District bans peanut butter, gum | AspenTimes.com

District bans peanut butter, gum

John Colson

No peanuts, no gum, no kidding.Those are the rules these days at the Aspen Public Schools campus.One is a new policy that apparently has some parents in a rebellious mood despite the fact that they can’t do anything about it, while the other is the enforcement of an old policy – with a new twist.Peanuts prohibitedStarting this year, Aspen Elementary School is a peanut-free environment, mainly because there are more students in school with allergies to nuts.”A lot of schools are going to that across the country,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko, noting that if two kids sit next to each other in the lunch room, one with a peanut butter sandwich and the other with an allergy to peanuts, the allergic kid can get sick merely by being near the sandwich.”Food allergies, especially peanut allergies, are becoming a hot issue for parents, schools, restaurants, and even commercial airline services, and the reason is clear – they can be deadly,” states a website, http://www.allergies.about.com. “An accidental casual contact with peanuts, or even inhaling small amounts of peanut particles can cause a severe allergic reaction and even death for those who suffer from this condition.” Symptoms of anaphylactic shock occurring in people allergic to nuts include swelling of the lips or tongue, closure of the throat and difficulty breathing. It can worsen to the point where the victim dies of suffocation.The site continues: “The average American eats up to eight pounds of peanuts and peanut by-products (like peanut butter) a year, according to Allergy and Asthma Network/Mothers of Asthmatics, Inc.” But, it reports that allergies to peanuts and other nuts are on the rise in the U.S.Sirko said there are four children with peanut allergies at the elementary school this year, and the administration decided that old measures – such as the establishment of “peanut-free tables” in the cafeteria – would not be sufficient.”I know for parents it’s kind of a hassle,” Sirko conceded, noting that she has had some lively e-mail exchanges on the topic. She said she tells complaining parents, “You wouldn’t want the kid next door to put your kid in jeopardy” if the circumstances were reversed.See GUM on page A6She was not aware of any violations of the policy to date, and said there are no “peanut police” at the doors of the cafeteria checking lunch bags.’Spit it out’All three schools at the district’s Maroon Creek Road campus have long prohibited gum, but this year administrators began enforcing a zero-tolerance policy with vigor because of the new artificial turf on the playing field beside Aspen Middle School.”Gum really messes the field up,” Sirko said. “On the field, it’s a no-no.””They’re really not supposed to have gum in school anyway,” she continued, and admitted loose enforcement of the no-gum policy in the past.Asked what a student risks by violating the “no gum” rule, Sirko said, “I suppose they just make ’em throw it away, spit it out.”But, she mused, “habitual gum offenders” might face stiffer penalties for repeated violations. But, “I don’t know how aggressive we are in monitoring that,” she said.Middle school principal Paula Canning said she, too, is wondering what the punishment might be for a determined gum-chewer at her school, but added that so far, “nobody’s been sent to the principal’s office for chewing gum.”John Colson’s e-mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com