“OH NO – not a second one.” That was the immediate reaction of thousands of East Enders on hearing that another little boy has died at school after suffering an allergic reaction to dairy food.
It was bad enough that 14 year old Nasar Ahmed a pupil at Bow School, died after suffering an allergic reaction to a chicken dish he had eaten for school lunch, as well as an asthma attack. School procedures were supposed to look after him, but they failed. Now a second mother is having to ask her local school: why were you not able to take care of my son?
The facts are that at just after 11.30am on 28th June, the London Ambulance Service was called to the William Perkin C of E High School in Greenford, Ealing, in connection with a 13 year old schoolboy having suffered a severe allergic reaction. He was taken to a Northwick Park hospital, where he remained, in a critical condition, until he was transferred to intensive care at Great Ormond Street. He went into cardiac arrest and died on 9th July, with his parents at his bedside.
The boy has been named, unofficially, as Karan Cheema. There are further unofficial reports about how Karan came to suffer the allergic reaction, which are very disturbing. These amount to allegations that other boys forced cheese on him, deliberately, knowing that he was allergic to it. Reports vary, with witnesses variously telling reporters and posting stories on social media saying that cheese was flicked at Karan, or rubbed on him, or put in his lunch box or that it was rammed in his mouth and he was forced to eat it – as an act of bullying.
Karan’s mother Rina has said that she was called by the school at 11.30am and rushed over to it, arriving just as Karan was being put into the ambulance. She is devastated at the loss of her son, though she is slightly comforted by the thought that she did at least get to say goodbye.
The parallels between Nasar and Karan are striking. Just like Nasar, Karan had asthma and used an inhaler. Just like Nasar, Karan’s parents had told the school about his medical needs and had given them medication he could need and had seen them draw up a care plan.
There the parallels stop. At the moment, Karan’s parents have the same questions as Nasar’s parents had, but they have not yet had any answers. Did the school slip up in following the care plan? When they rang his mother they asked her if they could give him piriton, a medicine commonly used to treat allergies – but why were they asking? Why weren’t they following the care plan, which should have told them which medicine to use and which procedures to follow?
In one further way, the cases are different. The Metropolitan Police are investigating how Karan came into contact with the allergen that set off the reaction. Initial investigations were conducted by Ealing Police and the matter was then passed to the Homicide and Major Crime Command. And on Wednesday, 28th June a 13 year old boy, also a pupil at William Perkin School was arrested and interviewed in connection with the incident. He was subsequently granted bail and is due to be questioned by police again later this month.
A post mortem examination is due to be carried out later today, 12th June. Whatever happens in terms of the arrest, police should also scrutinise the school’s response to Karan’s allergic reaction. Coroner Mary Hassell was very clear that Nasar’s life may possibly have been saved if Bow School had acted differently. A medical expert gave detailed advice to that inquest about what procedures schools should have in place to look after pupils with severe allergies and asthma. If a second school has failed a second boy, peope will be asking whether more children have to die before schools take their responsibilities seriously.
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Coroner: Nasar could have been saved