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Allergens at sports events a conundrum for city schools

September 10th, 2013 8:59 pm by Nathan Baker

Allergens at sports events a conundrum for city schools


Concerns raised by the parent of a child with life-threatening allergies could lead to a policy change at Science Hill High School sporting events.


Johnson City Schools Director of Secondary and Student Services Janie Snyder said Tuesday that a committee will soon be formed to address the issues raised by the parent of an 18-month-old infant with severe peanut allergies who asked the Science Hill High School Band Boosters to stop selling shelled peanuts at football games.


“We’re in the process of really determining how best to approach the situation for fans, the family and for everyone,” she said. “We don’t want anyone to be hurt by what we offer at football games, so we want to be very careful as we go forward.”


The Johnson City Board of Education broached the topic last week at its monthly meeting.


Director of Schools Richard Bales told the board that school administrators and the high school’s marching band leaders received emails from the parent after the Hilltoppers’ first football game of the season.


“I think the biggest concern was that people toss down the peanut shells because they don’t know what to do with them, so they’re all over the stadium,” Bales said. “If you have a child with peanut allergy, I can understand how serious that is.”


But the board members asked if another solution could be found, concerned that banning peanut sales from Kermit Tipton Stadium could potentially hurt the fundraising efforts of the marching band, which depends on concessions sales and other campaigns to supplement the money provided by the school district.


“I talked to one of the band boosters, and it is a large part of their funding, and they have some product now, so if we’re going to change that policy, they asked that we let them know,” Board Chair Kathy Hall said. “A lot of people want peanuts and Coke, and if you tell them you don’t have peanuts, they will walk away without buying anything.”


A motion to ban shelled peanuts from the concessions stand failed at the board meeting without a second. Instead, the board voted to form the advisory committee.


Snyder said the family of the child was offered a seat at last Friday’s game in the band’s section of the stadium, where food and drink are not allowed at all.


When formed, Snyder hopes the committee will find a more permanent solution before the team’s next home game, set for Sept. 27.


“We felt like the most immediate thing we needed was to have an option for the parent last week,” Snyder said. “Now we need to make sure we have good options for other people in similar situations.”


Snyder stressed that students’ allergies are already taken into consideration at the district’s schools, where peanut-free lunch tables and hallways were established years ago and EpiPens are always at the ready.


“We’re very sensitive to the needs of our students regarding allergies and other medical conditions,” she said. “We want to make sure our schools are a safe place for all of our students.”


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