Local area schools to vary on Halloween treat policies
By Tina Akouris email@example.com October 28, 2013 6:06PM
Washington Junior High and Academy sixth graders Luis Torres and Rita Martinez. | Supplied photo
Updated: December 1, 2013 7:17AM
There was a time where teachers and parents didn’t have to worry about what kinds of candy their children brought to school for Halloween parties. But now with more children suffering from food allergies and illnesses such as diabetes, elementary schools need to take special precautions for in-school parties.
Typically, Halloween parties are usually in elementary and pre-schools and tend to be phased out in the middle school and high school grades. The Marycrest Early Childhood Center in Joliet, which has pre-school age students ages 3 and 4, requires that all Halloween treats be store-bought and individually wrapped.
“We do have several kids with food allergies — peanut and milk allergies — and we label those classrooms and our school nurse knows,” Marycrest principal Penny Greenwood said.
Greenwood also said her school serves snacks to its preschoolers everyday, so teachers and staff are used to dealing with those children who have allergies. And the children who have those allergies are also used to eating certain things, and not feeling excluded from the group.
Greenwood said several different kinds of healthy snacks are offered each day and children can chose from a variety.
“They know different kids eat different things,” Greenwood said.
But she also acknowledged that students are bringing in different things for Halloween, and not just the usual candy.
“We have a lot of kids that bring in juice boxes now that are maybe orange (for Halloween) or we have parents bring in fruit for the entire class,” Greenwood said. “But now parents are contacting us and asking us, ‘What would you like?’ ”
Taft Elementary School principal Joy Hopkins said her school stopped having students bring in their own treats for Halloween parties — but not because of food allergies.
“There was some inconsistencies with the classrooms, where one kid would bring in a huge Subway sandwich,” Hopkins said. “The food that was brought in was inequitable and we had some parents tell us that the kids were bringing home way too much candy.”
Instead, students at Taft receive individual bags of treats like a cupcake or popcorn made by the school’s family volunteers.
Valley View School District’s health services coordinator, Catherine Rigali, said the district has action care plans in place for students with diabetes or food allergies.
Rigali said the nurses at each school work with the students’ parents and families to make sure the children are not exposed to any allergens that may make them sick. The plan is then turned over to that specific school’s staff, making them aware of which children have food-related allergies or other health issues.
Plainfield School District 202 spokesperson Tom Hernandez said the district has promoted healthy snacks at Halloween “for years,” but that ultimately it is up to each individual school to decide what snacks are not allowed.
“Some (schools) go with having pencils or trinkets, but that’s a building-level decision,” Hernandez said. “With 29,000 kids in our district, there are going to be some kids who have food allergies.”