Sabrina Shannon. Do you know who she is? I do. Sometimes I wish that I didn’t. Sometimes I wish that she was just a normal kid, living a normal life that nobody knows. Unfortunately she’s not; Sabrina Shannon is the girl for whom Sabrina’s Law, Bill 3, is named.
Sabrina Shannon died on September 30, 2003 at the age of 13 as a result of an allergic reaction to food. She went into anaphylactic shock and her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long. She died the day after she ate food in her high school cafeteria that, because of cross-contamination, had traces of dairy in it.
Sara Shannon, Sabrina’s mum, made a promise to her daughter that day. She promised that she would do whatever she could to prevent this from happening to another family. Sara has stayed true to her word. With the help and support of Sara Shannon, on May 16, 2005, Bill 3 was passed unanimously. The first of its kind in North America, Sabrina’s Law is an Act to help protect anaphylactic students. It requires schools to have an anaphylaxis plan which includes: strategies to reduce the risk of exposure to allergens, a communication plan for parents, staff and the community, regular anaphylaxis training for staff, an individual plan for each anaphylactic student and more. The law took effect January 1, 2006.
I am amazed and inspired by this story. Sara Shannon’s motivation and commitment to this cause is astounding. That in the face of such a heart wrenching tragedy, Sara worked to help other families is truly awesome.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that this is a topic that is close to my heart. Son-F grew out of peanut allergy and Son-S is allergic to dairy, eggs, bananas and tree nuts. As I prepared to register Son-S for School in September I was so grateful to Sara and Sabrina and all the others who helped Bill 3 pass into law. I felt so lucky to live in the province of Ontario where we have this law to protect anaphylactic children. It didn’t take long for those feelings to turn to frustration, anger, and shock.
It turns out that Bill 3, Sabrina’s Law, is only being applied half-heartedly at the school and Board that we belong to. It seems that the law – and yes, it is a law – is being misunderstood, misinterpreted or ignored.
After much discussion and much back and forth, the principal at my kids’ school is willing to do whatever can be done to make me happy, and to keep my son safe at school. For this I am very grateful. But the principal and school administration are doing it because they know it is important to me – not because they think they have to.
For those that have been wondering about my status updates on Twitter and Facebook this is what has been bothering me. This is what is keeping me up at night; this is what is eating me up inside; this is what I’ve been dreaming about. Not everyone will get it, not everyone will think it’s a big deal but for me, it is consuming. People have been telling me just to keep my head down; to be happy that my kid is getting what the law says he deserves and forget about everyone else. I just can’t do it.
The questions keeping me up at night are these: I am happy with what my kids’ school is doing to help keep my son safe at school…but what about all the other schools in this district that are not doing what they’re supposed to do? What about protecting those kids? What would Sara Shannon think if she knew that law she worked so hard to help enact, was not being followed? What would Sabrina think?
It is shameful; disrespectful to Sara’s efforts and an insult to Sabrina’s memory. I am not okay with this and I just can’t let it go.
I will contact the Board. I will ask questions. I will file a complaint. I will contact my MPP. I will do whatever I can to make sure that schools in my Board are compliant with Bill 3. I owe this to my anaphylactic son; I owe it to other kids with anaphylaxis; I owe it to Sara Shannon and most of all, I owe it to Sabrina.