From an old link. Just making sure we have this here:
Nuts, food canned in classrooms
By Bethan L. Jones/ Staff Writer
Thursday, June 23, 2005
With the trees and plants in full bloom, many residents are feeling the inconvenient effects of seasonal allergies; a runny nose, itchy eyes and the cause of those killer afternoon headaches, sinus pressure.
For most, allergies are just a quick blip on the way to summer, a week when a certain plant causes a reaction. For a growing number of school-age children, however, allergies are a serious day in-day out concern.
According to the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in December 2003, the incidence of children with serious peanut allergies has doubled in the past five years. In a study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 374 students between September 2001 and May 2005 had anaphylactic reactions in school.
In Lexington, 159 children in the nine public schools suffer from life threatening allergies ranging from tree nuts to latex.
Starting in September, a new allergy policy will be in place calling for all faculty to be trained in allergy awareness and the use of an EpiPen, a hypodermic needle used to inject a patient with epinephrine to help prevent anaphylaxes.
The policy will also end the tradition of food in the classrooms, including parties, and will continue of nut free tables at the elementary level.
Jane Franks, a former allergy and immunology nurse and the coordinator for school health services, is the author of the new policy and a strong advocate of keeping Lexington's allergy policy at the cutting edge. Lexington wrote its original policy six years ago, the first in the state, which was used by numerous other schools and the Department of Public Health in setting state allergy guidelines.
"[The. policy] creates a safer environment for all students," said Franks from her office at Lexington High School.
Currently at all Lexington schools, on-site nurses maintain a supply of EpiPens in case of a student reaction. According to Franks, approximately 25 percent of reactions at school are first-time reactions. All students with serious known allergies are required to have an individual health plan which, under the new policy, will be designed by the student's allergist or primary care physician and be signed off by the child's parent or guardian.
One of the most noticeable areas of change will be the elimination of parties, bake sales or any other event which would bring food into the classroom. Under the current policy, only classrooms with identified allergy students have been made food free but as of September, food will not be allowed in any classroom.
Franks said the decision may sound harsh but the change has proved successful for the well-being of the students, promoting a healthier attitude to food. At Bowman Elementary School this academic year, several teachers tried food-free classrooms and found it so successful, they, with the help of the Bowman nurse, have written a handbook to help guide other teachers.
Rather than cupcakes on a child's birthday, teachers can invite the student's parent or grandparent to come in and read the student's favorite story. Instead of eating Chinese food to celebrate Chinese New Year, students can learn origami.
"There are lots of things you can do which ... focus on cultural events," said Franks, adding in other school districts like Newton which have enforced food-free classrooms, students can wear a special cape or have a birthday chair cover.
Harrington kindergartners were started with food-free classrooms this year with success. Franks said the change in culture will be beneficial to all students, not just those suffering from allergies, citing the increase in juvenile diabetes, gluten and lactose intolerance and childhood obesity. She added the removal of food will also help stunt the unhealthy association of sweet foods as a reward for good behavior, a practice which has limited effect on classroom performance and a lifelong effect on a personal response to food.
"We have to make sure all kids have healthy food choices," said Franks. "The policy lays the groundwork for developing the wellness policy we are required to have in September of 2006."
(cont'd . . . )