday by negotiating political obstacles on an important bill to protect the very lives of some schoolchildren.

A bill written by Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, could literally save lives by allowing schools to stock epinephrine auto-injectors to be used by teachers in case of allergic emergencies. The law would make it possible for teachers to give emergency treatment for students suffering reactions to peanuts, bee stings and other possibly deadly allergens. It passed the Senate on Wednesday.

The epinephrine auto-injector, known by the brand name EpiPen, is easy to use in case of an allergic reaction.

Here’s how it’s done: Open the container (that’s the hardest part), push it down firmly on the big muscle in the thigh until there’s a click. Wait 10 seconds. A spring-loaded injector delivers a pre-measured dose of epinephrine. That’s it. The epinephrine wards off anaphylactic shock and, quite possibly, death in the most extreme cases.

Clearly, it doesn’t take a school nurse to operate it.

Unfortunately, the state’s two largest teachers unions don’t agree. The California Teachers Association and California Federation of Teachers opposed the bill on “philosophical” grounds. Apparently, both unions would prefer that every school have a nurse on duty every day. Any health-related responsibility that is assigned to teachers makes that argument harder to make.

We’re not arguing against school nurses. They play an often vital role in delivering emergency health care and instructing students in many ways.

But we think the CTA and CFT should be listening more closely to their own members. School nurse Anne Harty testified that she trained teachers at her school to use EpiPens and that every single teacher chose to participate.

Why wouldn’t they? Nearly every teacher has encountered at least one student with severe allergies. They know very well the risks.

And there are no major side effects from the epinephrine, which is naturally occurring in the body.

Under Huff’s bill, the few teachers who don’t feel comfortable wielding an auto-injector won’t have to. Schools would stock the injectors only in rooms where they have volunteers willing to use them.

We believe anyone with a shred of compassion who sees a kid suffering from a life-threatening allergic reaction would be glad to have an easy-to-use tool to keep that student alive or at least ease their suffering. Clearly that includes the vast majority of teachers.

So far, California’s legislators seem to agree.

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