BROOKINGS – After more than five months of discussion, the Brookings School Board gave first-reading approval Monday to a new set of allergen guidelines.
There was little discussion before the vote, but Superintendent Roger DeGroot said the guidelines have already been influenced by a variety of groups.
“We’ve been working on them and tweaking them and working with various parents, and we’ve been working with our nurses and our administrators, trying to find a guideline that fits everybody. I don’t know if there is such a thing. We’re happy to propose these guidelines to the board,” he said.
Guidelines only need one reading, but DeGroot said because the allergy issue has been in the public eye for some time, he is asking the board to give a second and final approval during its next meeting.
Discussion began this spring when parents of students with severe peanut allergies said they are afraid their kids may have a life-threatening reaction to contact with peanut products while at school. They asked that peanut products be banned from the schools and that a district-wide plan be put in place for how staff will care for students with these allergies.
Since then, the district has gathered much input on these guidelines. The board reviewed a first set of allergen guidelines in March but recalled them based on concerns from its attorney.
Board president Larry Rogers said the current set of guidelines has been posted on the district website for several weeks. They can be found at www.brookings.k12.sd.us by clicking on “School Board” at the top-center portion of the page, then on “School Board Information.”
“The language is significantly different from the first time it was trotted out,” Rogers said Monday. “A lot of ‘discourage’ rather than outright ‘ban’; a lot of emphasis on health monitoring.”
According to the guidelines, when a student enters the Brookings School District or has a change in health, parents will be requested to complete a health form. This form will alert the school nurse to any health conditions that warrant gathering further information. If the student has an allergy that requires medication, a treatment plan will be written by the student’s parent/guardian, their doctor and the school nurse.
School staff will know about these health concerns within the first days of school. At the elementary level, every attempt will be made within the first two weeks of school to place a sticker, containing the student’s picture and explanation of his/her condition, on the back of the classroom teacher’s photo ID. Lunchroom supervisors will also be made aware of any known student food allergies.
School staff will be trained/re-trained by nurses every year, in all buildings, about the risks of accidental exposure to allergens in school, how to recognize symptoms of exposure and how to properly use an EpiPen. They’ll also learn the district protocol for responding when a student is exposed to an allergen.
Furthermore, the Brookings School District will:
• Not knowingly serve peanut products in its lunchrooms and will ban all peanut products in vending machines.
• Discourage students and staff from bringing peanut products to school.
• Identify specific peanut and peanut-free zones or make other accommodations agreed upon by principal and parent/guardian.
• Encourage hand washing before and after breakfast, lunch and snacks.
• Discourage trading of food or sharing of utensils.
• Be vigilant of “food bullying” and, when harassment occurs, take prompt and effective disciplinary action.
• Monitor and enforce strict cleaning and sanitation policies and procedures in school cafeterias. Staff will be trained to use commercial cleaning solutions on tabletops and will develop food handling and preparation protocols to avoid cross-contamination.
The guidelines also dictate that any treats brought to school should be “healthy and peanut-free.” Classes that include students who have known allergies will have treats approved on a case-by-case basis. Signs will be posted in all K-3 classrooms to remind parents that the room is peanut-free.
Contact Charis Prunty at firstname.lastname@example.org.