Education, not peanut ban, for Arlington Heights schools
After months of study, Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 has decided that education is the best first step rather than an all-out ban on nuts following a student's life-threatening allergic reaction last spring.
Superintendent Lori Bein said that a committee of 35 parents, administrators, teachers and nurses met several times over the summer to discuss the various allergy issues students face and how to most safely and effectively address them.
"Some families thought foods like peanuts should be banned, others didn't think that was the right thing to do," Bein said, adding that other common allergens such as milk or shellfish can lead to severe reactions. "What we decided we can all do together to do better is educate people about what it is like to live with a life-threatening food allergy."
The discussion arose last spring when Melissa Teuscher's third-grade daughter had a severe reaction to peanuts without having eaten any nuts. She had to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance and was on oxygen overnight.
The Teuschers asked District 25 to consider banning peanuts from its schools to create a safer environment for children with such severe allergies that can cause reactions just by being near peanuts.
"At this time we all agree that educating people is the best first step and becoming more allergen aware. I don't believe we could ever completely ban all allergen foods," Bein said.
About 200 students in the district have a medical plan for allergies that includes an EpiPen, she said, \ but in the last school year the EpiPens were only employed five times.
Bein said staff and students already go through training programs on allergies, but that the committee came up with suggestions of how to enhance that training and expand it to families and the community.
A video from Lurie's Hospital about childhood food allergies will be shown to all parents at curriculum nights and the schools will send out additional information to families before holiday parties.
A clip of the video was shown to the school board on Thursday night and included children of different ages talking about their allergies, how it restricts them, how it makes them feel and what they wish other people around them understood.
Bein said the committee will meet again in late September to assess how the "reawareness campaign" is going. They may also plan a larger community event for next May, which is food allergy awareness month.
The Teuscher family still thinks a ban is the right step, but Bein said they have been part of the committee and very supportive of helping the district find solutions.