District\'s allergy policy on the books Providence, RI

Posted on: Tue, 05/30/2006 - 7:41am
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District's allergy policy on the books
Separate eating areas for allergic children are established in school lunch rooms, and employees are given guidance on handling such issues.

01:00 AM EDT on Tuesday, May 30, 2006
By C. EUGENE EMERY JR.
Journal Staff Writer
SEEKONK -- Children known to be allergic to nuts can have their own nut-free lunchroom table, students are discouraged from sharing food or utensils, and bake sales are prohibited during the school day at the elementary and middle schools under a new policy approved by the School Committee last week.

The "life-threatening allergy policy" was developed after a parent approached Martin Elementary School officials this fall, asking for details of the school's policy was for dealing with children with peanut allergies. In fact, there was none.

"We started working with the parent and the five school nurses to come up with a policy," said Joseph J. Delude, assistant superintendent for business. An initial draft, completed in January, was then reviewed by the principals for their suggestions.

"We wanted a policy that was enforceable," Delude said. There were questions, for example about possibly banning peanuts and how to control parties that take place after school, where foods might spark an allergic reaction.

About 3 million school-age children are believed to have some type of food allergy, according to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network. Nuts, fish, eggs, milk, wheat and soy can spark problems. Some people are so sensitive, just riding in a plane where peanuts are served can be cause for concern. Some reactions can be deadly.

Part of the policy requires annual training, not just for teachers, aides and secretaries, but for all student teachers, custodians and bus drivers. The company that provides school meals is responsible for training their employees.

Among the provisions of the new policy:

"The use of food as a reward in any classroom will be minimized;"

Schools, particularly elementary schools, are supposed to have a "no food or utensil sharing" policy so children don't unknowingly come in contact with foods to which they might be allergic. Simply reusing an unwashed knife that was once used to cut something that contained peanut oil can spark a reaction in sensitive people;

Each school is supposed to have a separate "peanut free/tree nut free" table in the cafeteria. If there are children known to have other allergies, the school will try to have the table be free of those substances as well;

Because some children might inadvertently pick out something that contains a food that sparks a reaction, "no bake sales will be permitted at elementary or middle schools during the school day;" and,

The parent or guardian of a child with a serious allergy must sign an authorization allowing that information to be disclosed to bus drivers and school employees who might have regular contact with the student. If the parent or guardian refuses, he or she is responsible for the notification.

The policy also says it's up to the parent or guardian to give the school information about which foods the child should avoid, educate the child on ways to avoid foods that might cause a reaction, and supply the right medicine to the school so it will be handy in case of an allergic reaction.

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