September 25, 2020

By BECKY SHEASBY

Educators do not know better than students and parents. This is especially true when talking about students’ medications. On Oct. 9, 2012, Ryan Gibbons, a 12-year-old boy, died in Straffordville, Ont. when he began to suffer from an asthma attack and the school failed to provide him with his asthma puffer in time. Ryan died because his puffer was locked away in his school’s office and nowhere near him.

Sandra Gibbons, Ryan’s mother, had repeatedly given the boy a puffer to take to school only to have it confiscated by teachers. Gibbons would receive phone calls reminding her that there was a puffer in the office and that Ryan wasn’t allowed to bring one to school.

It is understandable why schools don’t want their students running around with drugs in their pockets; it would undoubtedly be a catastrophic mess. However, there is an enormous difference between mood-altering medications such as Ritalin for students with behavioral problems, and medications that are for fast-acting, life-saving purposes. Mood-altering medications are not required to save a person from death, so being out of range from the student is fine. Life-saving medication needs to be accessible immediately.

The Ontario Lung Association says that 1.9 million people have asthma in this province, 500,000 of them being children. Every student should have direct access to their own medication, no ifs, ands or buts. Whether it’s a puffer or an EpiPen, it should be in the student’s possession, or be carried by the teacher who is on recess duty; it should never be locked away.

Cassandra Lebel, a first-aid trainer, said that a child as young as four can be taught how to handle and properly take their own medications. If children are capable of knowing when and how to properly use these devices, then there is no reason they shouldn’t be allowed to carry them.

Thanks to Ryan’s educators thinking they knew better than his mother, it cost him his life. Never again should a student die because their medication was locked away.

All school boards should re-examine their policy and ensure they are not the next one to face such a tragedy.

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