Mixed reaction to nut-free schools

By Audrey Wise

August 22, 2013 Updated Aug 23, 2013 at 10:19 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill -- As students head back to school this year, some are facing a new reality, a peanut and nut free area.

Dr. Kenneth Arnett, a pediatric allergy specialist at OSF Saint Francis, said a child doesn't even have to ingest anything Just coming in contact with nut oils can cause a reaction ranging from rashes and swelling to throat closure or death.

That's why more and more schools are banning peanuts and other nuts from campus.

"If you have even one child that you can prevent having a death related to an anaphylaxis reaction to peanuts," Dr. Arnett said. "I think it's well worth it."

Peoria's District 150 now has 12 schools that are nut-free, new this year is Hines Primary. They have about five students that are highly allergic to peanuts.

"If a child is that allergic and it's that much of a health issue, why put that child in that situation?," District 150 spokesman Chris Coplan said.

Also adding the nut-free status this year is Germantown Hills District 69. Out of 280 students this year in their K-2 building, 12 have a nut allergy.

"We truly believe that this is a reasonable response due to the number and severity of the allergies that we have," Superintendent Dan Mair said.

This means changes in the cafeteria, as well as what parents can send for lunch.

Michelle Wells has a 2nd grader at Germantown Hills. Wells said her daughter is a very picky eater that happens to love peanut butter.

"I think my overall problem, and not just my problem, but a lot of other parents who have voiced their opinion about this is why remove the rights of all for a few," said Wells.

Both districts said they evaluate the situation each year based on the medical needs of their students.

Meanwhile the debate rages on among parents and schools.

"Is it the school that really wants to protect the children or is the school that wants to protect themselves from future lawsuits?" Well added.