Jones County School declares campus nut free zone

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - An entire school in Jones County has been declared a nut free zone.

According to a letter sent out by North Jones Elementary School nurses, due to increasing numbers of students with peanut allergies, the "Allergy Action Plan" have instructed parents to avoid sending any nuts to school.

The letter also asks parents that if their children were to eat any type of nut before coming to school, to "make sure he/she washes his/her hands and brushes his/her teeth thoroughly before coming to school."

"There are 21 or 25 students who have nut allergies. We just need help and for parents to understand that there are children up there that if they get a peanut near them they get a severe blister. Or if they ingest it then they have to have epi-pen injectors," said Assistant Superintendent James Walters. "Basically they realized they had a large number of students who were allergic and sent the letter to ask parents for help. There are no repercussions if they bring a peanut butter sandwich, but at least try to avoid packing the food."

Walters also said he can see both sides of the issue, but at the end of the day safety of the students in the district takes high priority.

"We are just trying to keep the kids safe; we just want them to help us with the children. We have 21 kids in 7 different grades suffering from this; we can't separate or split that many up," said Walters. "I don't want to stand beside the mother of a child that died if there was something we could do."

Many schools in the Pine Belt have nut allergy policies that don't require banning the foods entirely. According to Kevin Carole Stevens, nurse at Baxterville Elementary school in Lamar County, separating the child with an allergy during lunch can also help the problem.

"We have a student with a severe shellfish allergy," said Stevens. "We have signs posted around our cafeteria reminding people that we have students with shellfish allergies and to be careful. On days shellfish is served in the cafeteria, we separate the child and make sure all his classmates wash their hands thoroughly after eating."

Parents have taken to social media with their frustrations regarding both sides of the issue.

"You can't hide your kids from the world, would you want your child in a bubble? If all you are worried about is whether your child eats a nutter butter or not, your priorities are warped," said Stacey Malley Harter on Facebook.

Another parent was grateful for the school district being proactive.

"My child doesn't have any allergies but if he did, I would hope that the school would take precautions to keep him safe and I would hope that other parents would understand and be supportive," said Melissa Hinton on Facebook.

Food allergies affect one in every 13 children nationally. Signs of an allergic reaction to peanuts or any tree nut often include skin reactions, itching or tingling around the mouth and throat, digestive problems, shortness of breath, and runny nose, and can be fatal according to Mayo Clinic research.

If a child shows any symptoms of an allergy, both schools encouraged taking the child to see an allergist, or to send the child to school with protective medicines such as Benadryl or Epi-pens.