School boards and school authorities across Ontario will be required to develop and maintain a policy or policies to support students in schools with "prevalent medical conditions."
Beginning September 1, 2018, school boards and school authorities across Ontario will be required to develop and maintain a policy or policies to support students in schools who have asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, and/or are at risk for anaphylaxis (“Prevalent Medical Conditions”). Policy/Program Memorandum No. 161 (“PPM 161”), prepared by the Ministry of Education, provides direction to schools regarding the components that should be included in their policy or policies to support students with Prevalent Medical Conditions.
PPM 161 sets out the expectation that all school board policies on Prevalent Medical Conditions will include, at a minimum, the following components:
1. Policy Statement: The school board policy should include the following goals:
- To support students with Prevalent Medical Conditions to fully access school in a safe, accepting, and healthy learning environment that supports well-being, and
- To empower students, as confident and capable learners, to reach their full potential for self-management of their medical condition(s), according to their Plan of Care (further detail below).
2. Roles and Responsibilities: The school board policy should clearly lay out the roles and responsibilities of students, parents, school staff, principals, and school boards in supporting students with Prevalent Medical Conditions. These roles and responsibilities should be communicated by schools to parents, students and school staff.
3. Plan of Care: School board policies should include a Plan of Care form to assist in developing individualized information for a student with a Prevalent Medical Condition. The Plan of Care should include preventative strategies, identification of school staff with access to the Plan of Care, daily management activities, accommodations, notes and instructions from the student’s medical care professional, identification of symptoms, emergency contact information, details related to medication, and parental consent to share information on signs and symptoms with other students.
4. Facilitating and Supporting Daily or Routine Management: School boards should outline expectations for providing supports to students with Prevalent Medical Conditions, such as supporting inclusion by allowing students with Prevalent Medical Conditions to perform daily or routine management activities in a school location (e.g. within the classroom).
5. Emergency Response: School policies should outline expectations for school staff responses to medical incidents and/or medical emergencies at school in accordance with any existing school board medical emergency procedures or plans of care.
6. Raising Awareness of Board Policy and Evidence-Based Resources: School boards should raise awareness of their policies on Prevalent Medical Conditions, existing resources, signs and symptoms characteristic of medical incidents/emergencies, and school emergency procedures. Awareness for students may also be included in curriculum content in classroom instruction or other related learning experiences.
7. Training: School policies should provide for annual training related to Prevalent Medical Conditions for school staff who have direct contact with students with medical conditions. Appropriate training should also be provided for occasional staff. PPM 161 clarifies that the scope of training provided to support the implementation of the policies should be developed in consultation with teachers’ federations, principals’ associations, and education workers’ unions.
8. Safety Considerations: School policies should allow for students to carry their medication(s) and supplies, as outlined in the Plan of Care, set expectations for schools to support the storage and safe disposal of medication, and include supports for students with Prevalent Medical Conditions in the event of a school emergency or offsite activities.
9. Privacy and Confidentiality: School boards should have a policy in place regarding the confidentiality of students’ medical information within the school environment and should inform parents and school staff of the measures in place to protect students’ confidentiality.
10. Reporting: Subject to relevant privacy legislation, school boards should develop a process to collect data regularly, including, but not limited to, data on the number of students with Prevalent Medical Conditions at their schools and the number of occurrences of medical incidents. Such data should inform cyclical policy reviews.
School boards should already have policies in place to support students at risk for anaphylaxis and students with asthma, in accordance with Sabrina’s Law, 2005 and Ryan’s Law, 2015 respectively. Some school boards may also have policies or procedures in place for students who have diabetes or epilepsy. Any existing policies should be reviewed to ensure that, at a minimum, they meet the requirements outlined in PPM 161 as well as any other prescribed requirements.
PPM 161 recognizes that supporting students with Prevalent Medical Conditions is complex and requires the co-operation of education and community partners, including health-care professionals.1 The PPM emphasizes collaboration among members of the education community and expresses the goal of self-management for students with Prevalent Medical Conditions to the extent possible. With these goals in mind, school boards should begin to review any existing policies related to Prevalent Medical Conditions and to develop a new policy in accordance with the requirements under PPM 161 by September 1, 2018.
1 The Ministry of Education has developed resources, including a Prevalent Medical Conditions web portal, to support school boards.