WEST ORANGE, NJ — Among a series of mandated policies approved on first reading during last week’s West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) was the new “Management of Life Threatening Allergies in Schools” policy, which coincided with Allergy Awareness Week from May 10 to 16.
West Orange Schools Superintendent Dr. J. Scott Cascone expressed hope that the board would officially the policy during its second reading on June 1.
West Orange parent Nicole Ruffo, a longtime advocate for allergy awareness within West Orange Public School, thanked the administration for recently acknowledging Allergy Awareness Week through a series of social media posts and classroom lessons.
“The allergy community has been asking for this acknowledgment and we are just very thankful that you have delivered and educated our large district,” she said. “Many allergy families have been reaching out to me and feeling heard.”
She also thanked the superintendent for acknowledging the importance of mental health awareness when he reached out Yoga Playhouse to “incorporate food-allergy management into the ‘mindfulness minute’ of the week.”
Three of Ruffo’s children, who all suffer from food allergies, also thanked the school district for being a partner in allergy awareness and shared some food allergy facts with the public.
They stated that one in 13 children—which translates to about two children per classroom—has a food allergy. They also noted the top nine allergens among children—which include eggs, milk, peanuts, soy wheat, shellfish, fish and sesame—and said that one person is sent to the hospital every three minutes due to a food allergy.
The WOBOE encouraged the public to read the mandated policies at woboe.org and to provide input prior to the final vote.
In addition to recognizing Allergy Awareness, the superintendent also acknowledged Special Education Week, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, National Police Week and Mental Health Awareness Month.
Noting the importance of “destigmatizing” mental health needs, Cascone said the district also recognizes a need to be supportive.
“We need to create an environment where all people feel comfortable coming forth with any mental health challenges they might have,” he said. “To that end, we have great resources. Our guidance department—under the direction of Director Cheryl Butler—has done a tremendous job of availing themselves and providing individualized support to students and families…
“My thoughts go out to all individuals who may be wrestling with mental health challenges.”
The next WOBOE meeting will be held virtually on June 1 at 7:30 p.m. A public work session will also be held on May 27 at 5:30 p.m.