Family: Child dies in school from peanut allergic reaction

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, VA (WTVR) – The Chesterfield County School System and the Chesterfield County Health Department discussed county allergic reaction policies and procedures Wednesday.

Two days ago Amaria Johnson, a seven-year-old elementary school student in Chesterfield County, Virginia, died after suffering an allergic reaction at school.

“At the beginning of the school year, we sent home a packet to the family, the understanding that there are certain students that have severe allergies,” said Chesterfield Schools spokesperson Shawn Smith.

According to Chesterfield police spokeswoman Elizabeth Caroon, the initial investigation revealed that the Hopkins Elementary School student, a first grader, died after she suffered an allergic reaction.

Caroon said police and the school system is investigating the child’s death. Stephen Murman, with the State Medical Examiner’s Office, said the situation did not “meet the criteria to be considered a medical examiner case.”

Johnson’s family said the allergic reaction was to a peanut product. Information Johnson’s mother told CBS 6 News she learned from the school principal and a doctor who treated the child.

Emergency crews were called to Hopkins Elementary Monday afternoon around 2:30 p.m. When the EMS crew arrived, the child was in cardiac arrest, according to a Chesterfield Fire Department spokesman Lt. Jason Elmore.

The child was pronounced dead a short time later at CJW Medical Center.

The child’s mother Laura Pendleton was distraught and she has many questions.

“She has an allergy action plan at the school,” said Pendleton, which authorizes the school to give her Benadryl during a reaction. “They didn’t do that,” she said.

County school and health officials could not discuss Johnson’s death directly. However county officials said it is up to parents to provide medicine and instructions to doctors.

“Parents need to provide all necessary medication their child needs to the school,” said Jody Enoch, Public Health Nurse Supervisor for the Chesterfield County Health Department. “That is the responsibility of the parent.”

At the beginning of this school year, the mother said she tried to give the clinical aid an Epipen for emergencies, but she said she was declined and told to keep it at home.

According to Chesterfield County School policy parents are supposed to provide the school medication for children with allergies.

A section of the allergy policy entitled Responsibilities for Parents/Guardians reads:

Provide the school with all daily and emergency medications prescribed by the student’s health-care provider, following school system medication administration policies. Keep medications up to date.

A spokesman for Chesterfield County school could not comment specifically about this case and instead refered to the county’s allergy policy which reads in part:

Because it is difficult to predict the time or severity of an allergic reaction, it is vital to be prepared to respond rapidly in order to maintain a safe educational environment for all students. Supporting the success of a student with a severe allergy requires a team approach and a coordinated plan, so that all team members understand their roles. Team members include the parent/guardian, student, school staff members, health-care provider, public health nurse and community. A component of school emergency response plans, these severe allergy guidelines outline the roles of individuals responsible for the health and well-being of students with severe allergies, supporting inclusion of all students in school activities.

[Click here to read the entire policy]

Pendleton also wanted to know how her daughter got access to the peanut product.

Monday was the first day back at school for students in Chesterfield County following winter break.

“She loved school, she loved her teachers, she was compassionate, she cared about everybody,” said her mom.

School officials have extended their condolences to the family and also sent home a letter to all school parents.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family.  The school division will continue to provide additional services to support students and staff in this difficult time,” Chesterfield Schools Spokesman Shawn Smith said in a statement.

The child’s body will be released to the family on Thursday.

School officials encouraged all parents to submit a list of their child’s allergies that can be retained on file.

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