Approved: October 11, 2006
Hollis School Board
Special Board Meeting
Allergy Policy Forum
Hollis Primary School
October 5, 2006
Bill Beauregard, Chair
Mary Kay MacFarlane, Recording Secretary
Bill Beauregard called the board meeting to order at 6:45 pm. Current food allergy procedures, and two proposed versions of a food allergy policy are distributed to the audience.
Bill Beauregard welcomed the audience to the meeting and reviewed the structure of school board, its meetings and introduced its members. He stated that the school board decides policy and procedures are the responsibility of the administration. The Board listens to parents, legal counsel, NH School Board, Administrators, the Superintendent and current laws when deciding policy.
Lisa McCann has a 6 year old with a life threatening peanut allergies in addition to other nuts and shellfish allergies. She states that procedures are not policy. She has recently reviewed other HSB policies, such as fire, evacuations, violence, and notices no disclaimer in other school policies, why for food allergies? She finds the disclaimer unacceptable.
Bill Beauregard informed her that legal counsel recommended that language.
Peter Graves asked why the procedures that were included in June policy are gone.
Bill Beauregard informed him that legal counsel suggested that they be dropped.
Jim McCann asked if the new procedure list distributed tonight replaces the list that was in the policy in June.
Bill Beauregard said no. The list of procedures distributed tonight is the list of current procedures from the administration.
Mary Beth Carroll commented that the language of the policy is ok. The school board shouldn’t be held accountable. Everyone’s best should be good enough.
Jim Martin has a lot of problems with the last paragraph of the policy, he feels it is a “cop-out” and recommends deleting the entire paragraph. The language in the second half of the policy nullifies the whole policy.
Joe Repp asked if 504 plans have disclaimers. The answer is no.
Lisa Snyder doesn’t want the cafeteria split because she feels it creates social problems. A nut free table is ok with her.
Janet Merrithew asked what happens when a kid buys lunch and brings food from home as her son does. Where would that child sit if the cafeteria were split between home lunch and school lunch?
Mr. Graves is glad that the procedures from June are dropped. He feels that socialization is important. He wants special food celebrations to continue and he feels that hand washing gives people a false sense of security.
Andrew Carr is unclear on policy boundaries. The policy says what the school won’t do but not what it will do. If the policy boundaries are unclear how can clear procedures be developed? The policy won’t guarantee an allergen free environment but Mr. Carr suggests it could guarantee a reasonable allergen free area (e.g. classroom, table).
Lori Bonnette suggested the language could be changed to say “the parent is responsible to tell the school staff what the child’s needs are”.
Harry Haytayan stated that the policy is trying to let everyone know the risks and responsibilities and creates a reasonable expectation. He also said that the Board members are not experts on everything and they rely heavily on professionals for guidance
Lisa McCann stated that there is a bill currently before Congress HR4063 that would require the Health and Human Services Secretary to put a food allergy policy in all schools. The content of the policy is due to include such items as parental responsibility, maintenance of a school file, instructions for an emergency medical procedures, strategies to minimize risks, food allergy management, as well as, other items. She wants a nut free classroom at every grade level, nut free lunch table, hand wiping, nut free school cafeteria menu and an awareness program for staff, kids and community. She also states that according to research, most kids can’t self manage their allergy until the age of 12.
Michelle Repp stated that she sent a letter to the Board in August requesting exactly these 5 basic items.
Mary Beth Carroll states she agrees with the five items.
Lisa Eliopoulis agrees with Lisa McCann and the five items also.
Jim Martin feels that if those five items are not in the policy, they won’t be enforced in the procedures.
Renee Moloney wants the five basic items included in the policy.
Dawn Bradbrook asked how the school will realistically be able to do the handwashing if there are not sinks in every classroom?
Lisa McCann stated that many of the procedures that are in place are new this year.
Jim Martin is not confident that all the administrators are on board with all the procedures.
Linda Falcone feels that the policy needs specifics such as basic minimums and sees no need for a disclaimer.
