“School is a place where our children should be safe.”
-Joan Buchanan, CA Assembly Member District 16
The room for the Assembly Education Committee hearing on June 25, 2014 in Sacramento, CA was packed, with an overflow crowd outside in the hallway watching from a TV monitor, and the excitement was electric. The committee had a very long agenda so everyone had to be as brief as possible. Even though the hearing was moving at a fast pace, it seemed like a long wait to discuss SB 1266, pending legislation requiring California schools to require public and charter schools to stock epinephrine, authored by Senator Huff and co-authored by my local senator, Jerry Hill. Senator Huff is California’s this food allergy mother’s legislator hero when he talks about life threatening allergies and anaphylaxis and the urgent need for the bill. Watch the clip for incredibly compelling testimony from Anne Harty (school nurse), Caroline Chen (executive board member of both California Advocates for Food Allergies and SAFAR), and Rocio Aceves (teacher), followed by members of the public in support of the bill. I am extremely grateful for the representatives of many medical and professional organizations who urge support for the bill and the support of national organizations such as FARE, FAACT, AAFA, KFA, Allergic Living and many more.
Anaphylaxis is heartbreaking and the reality is that without SB 1266‘s safety measures and access to epinephrine, precious children die, families suffer devastating losses, and little friends learn about life and death way too soon. Brian Hom and his family spoke about BJ’s death due to peanut allergies and our hearts ached a little about being together at the hearing on BJ’s birthday. Darling children who were friends of Natalie Giorgi represented the Natalie Giorgi Sunshine Foundation asked the committee to vote yes. Sweet Sakura spoke in a tiny but mighty voice and shared that she almost died from an allergic reaction but was saved by an Epi-Pen. Grandparents advocated for their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s friends at school. I’m so proud of my sons who worked up some courage to ask for the committee’s yes votes. Seeing the faces of people whose lives are impacted by life threatening allergies and anaphylaxis is incredibly moving and reminds us that we are part of a larger community as we advocate for safety in schools and making a difference together. Awareness, training, and access to life saving medications will protect lives and prevent losses and anaphylaxis related heartbreak in families and communities.
The main points from the opposition were that they wanted to “use collective bargaining statutes instead” in order to individualize programs at a local level. I wonder what they would ask for at a bargaining table. They ask legislators to support funding for school nurses to administer medications, which is great but teachers still need to know when to call a nurse and they need to know what to do when a nurse is not available. And lastly, they were concerned about a new school employee saying no to be a volunteer. I have the highest degree of respect for a teacher’s professionalism and as a former teacher myself, I know that teachers care greatly about their students. I was dismayed by their “philosophical opposition” which you can hear for yourself in the clip below.
“This is our responsibility to care for our children.”
-Dr. Shirley Weber, CA Assembly Member, District 79
What happened next during the hearing made me want to stand up and cheer! Assembly member Shirley Weber had a lot of empathy for the urgent nature of an emergency situation and she referred to SB 1266 as “This is our responsibility to care for our children.” Assembly member Joan Buchanan expressed strong support for the bill and thought we need to do more because “School is a place where our children should be safe.” Those are the best soundbites ever and I applaud these two wonderful legislators. The committee voted yes unanimously and the room erupted in applause. SB 1266 advocates exited the room and there were many hugs and congratulations shared.
Stock epinephrine saves lives. Very few California schools stock epinephrine but thanks to fellow advocate, Yael Kozar, we know that Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District in southern California has been voluntarily stocking epinephrine since March 2002 and since that time, PVPUSD has used their stock epi to save lives 6 times. Six children safe from anaphylaxis. Six families spared of devastation due to death or serious injury. Every school in California needs more education and awareness about life threatening allergies and anaphylaxis and access to life-saving medication such as epinephrine.
We need the California Assembly to help protect the lives of students and teachers and vote YES for SB 1266 #epipenbill.
Thank you for reading. To learn more about how to support SB 1266, CAFA has action items posted online.
Video clip of Assembly Education Committee hearing on June 25, 2014 regarding SB 1266. In order of appearance: Senator Huff, Anne Harty (2:30), Caroline Chen (5:15), Rocio Miscio (7:00), Brian Hom (10:20), comments from the public (Sakura 11:50), union reps, ASM Weber (18:08), ASM Buchanan (19:50).
A video of the entire hearing could be viewed here. http://calchannel.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2290
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