Millions of children afflicted with asthma and food allergies scored a groundbreaking victory after legislation on their behalf cleared another Congressional hurdle on Thursday.
The Senate passed the bipartisan School-Based Allergies and Asthma Management Program Act (H.R. 2468), setting the stage for schools to enact plans that will help better manage students and their asthma and prevent emergencies. The bill now heads to President Donald Trump, who has 10 days to sign it into law.
“America’s students ought to be able to go to school and learn without having to worry that school nurses and staff won’t be prepared to help in an emergency relating to asthma or allergies,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) who worked closely with U.S. representative Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) on the bill. “Parents should have peace of mind that their children’s schools are equipped to handle an asthma attack or an allergic reaction. This legislation will help by encouraging more schools around the country to have the proper training and planning in place.”
One of the main goals of the legislation is to cut down on absenteeism among students who have asthma. Approximately 14 million school days are lost each year, according to the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program, the most of any cause of students missing school.
Under H.R. 2468, schools will be eligible for federal grant awards if they enact comprehensive management plans and perform certain duties such as: creating action plans for students, reducing airborne allergens, and requiring nurses and staff to be available and trained to handle students with asthma. The Department of Education has noted that most schools do not have these plans in place already.
The approval was met with elation by two agencies who lobbied hard to have the legislation presented and passed – the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.
“Supporting this bill and working with Congress to make sure it passed in both the House and Senate has been at the top of AAFA’s priorities list for years,” said Kenneth Mendez, AAFA’s CEO and president. “Schools continue to face enormous challenges both educating and keeping kids safe and healthy during a global pandemic. Senate passage of this bill helps to set the framework for meeting long-term health goals inside of schools. It might also help more schools get the resources they need while also managing COVID-19.”