Andy Carr stated that adding the 5 basic items would radically change the policy for the better, and not having them would be a grave mistake.
Christina Hillard agrees that the five basic items should be included in the policy.
Lisa Snyder agrees with including the five basic items in the policy.
Michelle Soucy is also ok with the five points being included.
Michelle Repp said creating change has been a slow, time consuming, and often-confrontational process. Procedures that are in place at HPS are not in place at HUES. These five basic items are in place at the H/B Middle School, and they were implemented virtually overnight, just this year for an incoming student. She stated that she and her husband have spent over 2 and a half years negotiating with the school for the very basic procedures which are only now in place for the first time, as have other Hollis families. She feels strongly these five procedural items must be included in the policy. Michelle would like to see hand washing before entering the nut free classroom and hand wipes at the end of every lunch table, so that all children clean their hands after eating lunch and before going out to the playground.
Harry Haytayan stated that as a Board they need to balance parents, administration and policy. He asked if any parents have asked the administration for reasonable requests and have been denied.
The Repps and the McCann’s replied yes. They would be glad to go into detail with the Board privately.
Jim Martin feels that the public doesn’t understand the level of severity of these food allergies. He is an emergency room physician with 18 years’ of experience. He feels people need to know that the level of allergy these children in our system have is truly life threatening, and feels that there is a misconception out there that a simple shot of epinephrine will be all they need if they have a reaction. He states that several shots of epinephrine may not do it, and there may be nothing he can do at the ER to resuscitate these children.
Jim Comstock thinks that the current policy is empty. He wants Hollis to take a leadership role in creating this policy and thinks the five basic items should be included in the policy. He urges strong guidelines that the administration needs to be held to.
Donna LaPierre stated that the educational piece is important, especially at the parent level..
Andy Carr stated that he feels there has been a lack of detail and focus from the beginning on this subject, which created a lot of misunderstanding in the community. Cupcakes and sunscreen (food-free celebrations and gym outside) have overshadowed the true crux of the issue, which is providing a safe environment for students with life-threatening allergies.
Ellen Hyde, couldn’t be here this evening and asked a friend to speak for her tonight. She wants to see balance. Her son has a non-life threatening peanut allergy and after being put in a peanut free classroom became scared he would die.
Joe Repp stated that parents should have the right to opt out of a peanut free classroom.
Jim McCann doesn’t want a disclaimer on the policy. He would like to see it be a food allergy policy not just a life threatening policy. He would also like to see a feedback and measurement piece and a review of this on a regular basis, for example, as stipulated in the HSB policy for bomb scare review and assessment.
Michelle Repp stated that the disclosure is unacceptable to her. The five basic items being discussed are currently being done, but are not in the HPS current procedures listed tonight. She wants it to be part of the policy so that if staff at the school changes and/or if a newly diagnosed student begins this process, they won’t have to start from square one. She also wants it to be part of the policy so that HUES will be governed by it as well. As of now, there is no documentation from HUES regarding what they currently do.
Mary Beth Carroll asked why the procedures listed in the June policy draft are not in the policy tonight. She asked why bee-sting allergies were not included as well.
Jennifer MacLeod stated that the NHSBA recommended including the procedures with the policy per the Best Practices example set by Windham’s Golden Brook school, which actually won an award for their Life-Threatening Food Allergy policy & guidelines. Because HPS’s cafeteria and gymnasium are one and the same, Jennifer stated she made some edits based on her research and recommendations she found in about a dozen other existing food allergy policies in New England. She did add to those procedures approximately five items that were specific to HPS. Some of those items were no food celebrations, gym outside and the cafeteria separated. The Board received many complaints regarding those specific items.
With regard to the bee-sting allergy question, Jennifer reported that in all the policies she reviewed, only about 20% mentioned bee-sting or other non-food allergies in the same policy. Jennifer explained that it would be difficult to set policy on a natural occurrence such as bees potentially flying onto a playground, but that policy can certainly be set surrounding human behaviors inside the walls of a school.
The forum ended at 8:40 pm