Student’s death a catalyst for school action on food allergies

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CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - The death of a 7-year-old Chesterfield student who suffered a fatal allergic food reaction has impacted the way parents and schools handle allergy issues.

Since Amarria Johnson died, parents around the metro Richmond area have contacted schools to inform and update teachers on their child’s medical situation.

In Henrico County, spokesperson Mychael Dickerson said they have a pretty extensive medical form for parents to fill out.

He said they give that to parents at the start of every school year. He said though that their central office has still received some calls from concerned parents.

“We did hear from some parents who wanted to know about it. We reminded them that they already filled out their forms, but then asked if they needed to update them.  It was also time for principals to remind staff to keep an eye on those students who want to share food. In days of allergies, we make sure children don’t do that” said Dickerson.

Chesterfield Superintendent Dr. Marcus Newsome said one year ago they implemented a new policy to assist parents and to help children who have medical needs.

“We have all of our information on our school system’s website. Recently over the past week or two, we’ve had probably forty families who have now brought in their child’s health plan, brought in the appropriate medication” said Newsome.

Mom, Vicki Bray has two children who attend Richmond’s Linwood Holton Elementary School. She said she’s pleased with the way the school handles allergy issues there.

“The teachers know if the child has an allergy. They try to be very responsive to that and Holton even has an allergy free table. So, if a child has a peanut allergy and kids around him are eating peanuts he can go and sit at that table” said Bray.

Principal David Hudson said they want kids to have a fun time in the cafeteria despite allergies. "We want to make sure the boys and girls don’t feel like they’re being punished," said Hudson. "We let them know we sit them there for their safety.”

Hudson went to explain that after this recent tragedy he personally sent a letter to parents about how they handle allergy issues.

His letter was in addition to the one sent out by the Richmond Public School System. Both letters asked parents to turn in an updated Allergy Medical Statement for each student in the household.

Those parents who indicate their students suffer from food allergies will be sent an additional Allergy Management Form to be completed by the parent and the child’s physician.

“We know we have to work to make sure we take care of them. So, we take every precaution we can. I’m looking for 100 percent participation. I want all of my parents to fill out those forms and send them back in” said Hudson.

“If your child can potentially die from something they eat, there’s nothing more important than sending that back in. You have to be the one to go to your school, to your child’s teacher and tell them. You are your child’s biggest advocate” said Bray.