Ontario needs consistent legislation to ensure a safer public-school system for children with chronic medical conditions, including epilepsy, asthma and diabetes.
This was Epilepsy Ontario executive director Rozalyn Werner-Arcé’s message to the province’s standing committee on social policy during an April 8 public hearing at Queen’s Park.
Werner-Arcé joined education and health experts from across Ontario to speak to Bill 135, also called Ryan’s Law, and to address the committee about the need for encompassing legislation to better protect school children living with chronic conditions.
Bill 135, which has passed its second reading, is a private member’s bill introduced by Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek. It honours 12-year-old Ryan Gibbons, who died in October 2012 after suffering a severe asthma attack during recess at school in Straffordville, Ont.
Ryan’s Law is aimed at ensuring every child and teen with asthma attending Ontario public schools would be allowed to carry an inhaler at all times in case of emergency.
Given asthma’s prevalence in children — the Ontario Lung Association says about 20 per cent of children in the province have the condition — Werner-Arcé says Bill 135 addresses key issues to ensure safety in Ontario schools.
But epilepsy is also prevalent in Ontario students, with an estimated 10,000 children and teens across the province living with the condition. Werner-Arcé says children with epilepsy need to be able to have access to rescue medications, should they experience a seizure at school.
“Despite written doctor orders and parental wishes, staff may, and do, refuse to provide rescue medication for students with epilepsy,” Werner-Arcé told the standing committee, adding that to the best of their knowledge, only two public school boards in Ontario — Halton District School Board and Halton Catholic District School Board — have seizure-response protocols for students with epilepsy.
Additionally, Epilepsy Toronto is making strong headways in working with the Toronto District School Board’s mental health and well-being committee to create specific guidelines surrounding seizure protocol within all its schools.
“(Bill 135’s progress) is good news for kids with asthma but there is still work to be done to get legislation for the management of other medical conditions, like epilepsy, at schools,” Werner-Arcé tells Voices of Epilepsy. “We need to see legislation (to ensure safety for students with epilepsy) for sure because (school boards) are not doing it willingly.”
Werner-Arcé notes that the good news for students with epilepsy and other chronic conditions is that Education Minister Liz Sandals recently announced the ministry is going to be working with the Ontario Physical and Health Education to perform a review of how medical conditions are managed in schools.
Writer: Deron Hamel
If you have feedback on this story, or have a story of your own that you would like to share, please contact the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 23, or e-mail deron(at)axiomnews.ca. You can also leave a comment below.