North Sanpete School Board outlines process for possible ban of energy drinks in elementary schools
MT. PLEASANT—At their most recent meeting, the North Sanpete School District (NSSD) Board gave elementary school administrators approval to begin the process of making a student handbook rule change to ban energy drinks and other highly-caffeinated beverages from campus and school-sponsored activities.
The rule change will mirror the one implemented in April 2015 by North Sanpete Middle School (NSMS) Principal O’Dee Hansen, which says students cannot consume products containing more than 5 milligrams of caffeine per ounce during school or associated activities.
The change came after a series of health related concerns involving students, which Hansen says motivated him to conduct his own research on energy drinks. What he says he found was that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had cited no recommendations for caffeine use in young children.
According to Randy Shelly, former NSMS principal, a female basketball player passed out before an away game and was rushed to the emergency room, but doctors said she was healthy and attributed her fainting spell to the high amount of caffeine found in an energy drink she had consumed before the game.
Hansen said another incident occurred on school campus when a student fell violently ill and was taken to the doctor by his parents, only to find the same cause behind the sickness.
Elementary school administrators went to the board for suggestions and asked how Hansen had achieved a successful rule change and what methods they can use to get the beverages off campuses.
NSSD Superintendent Dr. Sam Ray said because the rule change will not be within district policy, administrators must first take the concern to the community council because they are the voice of the parents.
Upon the council’s approval, an education campaign must be created outlining the risks associated with the caffeinated drinks, which can include heart palpitations, fainting, dizziness, headaches, nausea and various other health dangers, according to the FDA.
“I had to draft a ‘how-to’ guide to determine the differences between soda and energy drinks,” Hansen told those who attended the board meeting. “Then I had to present the defining lines to the community council and get their approval, followed by approval from the board.”
While the schools’ primary concerns are to protect the health of students, they say another issue is in student conduct after they consume the drinks.
“You can certainly notice a change in behavior in students who drink these drinks,” Hansen said. “Students almost act as if they are strung out and it’s become a distraction.”
Board member Stacey Goble said her son had came home from school and said he sees elementary students going to school with iced coffees, which contain more than 5 milligrams of caffeine per ounce.
“I think it’s pretty prevalent in our schools,” she said.
Although schools have yet to educate students to the risks of the popular energy drinks and other caffeinated beverages, Hansen says students learn about appropriate health and nutrition in health classes.
School Board President Rich Brotherson told everyone in attendance that both parents and students must be educated in order for a noticeable change to happen.
“You see an issue in the school and you try to address what’s best and safe for kids, Hansen told the Messenger. “We want them to be safe and if parents want to give these drinks to kids, they can do it on their own time, but while they’re here, and if we see that it’s affecting the educational environment and their learning, then we want to make a change.”
Since the policy went into effect in 2015, Hansen said there have been no further incidents and the kids have been great about following the rules.