(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver and Assemblyman Thomas P. Giblin to provide a safer school environment for children with asthma and improve asthma care in general to lessen emergency room visits was approved Monday by the General Assembly.
“Nearly one in 10 children in New Jersey has asthma. Children living in urban areas or from lower socio-economic backgrounds are particularly vulnerable to it. While asthma cannot be cured, it can be controlled,” said Oliver (D-Essex). “That is why it is so important that we engage all the adults, including school officials, who are in one way or another responsible for the care of these children in how to best manage this disease in order to help these children have a better quality of life.”
“School age children spend large chunks of their time in school. It is essential that schools take the necessary steps to reduce triggers and properly train staff to provide adequate medical assistance when needed,” said Giblin (D-Essex). “If managed properly, children with asthma can live active, healthy lives. If we really want to help these children, we cannot put the entire burden on families.”
The bill (A-954/3641) would establish a 16-member School Asthma Protocol Task Force charged with selecting a school asthma protocol and developing guidelines for the most appropriate and effective means of implementing said protocol on a statewide basis. The task force would work with the Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey in the selection of the school asthma protocol and development of the guidelines.
The membership of the task force would include: the commissioners of education and health and senior services or their designees as ex officio members, and 14 public members to be appointed by the Governor as follows: four persons who are parents of children with asthma who are attending a public or nonpublic school; a licensed physician who is a pulmonary specialist; a licensed pediatrician; a certified school nurse; an advanced practice nurse certified in pediatric nursing; a school administrator; a public school teacher; a public school principal or supervisor; a local school board member; a representative of a nonpublic school; and a representative of the American Lung Association.
The task force would also:
- make recommendations on actions to be taken by districts necessary for their schools to achieve an “asthma friendly” designation from the Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey;
- determine the advisability for establishing an indoor air quality team at each school in a district and requiring certain school personnel to annually complete the Indoor Air Quality Training Course provided through the Public Employees Occupational Safety and Health Program;
- make recommendations on whether the professional development requirements for teaching staff members should include requirements that each public school nurse completes an hour of instruction on asthma treatment plans and conducts an annual in-service training program on asthma management in the classroom for all teaching staff members; and
- makes recommendations on the adoption by school districts of the school bus No-Idling Pledge.
The bill requires the task force to present the selected school asthma protocol and the task force guidelines and recommendations to the State Board of Education no later than six months after the date of its organization. After review by the State board, the Department of Education (DOE) would disseminate the guidelines to all public school districts and nonpublic schools. DOE would have to periodically update the guidelines as required to incorporate revised protocols on the care of students with asthma. The bill also stipulates that DOE would provide staff and related support services to the task force.
The bill was approved 78-0 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.