CT School Superintendents testified before the task force (from left to right): Matt Conway, Sharon Locke, Pat Ciccone and Kristin Heckt
The Task Force on Life-Threatening Food Allergies met today for presentations by the CT School Transportation Association (COSTA), Branford Fire Captain Michael Rebmann, and a panel of School Superintendents.
Costa President, and owner of All-Star Transportation Company, Leslie Sheldon began her presentation by noting that safety is a paramount concern for drivers and that all bus companies have safety protocols in place. That being said, drivers are not medical professionals or EMTS and there is already a serious shortage of drivers. Drivers are trained to call for assistance first and not try to intervene themselves.
Superintendent Hernandez and Captain Rebmann spoke about their experience in training bus drivers in the use of epi-pens. Superintendent Hernandez noted that it was a collaborative effort between the school, the bus company and parents. Captain Rebmann noted that, while initially some drivers did not know what to expect and were apprehensive, they quickly became comfortable with the training. The Branford Fire Department conducted the training at no cost to the District or the bus company.
Superintendent Hernandez noted that the District is thinking about keeping epi-pens in the school cafeteria, just as defibrillators are. Cross-contamination and choking hazards were also cited as potential food-related issues.
The Task Force’s allergist noted that one typically has time to deal with an incident of anaphylaxis. Responders typically have minutes (not seconds) to appraise the situation and take action.
It was noted that one of the problems that needs to be dealt with is the “dead zone” issue, where a driver either cannot contact a first responder or there is a significant time lag between the call and the response.
It was suggested that a District should engage in contract negotiations with a bus company early on, and there may be contract provisions that discourage intervention. One example is contracts that prohibit drivers from leaving their seat. Unionized drivers present an additional layer to consider.
The Task Force next heard from a panel of superintendents who spoke about their school policies and experiences. The panel included the Superintendents of the Westbrook, Derby, Naugatuck, and Bolton, as well as Randall Collins of CAPSS. The Superintendents shared a number of different approaches to food allergies among students but one common theme was that all of their food services did not serve any food that contained peanut products or that were source from factories that provide peanut products.
It was noted that the CAPSS survey had been whittled down to five comprehensive survey questions and has been uploaded to Survey Monkey. The response date is November 28th.