A piece of pecan pie triggered an emergency evacuation at an elementary school in Wadena, Minnesota.
For students at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School, the day began normal enough. However, that quickly changed at lunchtime when it was discovered that a student had packed a slice of homemade pecan pie for lunch.
A lunchroom aide discovered the dessert as she made her rounds past the student’s table.
“I had to do a double take,” said Bethany Wheatcroft, the lunchroom aide who first saw the slice of pecan pie. “I thought to myself, ‘There’s no way that’s pecan pie.'”
Bethany confirmed with the student that it was pecan pie, then immediately contacted school security, who promptly ordered the evacuation of the school in accordance with district policy.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to peanut and tree nut allergies,” explained Lee Westrum, superintendent of Wadena-Deer Creek Public Schools. “Nothing with peanuts or tree nuts is allowed in any Wadena-Deer Creek school.”
Westrum added that the parents would be held accountable.
“The parents know this rule, I’m not sure why this child had pecan pie, but the parents will be held accountable for this incident.”
The school was evacuated, and the police called in to remove the offending dessert item. A police officer was hospitalized following the incident due to tree nut allergies. A spokesperson for the Wadena Police Department said that the officer was in stable condition, and would most likely return to active duty some time next week.
Not everyone is happy with the handling of the incident. Some parents have criticized the response as unwarranted and excessive.
“They evacuated the entire school over a slice of pie,” said Devon Bryce, whose son is a third grader at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary. “They’re acting like it’s a bomb or something.”
Another parent was unsure why the police were involved.
“Calling the police out for a kid eating pecan pie?” remarked Kylie Ryzynski, the mother of a Wadena-Deer Creek kindergartener. “That’s beyond excessive. And how much did that cost the tax payers?”
Other parents applauded the school’s response, citing how deadly nut allergies can be.
“Over one hundred kids die every year from nut allergies,” says Karen Willits, the mother of a Wadena-Deer Creek student who suffers from a peanut allergy. “That’s too many. I’m glad the school takes this issue seriously.”
Willits had sharp words for critics of the school’s policy.
“What if it was your kid’s throat closing up because someone brought in pecan pie or a peanut butter sandwich? Would you still be saying the school was overreacting then?”
Following the incident, students were given the rest of the day off. School officials say that classes will resume as usual on Monday morning, and that counseling will be available to any students who need it.
“We understand how traumatic this incident may have been for some,” stated Westrum. “The principal of Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary has informed me that the school counselor’s doors are always open.”
Westrum also reminded parents that any food containing nuts was banned from all Wadena-Deer Creek schools.
“We again remind parents that our schools are nut-free zones, and any food items containing nuts are prohibited on the premises. We don’t want another repeat of Friday’s incident.”
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