AMARRIA JOHNSON, who attended first grade at Hopkins Elementary School in Richmond, Va., was an outgoing and energetic girl who loved animals, singing and telling jokes. She won reading and citizenship awards and planned to become a teacher. She also was allergic to peanuts.
On Jan. 2, 2012, a classmate gave Amarria a peanut on the playground. Despite her allergy, Amarria ate the nut and soon had trouble breathing. She sought out a teacher, but at the school health clinic, there was no epinephrine auto-injector prescribed for Amarria. Epinephrine auto-injectors, the most well known of which are EpiPens, contain adrenaline and are the first line of emergency treatment for anaphylaxis, an extremely severe allergic reaction that can become fatal within minutes.
At the time, employees in Amarria’s public school were not allowed to use epinephrine prescribed for one student on a different child; instead, the school called an ambulance, which transported Amarria to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead of anaphylaxis and cardiac arrest.
I’m the mother of a child with food allergies, and stories like Amarria’s are my worst nightmare. In describing her tragedy, I question the fairness of reducing a 7-year-old girl to a symbol. Nevertheless I repeat the circumstances of Amarria’s death because it appears they directly affected legislation in her state.
Just a few months after she died, “Amarria’s Law” was in place; the law requires...