BOERNE — The Boerne Independent School District recently updated its severe food-allergy plan after some parents advocated for a change.
“Student safety is our No. 1 priority, so we needed to do whatever it takes to make sure these kids with these severe food allergies are safe on our campuses,” said Carole Gish, the district’s nurse coordinator.
BISD’s School Health Advisory Council — comprised of parents, students, staff and community members — created a committee to champion the overhaul.
The resulting Food Allergy Management Plan assigned allergy tables for the cafeteria, awareness zones in classrooms, and prohibited homemade goods on campus.
Committee members Darcy Moore, Brooke Ball and Jessica Davila-Burnett said other alterations include explanations of key medical words.
“People don’t realize the seriousness of it. It can be fatal,” Moore said. “We’re just trying to educate our parents, our school community, our local community, that this is a real thing that’s happening. We just want to protect these children.”
In conjunction with the revisions, a program titled “Be A Pal: Protect a Life from Food Allergies,” was held Sept. 24 at BISD’s six elementary schools. Students, teachers, and faculty wore teal to create awareness.
They also discouraged pupils from teasing those who suffer acute or even life-threatening reactions to food.
“The plan is very thorough and has many preventative measures in place to keep students with severe food allergies safe during the school day,” said Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary School Vice Principal Jessica Shults. “Our nurse, teachers, administration and parents work closely together to ensure the plan is being implemented.”
Moore was given permission by Food Allergy Research & Education, or FARE, to use its program, which gets children to realize the dangers of food allergies, not share food, wash hands, help friends in need, and refrain from bullying.
Studies indicate that kids with food allergies are twice as likely to be harassed.
Gish said the plan focuses on elementary school students because they still require help choosing safe items to consume.
“When you get to the middle school and high school age, those kids tend to be more independent and they know what they can and cannot eat. They kind of self monitor their food,” she added.
According to national statistics, one in 13 children has a food allergy, roughly two per classroom.
For youngsters, the most prominent allergens are peanuts and tree nuts. Other culprits are milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, wheat and soy.
Each day is a battle for Moore, after discovering her daughter was severely allergic to peanuts and tree nuts.
When Lexington Moore started kindergarten a year ago at Fair Oaks Ranch Elementary, her mother knew she had to push for a safer environment.
“I told the school, ‘I’m not going away. We’re going to figure this out.’ I’m not scared, I’m not going to complain without being willing to roll up my sleeves and help,” Darcy Moore said.
Now at Van Raub Elementary School in Fair Oaks Ranch, Lexington and fellow students with severe food allergies benefit from the new protocol, the mother added.
Every school year parents or guardians fill out forms spotlighting their children’s allergies. If a severe food allergy is identified, all teachers, extracurricular instructors and campus administrators are notified, and a note is supposed to go home with every student specifying what foods are permissible.
“We can’t control and we can’t protect everybody 100 percent, but we’re trying. Through education and through just this plan we’re hoping that we can kind of eliminate some of the allergic reactions on campuses,” Gish said.
Parents can no longer send treats to class for birthdays or holidays without a Food and Drug Administration-approved label. Instead, BISD encourages other treats such as pencils or erasers.
In cafeterias and classrooms, students may choose an allergen-free table or desk.
“There’s that balance where you want to empower the child to take care of themselves and protect their own space and if they’re not comfortable, say something,” Moore said.
Northside Independent School District has a similar plan, but campuses can independently decide how to handle food allergies.
Teachers and administrators collaborate with parents, the school nurse and child-nutrition services.
“Our district does more of an individualized plan. Not so much the masses, but we look at every kid and make a plan,” said Debra Rice, NISD dietitian.
Each year, students must submit a physician’s form outlining food allergy/special dietary needs; included is a disability action plan.
Like BISD, NISD also utilizes awareness zones and allergy tables in cafeterias. Nonfood parties are also emphasized.
For more on BISD’s and NISD’s food-allergy plans, visit boerneisd.net/Page/8985 or nisd.net/child-nutrition/special-dietary-needs-food-allergens.