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School district bans peanuts and nut products at elementary school



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PARK CITY -- The Park City school district has banned peanuts and tree nuts from one of its schools, saying a student with a severe allergic reaction to them could die.

Signs are now taped on the doors of Trailside Elementary School to let parents know about the new rule. The decision came during a Park City schools board meeting Monday night.

"We found that we have a student that has a severe allergy towards peanuts and nut products. And based upon that information, we just felt like we had to take the precautions necessary to ensure the safety of that young student," explained Park City School District Superintendent Ray Timothy.

School district bans peanuts and nut products at elementary school

But a group of parents disagree with the ban. They say it's not because they don't care about the student, but because research shows peanut bans do not work.

"It gives parents a false sense of security, and they're absolutely impossible to monitor," Kim Deimling, a member of the school's Parent Teacher Association. "We have over 500 kids, and how can you monitor their backpacks and lunchboxes and pockets and coat pockets every day?"

Last month, Deimling came to an agreement with Trailside's principal, Pat Flynn, to allow peanuts in the school, but only in the cafeteria. She says there would have been a hand-washing station nearby to allow students to wash their hands so they wouldn't bring peanut products on their hands into classrooms.

The school board overturned that agreement Monday night.

"We didn't even show up to the Park City board meeting because we thought the issue was resolved," Deimling said. "If we say we are peanut-free, in an ideal world, that would be fantastic. But I think it's impossible to do and to enforce."

Christi Worthington, who is also a member of Trailside's PTA, said, "I would like to see that peanut products be allowed in the lunch room. What I would ask the school board is how do we ignore all these medical associations that have done all the research and overwhelmingly say peanut bans do not work?"

Some parents say the peanut and tree nut ban creates a false sense of security for the student who has the allergy.
Some parents say the peanut and tree nut ban creates a false sense of security for the student who has the allergy.

During our interview with Ray Timothy, we asked him about the research.

"I understand the concern of the parents, because there are a lot of articles out there, even from the American Medical Association, which says nut bans are unrealistic because it gives a false sense of security," Timothy said. "I have read that information, but at the same time, this is not a typical allergy to peanuts or nut products. This is a student who has a life-threatening degree to those products. It's more than we've ever seen in the past."

The parents group says Parley's Park Elementary School, which is about 10 minutes from Trailside Elementary, is already nut-free.

"It would be up to the parents if they want to go that route, but we would rather educate our students on what to do if something were to happen," Deimling said.

She also points out that peanut butter has been a staple of a student's diet for a long time.

"I heard from over a hundred parents when this first came out, when we were trying to collect opinions, saying, 'My kids won't eat anything besides peanut butter,'" Deimling said.

She continued, "A single mom wrote to me saying, ‘I have four boys, and peanut butter is nutrient-rich, it's economical, and it's all they will eat. If we have a peanut ban, I will have to apply for a supplement program for school lunches.'"

Regardless, Timothy says it's still his job is to do his best to keep students safe.

"To me, the question is: What's more valuable? That my child can eat a peanut butter sandwich, or the safety and well-being of a student's life?" he said.

Timothy says he is still working on a permanent policy to deal with life-threatening allergies for students.

E-mail: acabrero@ksl.com

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Alex Cabrero

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