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A FAMILY'S PLEA <br> SCHOOL BAN ASKED <br> IN PEANUT ALLERGY

It's as all-American as baseball and apple pie, and odds are it's the brown bag choice of many area schoolchildren.

But for one local boy, peanut butter is a death sentence.

Vincent LoPresti, who turns three next month, has a peanut allergy so severe that the smallest trace of a peanut product -- even a whiff of peanut butter's distinctive aroma -- is enough to cause a shock-like reaction that could kill him.

That's why his parents -- in a move that mirrors a recent nationally publicized Massachusetts case -- are taking their son's problem out of the family room and into the classroom.

Mark and Marilee LoPresti want peanuts banned in the Grand Island school that Vincent will enter two years from now.

No peanut butter sandwiches. No peanut snacks. Not the smallest speck of peanut dust anywhere in the building.

"It's like bringing cyanide to the classroom," LoPresti said.

They're giving the Charlotte Sidway School a full two years to get ready.

And, they're expecting a battle royal with other parents. But they're more frightened that a smudge of peanut butter may accidentally come into contact with their son, who once suffered a severe allergic reaction when he smelled peanut cookies at the Summit Park Mall.

Grand Island school officials said they sympathize with the LoPrestis. But they think a total ban might not be practical in a school with 500 kindergartners and first-graders -- and a single shared cafeteria.

"Practically, I don't know how we could do that," said Superintendent Paul D. Fields. "To guarantee that none of those 500 kids would bring peanuts -- or peanut residue -- to school with them? I don't know how we could guarantee that."

The LoPrestis' call for a schoolwide ban on peanuts is a first on Grand Island. It's also likely a first in the state, according to officials at the New York State School Boards Association in Albany.

But it's nothing new to Trisha Warringer, the Massachusetts mother who startled the nation two years ago by telling the North Andover school system to ban peanuts in the school attended by her kindergarten-age daughter, Haley.

"It's a similar situation," Ms. Warringer said of the proposed Grand Island ban. "If I see a peanut butter sandwich near my daughter, I react the same way you would if you saw a gun next to you. That could be it for her.

"You don't want to ask for help with this," Ms. Warringer said. "But probably eight out of every 10 kids are bringing in peanut butter, so what do you do?"

That's the problem Grand Island officials said they're now going to have to struggle with.

And Vincent's parents know they're fighting an uphill battle.

"I expect there will be some problems," LoPresti said. "Some parents will say we're inconveniencing them. They'll say, 'Come on, peanut butter is an all-American food.' "

"That's the hard part -- trying to get people to put themselves in our place."

It's not an easy place. Vincent's parents learned of his severe peanut allergy when he was about a year old, when his first exposure to the substance -- a piece of peanut butter sandwich at day care -- sent him into an anaphylactic shock, the worst type of allergic reaction.

Through extensive testing, the list of Vincent's allergies has expanded. Besides peanuts -- the food that can harm him the most -- Vincent also is allergic in varying degrees to shrimp, clams, peas, chocolate, soy, wheat, eggs, chicken, almonds and other tree nuts, and cats and dogs.

Vincent -- like most allergic children -- probably will outgrow many of his food sensitivities as he matures, said Dr. Jeffrey Rockoff, a Kenmore allergist and Vincent's doctor.

But the peanut allergy -- the "most ominous" for children -- is a lifelong condition, Rockoff said. And the shock state that a severe peanut allergy can cause may include symptoms such as hives, vomiting and cramps, and -- ultimately -- a sharp drop in blood pressure, unconsciousness, and death, he said.

It doesn't take much to cause a reaction.

"Vincent doesn't have to eat it (peanuts) per se, but he could be in a room where it's being used, and he would smell it and have a reaction," Rockoff said.

Although Vincent is in many ways a normal child -- a fan of sports, music and the Power Rangers -- his extreme sensitivity often makes everyday life difficult for the LoPresti family.

"You can't go anyplace," LoPresti said. "The only way we can take a family vacation is if we rent a condo that's never had cats or dogs in it, and if we take our own food, utensils, pots and pans -- all our own stuff."

As for food, shopping itself can be a nightmare, LoPresti said.

"We read every label," he said. "There's lots of things you can't bring in the house."

Late next month, LoPresti said, Vincent will travel to New York City to take part in research tests being developed by Dr. Hugh Sampson, a Mount Sinai Hospital physician considered the nation's premier expert in food allergies.

The LoPrestis hope that Sampson eventually might make progress in treating their son's extreme allergies.

But in the meantime, they said, they need to know if they can count on the school system to put a total ban in place.

School officials in both Massachusetts and Grand Island say that ultimately a complete ban may not be the answer.

Although a schoolwide peanut ban would be legal for Grand Island school officials to adopt, the problem would be enforcement, said Dan Kinley of the State School Boards Association.

"The question then becomes the impact on everybody else," Kinley said. "On the face of it, there doesn't appear to be any legal reason why the School Board couldn't do what these parents want. But the hard part would be, how do you enforce it? How do you put it place?"

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