OLR Research Report

August 26, 2008




By: Soncia Coleman, Associate Legislative Analyst

You asked if any states ban peanuts or tree nuts from schools.


A legal database search revealed only one state that enacted a tree nut/peanut ban in schools. In 2007, Rhode Island prohibited the sale of these items in school cafeterias, required the designation of a peanut/tree nut free classroom and table in the cafeteria, and required signs alerting people to the presence of a person with a nut allergy in the school. These provisions only applied to elementary and middle schools that enrolled a student with an allergy. However, in 2008, the Rhode Island legislature instead made the requirements, with the exception of the postings, optional measures that schools may use as part of their required plan to deal with such students. (The new law also specifically allows schools to implement total bans.)

Connecticut law already requires boards of education to implement a plan for the management of students with life-threatening food allergies (CGS 10-212c). This is the approach recommended by the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, a leading advocacy group on this issue.


The 2007 Rhode Island legislation required all elementary and middle public and nonpublic schools that enrolled a student with a peanut/tree nut allergy to:

1. post a sign at each point of entry to the school and at the cafeteria entrance, alerting people to the presence of a person in the building with a peanut/tree nut allergy (but not identifying the person);

2. prohibit the sale of peanuts/tree nuts in the school cafeteria;

3. designate a peanut/tree nut-free table in the cafeteria;

4. designate a peanut/tree nut table in the cafeteria; and

5. designate one classroom per grade level where there is a student with a peanut/tree nut allergy as peanut/tree nut free.

Students could still bring peanut/tree nut products from home. (According to a guide produced for families, if a student is assigned to the “peanut-free classroom,” then the school must arrange for the storage of his or her peanut products outside of the classroom.) The requirements did not apply if there were no students in a school with a peanut/tree nut allergy.

In 2008, the legislature repealed everything in this law but the posting requirement. Instead, effective June 26, 2008, the law requires the governing body of each elementary, middle, or junior high school to develop a policy designed to provide a safe environment for students with peanut/tree nut allergies. When a school is aware that an enrolled student has a peanut/tree nut allergy with potentially serious health consequences, the school must implement a protocol, consistent with the governing body's policy, that protects the student while he or she is attending school or participating in school-sponsored activities.

The governing body's policy must include the development of an individual health care plan (IHCP) and an emergency health care plan (EHCP) for each student with such food allergy. The student's IHCP and EHCP must be developed collaboratively and be signed by the school nurse, the student's health care provider, the student's parents or guardians, and the student (if appropriate). Depending on the nature and extent of the student's peanut/tree nut allergy, the measures listed in the IHCP can include the posting of signs at school, the prohibition of the sale of particular food items in the school, the designation of special tables in the cafeteria, the prohibition of particular food items in certain classrooms, and the complete prohibition of particular food items from a school or school grounds

The new law also requires the Rhode Island Education and Health departments to amend their rules and regulations for school health programs to establish standards for the care of students with peanut/tree nut allergies (2008 R.I. Pub. Laws 86, 90).