RICHMOND, Va (WTVR) - Governor Bob McDonnell signed into a law this morning legislation requiring every school in the state to carry emergency epinephrine auto-injectors. The legislation has been in the works since a 7-year-old Chesterfield girl died at Hopkins Elementary School following a severe allergic reaction.
The Binford Middle School auditorium was packed with teachers, students, and family members of little Amarria Johnson as the governor signed Senate Bill 656 and House Bill 1107 into law at 10:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
All public schools must now stock epinephrine auto-injectors in case of emergencies and have trained staff to administer the pens.
The governor sat next to Laura Pendleton, Amarria Johnson's mother, and commended her and her family for channeling their grief into something positive.
Pendleton and her family pushed for the legislation in the weeks and months following the tragedy.
"It takes an immense amount of courage, personal fortitude and faith to endure the death of a child and then decide you're going to do something positive because of that," McDonnell said."To decide you're going to help other young people, and other moms around Virginia so they don't have to go through the same thing."
Amarria died last January after she suffered a severe allergic reaction to a peanut.
An investigation revealed a classmate gave her a peanut on the playground. after a classmate gave her a peanut on the Hopkins Elementary School playground. She went into cardiac arrest at the school, and emergency crews were unable to resuscitate her.
Pendleton has said she asked previously tried to give the school’s clinical aide an epinephrine auto-injector for emergencies, but said that she was told to keep it at home.
After the ceremony she emphasized to CBS 6 how important it is for people with food allergies, or parents of children with food allergies to be vigilant at all times.
"You have to take this seriously, especially with children" Pendleton told CBS 6 following the signing ceremony. "I myself have a food allergy, and sometimes you want to test it. See if you can have this or that, but you have to be diligent and protect yourself".
As part of the budget that passed last week, The general Assembly has allocated $200,000 to purchase epinephrine injectors throughout the state. The new policy will take effect in schools at the start of the 2012-2013 school year