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August 27, 2014

Following law change, Royal Oak teachers get EpiPen training

By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer

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A Royal Oak teacher holds a training EpiPen Aug. 19. The district will have at least two people in each school building with knowledge of how to use the pens.
Teachers and staff from Royal Oak Schools listen to nurses for instructions on how to use an EpiPen. State law now requires two sets of EpiPens for each school building.
 

ROYAL OAK — Seated in a conference room inside the Royal Oak Schools board office Aug. 19, teachers and staff from throughout the district got a lesson on biology — specifically why some people react severely to allergies.

Their teachers during this session were Beaumont nurses who explained how to use an EpiPen, which administers a spring-loaded shot of adrenaline to stave off a potentially deadly allergic reaction.

“Realistically, you could be saving a child’s life by having these,” Donna Ratcliff, a clinical nurse specialist with the hospital, said to the teachers.

In December 2013, Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a bill requiring all schools within Michigan to have at least two sets of EpiPens in each building.

Each set comes with a junior EpiPen designed for people weighing 33 to 66 pounds and a full-dosage EpiPen for people heavier than 66 pounds. Each EpiPen contains epinephrine — essentially another name for adrenaline.

The law is written to address students who are not known to have allergies but who might suddenly show symptoms of a severe reaction.

Because the law goes into effect at the start of the 2014-  15 school year, teachers and staffers in Royal Oak Schools are now taking courses — provided by Beaumont and Oakland Schools — on how to administer the shot.

Royal Oak Superintendent Shawn Lewis-Lakin said some of the district staff already trained annually to handle students with known allergies. Each teacher already was taught the signs of a severe reaction.

The district is ensuring that at least two staff members in each building will know how to administer the shot.

The district receives the EpiPens free of charge via a program that prescribes them to schools for free. Lewis-Lakin said building principals will be in charge of replacing expired ones.

If a teacher or staff member has to use the EpiPen, Lewis-Lakin said it would be treated like any other emergency. The staff involved would be debriefed, and the used EpiPen would be replaced.

Nancy Beardsley, a middle school secretary for 23 years, said she was concerned with being found liable if she used an EpiPen on a student.

“I’m not afraid of doing this,” Beardsley said, holding up one of the training EpiPens handed to teachers. “I’m afraid of the parent coming back at me.”

Ratcliff assured her that the law protects her from such action.

“According to the public act, there is no liability for you as a staffer,” Ratcliff said.

Ratcliff added that it’s not just students who can suddenly develop allergies. Staff members could be called upon to save the life of a colleague, too.

“There could be adults in your school who have the same problem,” she said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn at rguttersohn@candgnews.com or at (586)218-5006.