NJPSA Weighs In on Epi-Pen Legislation, Supports School Security Measure

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NJPSA weighed in on a measure February 24, A-304 (Russo / Rumana / Caride / Casagrande), that would require schools to maintain supply of epinephrine and permit administration of epinephrine to any student having anaphylactic reaction.  The Association sought several amendments in concert with sister organizations, the New Jersey School Board Association and New Jersey Education Association, during the Assembly Education Committee hearing.   The organization also reiterated its support for legislation, A-373 (Caputo / Diegnan / Spencer), that requires school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement.

Epi-Pens In Schools

Legislation, A-304 (Russo / Rumana / Caride / Casagrande), which would amend current law  to permit the emergency administration of epinephrine any student, when the nurse or his or her designee in good faith believes that the student is having an anaphylactic reaction, was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.  NJPSA as well as the New Jersey School Boards Association raised several questions seeking amendment to the bill as it proceeds forward.

N.J.S.A. 18A:40-12.5 allows the administration of epinephrine to students with a history of anaphylaxis whose parents have provided consent as well as a pre-filled injector to the school.  Today, school nurses may authorize delegates to administer epinephrine after a review of child’s individualized emergency health plan and advanced training.  This legislation would expand the law to allow the emergency administration of epinephrine to any child who is exhibiting an anaphylactic reaction and would permit not only the school nurse but also licensed athletic trainers, and trained designees to administer the prescription.

The bill also requires that public and nonpublic schools maintain a supply of epinephrine auto-injectors, prescribed under a standing protocol from a licensed physician, in a secure, but unlocked location that is easily accessible to the school nurse and trained designees for administration.     The bill does expand immunity from liability to nurses and other school employees for good faith acts or omissions concerning the emergency administration of epinephrine.  

The Association also urged the sponsor and the Committee to consider a delay in implementation to allow for training of school personnel on the symptoms of anaphylactic reaction – particularly if delegates are permitted to administer the medication.  Current delegate procedure involves the review of a child’s individual emergency health plan – something not available for students without a history of anaphylaxis.  NJPSA will continue to work with the sponsors to address member concerns.

School Panic Alarms

Additionally approved was legislation, A-373 (Caputo / Diegnan / Spencer), which would require all public elementary and secondary school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarm linked to local law enforcement.  The alarm would be used in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. The legislation was vetoed by the Governor at the tail end of the last legislative session (Governor Signs Dyslexia Screening, Social Media and Contract Extension Bills, Pocket Vetoes School Security, Drop-Out Prevention and Health Care Savings Legislation, January 22, 2014). 

The panic alarm, which would not be audible within the school building, would be directly linked to law enforcement authorities and would be required to immediately transmit a signal or message to the authorities upon activation.  The bill defines “panic alarm” as a silent security system signal generated by the manual activation of a device intended to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation that requires a response from law enforcement.

The bill also requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a red emergency light that would be affixed to the exterior of the school building in a highly visible location above or near the front entrance visible from the nearest public roadway or, if the school building is not visible from the nearest public roadway, then on that roadway.  The emergency light would be linked to the school’s panic alarm so that it turns on when the panic alarm is activated. 

The legislation addresses funding by allowing the proceeds of bonds authorized to be issued to fund the State share of the costs of Schools Development Authority district school facilities projects or the State share of the costs of school facilities projects in all other districts, including county vocational school districts, to be used to fund the full cost of the panic alarms and emergency lights.

NJPSA sought extensive amendment to the legislation last legislative session, including the development of a funding source as well as addressing situations where a school is located in a community without a police force, such as in communities supported by the New Jersey State Police.  As amended last session  and introduced this session, NJPSA supports the bill.