Law to require schools to permit asthmatic kids to keep inhalers


TORONTO – Asthma advocates believe Ontario is set to become the first province in which children can legally carry their inhalers with them at school.

A bill known as Ryan's Law, named for a 12-year-old boy who died after suffering an asthma attack during recess at his Straffordville school, southeast of London, is set for a vote in the Ontario legislature today.

Ryan Gibbons' school did not allow him to keep his inhaler with him, instead keeping it locked in the office because it was prescribed medication.

Ryan's Law will require every school to allow a student who has asthma to carry their medication with permission from their parent or guardian and doctor.

Rob Oliphant with the Asthma Society of Canada says school boards across Ontario had a patchwork of policies on inhalers and though some provinces have policies similar to Ryan's Law, he believes Ontario will be the first to make that into law.

George Habib with the Lung Association says because asthma is so common, people can forget just how dangerous it can be.

In an interview with, Windsor education lawyer Bryce Chandler says the introduction of the law makes sense, given that school boards have been moving in this direction for some time.

“This really confirms the movement that we’ve been seeing within school boards,” says Chandler, a partner with Shibley Righton LLP. “There’s no question that asthma inhalers are prescription medication. Certain school board policies already allow some students to carry their own medication in circumstances where students have provided written notification that they have been taught and are capable of self-administering the medication.”

While still in its early stages, there may be questions associated with Ryan’s Law, says Chandler, such as whether there will be limitations or exceptions in the case of very young students, or individuals who may not be capable of self-administering an inhaler.

“Another interesting question will be whether the written permission from a health-care professional will need to be renewed and resubmitted on an annual basis,” he adds.

While some may raise the “slippery slope” argument in relation to allowing students to carry medication, Chandler says overall, the law is positive news.

“You have to weigh the specific circumstances and balance the risk with the potential harm,” he says. “If the appropriate safeguards are in place such that a school board can ensure that a student has been taught to use the inhaler properly and that the student is capable of self-administering the inhaler, she or he should be allowed to do so.”

-With files from

© 2015 The Canadian Press

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