The insensitivity towards kids with food allergies

Dear Members of the Illinois State Board of Education,

As a parent of a child attending Illinois Public Schools, a taxpayer, and a board-certified pediatric allergist and immunologist, I was distressed to hear of the irresponsible comments made by Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) Members Catherine Campbell and Lawrence Gregorash regarding the requirement for Illinois schools to have a food allergy policy in place by 2011.

When the parents of children with severe food allergies send their children to school, they place immense trust in our school system – not only to educate their children, but to keep them safe while in its care.

The safety of our children in the school setting is of tantamount importance, and the assertion by school board members that protecting children with life-threatening food allergies is “the most ridiculous thing” or “this isn’t the dumbest thing I’ve seen in my 64 years … but it sure ranks in the top 10″ is worse than offensive – it is dangerous.

We need only look to the tragic death of 13-year old Katelyn Carlson in December to remind us that food allergies can not, and should not, be taken lightly.  One can only speculate as to whether this tragedy could have been prevented had a comprehensive food allergy plan been in place and been implemented in a timely manner.

As an anaphylaxis community expert, I work with a registered nurse educator to raise awareness about the recognition and treatment of anaphylaxis.  There are 150 such teams throughout the nation, all committed to the concept that raising awareness about the seriousness of anaphylaxis can save precious lives.  This outreach effort is available free of charge to schools and organizations requesting educational assistance.  In the wake of young Katelyn’s untimely death, the Chicago School District has proactively requested education for their nurses and counselors.

I respectfully suggest that the ISBE might also benefit from learning more about the dangers of life threatening allergy, so as to better fulfill its stated goal to “offer a safe and healthy learning environment for all students.”

As a physician and a mother, my most important role is that of an educator.  Only by understanding our bodies and disease processes can we move forward to improve health.  I am hopeful that the ISBE will seize this opportunity to educate itself and create a healthier learning environment for all students in our great state.

Please feel free to contact me at any time to arrange for an educational seminar for the members of the Illinois State Board of Education.  I would be happy to facilitate a program.

Respectfully,
Sakina Shikari Bajowala, MD

Sakina Shikari Bajowala is an allergy and immunology physician who blogs at Achoo!- Adventures of an Allergist Mommy.

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