Public schools

New Jersey School District Implements Total Ban on Peanuts

Not normally a person who restricts things, says one yes vote, but children's safety's at stake

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Lyndhurst School District via the Observer

The Lyndhurst school district in New Jersey voted in a special meeting 7 to 2 in favor of a policy banning students in Kindergarten through 8th grade from bringing any peanuts or peanut-containing foods onto school grounds. High school students are now allowed to eat peanuts only in the cafeteria. The district already had a restrictive peanut policy, allowing the consumption of food containing peanut only in designated classrooms by students in 4th through 8th grade, which came about  The anti-peanut policy was first implemented after one child had an "apparent reaction." The parent of that child is a member of the school board. The local Observer reports:

BOE member Jim Hooper told The Observer last week that it was one of his sons who was stricken at the time. He elaborated: "I have two sons who have peanut allergies. We don't have cafeterias in our elementary schools and sometime during the 2004-2005 school year, one of them who was attending Roosevelt School where, at the time, the kids ate lunch in the gym, had a reaction to something while he was in his gym class."

The boy was taken to an area hospital and recovered, Hooper said.

"If we had a new middle school and new cafeteria – which we've tried to get [through a public referendum that failed] – where we could come up with something that would allow non-allergic kids to eat peanuts, then maybe we could control things better," Hooper said. "But we don't. Some kids can go into anaphylactic shock from being exposed to peanuts. So, it's a safety issue. "I'm not normally a guy who restricts things," Hooper said, "but we're trying to protect the kids."

The policy change came about after a "concerned parent" thought the peanut policy wasn't strict enough, says the school superintendent. In a letter to parents she warned:

"Nut allergies can be life threatening. It takes only the slightest smell, touch, or ingestion of peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oil, a product that may contain trace amounts of peanuts or a product that has been processed in a plant that also manufactures peanut products, to cause a potential anaphylactic reaction.

A few years ago, a Harvard professor of medical sociology, Nicholas Christakis, suggested that the increased worry over peanut allergies resembled mass psychogenic illness, better known as epidemic hysteria. Only about 150 people a year die from all food allergies combined, he noted, similar to the number of people who die from lightning strikes and earthquakes combined.