BRISTOL, Vt. — On an October afternoon, Aurora Husk walked out of Bristol Elementary School with her shoulders slumped and a frown on her face.
Her mom was there to pick her up, and Aurora was unhappy about missing class. Aurora was due for her second dose of hemp oil that day. She takes three doses each day to treat her seizure disorder.
“It’s disruptive for her, whatever she’s involved in she has to stop and come outside with me,” Aurora’s mother, Megan Vaughan, said. “I feel like it’s a disruption to my child, but I’m going to do it because she needs it.”
The 10-year-old from Bristol has experienced as many as 40 seizures a day since she was 8 weeks old, Vaughan said. Aurora has an inoperable scar on her brain from a burst blood vessel and suffers from a condition called electrical status epilepticus.
Since this past spring, Aurora has been taking CBD hemp oil to treat her condition. Therapeutic hemp oil has been a topic of debate in recent months as state officials expanded regulations to allow Vermont’s four medical marijuana dispensaries to produce those products.
Vermont Attorney General Bill Sorrell acknowledges that hemp oil can provide some therapeutic benefit in treating seizure disorders. He wrote in an April memo that residents should not fear prosecution for possessing hemp oil products.
Still parents, including Vaughan, face difficulties when trying to arrange for their children to receive hemp oil doses during the school day.
“They look at me like I’m packing heroin in my daughter’s lunchbox or something,” she said, referring to the school’s staff.
Vaughan said the school nurse at Bristol Elementary will not keep the oil product in her office.
The school principal could not be reached for comment.
Aurora can only receive the hemp oil off of school grounds, Vaughan said. Twice a day — at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. — Vaughan drives to the school to pull Aurora out of class and walk her around the block, where she administers the dosages.
The oil has to be administered two hours before or after Aurora takes her seizure medication, so the time that Aurora gets her hemp dosages is important, Vaughan said.
The process takes about 15 minutes, Vaughan said, which amounts to nearly half a class.
Some days Vaughan can’t make it to the school on time, or even at all, due to work commitments. Vaughan’s mother helps out or Aurora has to miss a dose.
Karen Richards, executive director of the Vermont Human Rights Commission said a student’s need for hemp oil could fall under the public accommodations act, assuming the student has a disability.
The commission makes recommendations as to whether they believe discrimination occurred in a particular case. The department has yet to investigate the hemp oil issue, but Richards said she has heard of the problems parents are facing.
The real issue is the difference between federal and state law regarding hemp and medical marijuana, she said pointing to the memo from the attorney general’s office.
“It is not a legal substance under federal law,” she said, referring to hemp. “We have the same issues with medical marijuana.”
“You may have it in the state, but you’re still in violation technically of federal law.”
Schools that receive federal funding are at risk of losing that money if the school is found holding drugs, Richards said. Schools are required to commit to maintaining a drug-free workplace to receive federal funding.
Breena Holmes, director of maternal and child health at the Vermont Department of Health, said there is a manual that establishes protocol for how school staff should administer medications.
For a prescription medication, schools are required to obtain written permission from both the parent and a medical provider, according to the manual. Medications must also be in a current pharmacy-labeled bottle.
For non-prescription medications, a school must obtain written, phone or email documentation from a parent, and the medication must be left in the original store-labeled bottle or container.
Medications cannot be given without the proper permissions, according to the manual. Guidelines for how school employees can look out for drug and alcohol abuse are also detailed.
“It is not clear where hemp oil fits in the current guidelines and it may not fit in either of these current categories,” Holmes said.
Vaughan said she wants a better explanation for why the school can’t give her daughter the “medicine” that she sees as helping to reduce Aurora’s seizures.
Vaughan said she feels the school has a duty to follow through with Aurora’s Independent Education Plan.
“We have children with disabilities in a public school, they have an IEP so it should fall under the disability clause,” Vaughan said.
“Who’s to say a mom isn’t cooking with hemp oil at home?” she added. “You can buy this at the co-op, you can use it as a fiber.”
Regardless of whether the school agrees to administer Aurora’s hemp oil, Vaughan plans to continue providing the treatment.
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1RAsrOF