(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 an Assembly panel.
“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 developing guidelines for the most appropriate and effective means of implementing the Pediatric Asthma Reduction Effort (PARE) school asthma protocol on a statewide basis. The protocol is being tailored to meet the specific needs of each child with asthma, and will be designed to improve management of asthma care among primary care providers, schools, recreation programs, families and managed care organizations in order to make non-emergency asthma care accessible, appropriate and user-friendly for asthmatic children and their families.
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, of whom two each would be appointed upon the recommendation of the Senate president and the Assembly speaker, respectively; a licensed physician who is a pulmonary specialist, as recommended by the Medical Society of New Jersey; a licensed pediatrician, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics-New Jersey Chapter; a certified school nurse, as recommended by the New Jersey State School Nurses Association; an advanced practice nurse certified in pediatric nursing, as recommended by the New Jersey State Nurses Association; a school administrator, as recommended by the New Jersey Association of School Administrators; a public school teacher, as recommended by the New Jersey Education Association; a public school principal or supervisor, as recommended by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; a local school board member, as recommended by the New Jersey School Boards Association; a representative of a nonpublic school; and a representative of the American Lung Association. At least four public members each would be appointed from the northern, central, and southern regions of the state.
Under the bill, the task force must present its guidelines 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 provide staff and related support services to the task force, and periodically update the guidelines to incorporate revised protocols on the care of students with asthma.
The bill also directs a board of education to adopt the necessary policies and practices in order for the schools in that district to achieve an “asthma friendly” designation from the Pediatric/Adult Asthma Coalition of New Jersey. The bill also directs the State Board of Education – as part of the professional development requirement for teachers – to require that each public school nurse (1) complete at least one hour of instruction on asthma treatment plans; and (2) conduct an annual in-service training program on asthma management in the classroom.
The bill also requires a board of education to establish an indoor air quality team for each school in the district; and ensure that the school nurse and another designated employee from each school in the district annually complete the Indoor Air Quality Training Course provided through the Public Employee Occupational Safety and Health Program. Lastly, the bill stipulates that a board of education must adopt policies and procedures to reduce school bus idling.
The bill was inspired by Barbara “BJ” Jackson who worked tirelessly to better her community and state. Jackson passed away unexpectedly in 2006 following an asthma attack. Jackson’s friends and family continue to honor her memory through the BJ’s Asthma Walk for Hope Foundation.
The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee.