May 5, 2015 – It was the food allergy law that became famous across North America, and the hope born from tragedy.
Ten years ago this month – May 16, 2005 – a legislative bill to accommodate students at risk of anaphylaxis in their schools in the province of Ontario was put to a final vote. As parents and their allergic children watched intently from the public gallery, political parties of all stripes unanimously voted to pass Sabrina’s Law. The gallery-goers quickly left the hush of the chamber – and the hugs and the tears broke out.
The new law, named for Sabrina Shannon, who tragically died following a severe anaphylactic reaction to an inadvertent exposure to dairy in school cafeteria food, would come to influence widespread change in schools across North America. Laws such as the federal U.S. Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA) were informed by the spirit of allergy accommodation and risk prevention of Sabrina’s Law, as were the eventual CDC’s specific guidelines for managing food allergies in school settings.
Sabrina’s Law was written to require public school boards to have all principals implement anaphylaxis plans that include: strategies to reduce exposure to allergens, procedures to communicate to parents, students and employees about life-threatening allergies, and regular training for teachers and staff on managing life-threatening allergies and using auto-injectors.
Several states and provinces have now implemented like-minded laws or policies. And importantly, the concepts of “accommodation” and “inclusion” have evolved over the decade into fairly widespread use of the 504 Plan as the American parent’s tool of choice for ensuring a child with food allergies is safe, fully involved in academic life, and not excluded from class activities.
On this 10th anniversary of Sabrina’s Law, we salute those who worked so hard to see it pass, including Sabrina’s mom Sara Shannon. We’ve come a long way in North American schools, and we won’t forget the girl whose tragic tale started a revolution in allergy accommodation.
I like to think that Sabrina would be proud of all this community has accomplished, and where it is headed in the quest to keep kids with severe food allergies fully involved in their schools and in life.
To learn more about Sabrina’s story, read our article from the archives, called “Sabrina’s Law: The Girl and the Allergy Law”.
To hear the radio documentary that Sabrina had made with her aunt before her passing, click here.