Janesville39.2°

No more amps: Schools may ban 'energy drinks'

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
May 24, 2008
— Some children are turning to energy drinks to start their days, and that’s dangerous, Janesville School District officials believe.

The school board on Tuesday will be asked to vote to ban energy drinks in all schools.


Energy drinks combine high doses of caffeine and sugar along with herbs or other substances that are said to boost energy.


Medical authorities are concerned that children’s health may be harmed by caffeine, according to a memo presented earlier this month to Superintendent Tom Evert’s advisory committee.


While the schools don’t sell the drinks, some students carry them to school.


“We are beginning to see our middle school students walking into the schoolhouse with these cans in hand, proudly announcing they are ‘amped up,’” according to the memo, written by Marshall Middle School Principal Steve Salerno and Mat Haeger, the district’s manager of health services.


The memo continues: “It is believed this has led some students to be exhibiting increasing amounts of loud, unsafe behaviors. Shortly, the ‘boost’ students receive wears off and they ‘crash.’ This leaves them lethargic and unable to participate to their fullest ability in the classroom.


“This process repeats itself at lunchtime.”


Salerno estimated 10 to 20 students enter Marshall with energy drinks each day. He suspects some buy them at a nearby grocery store on their way to school.


“We see lot of blurting out in class, a lot of kinetic energy being burned up: leg shaking, a lot of tapping, kids not being able to focus on their reading,” Salerno said.


In the halls, kids who drink energy drinks can be louder and more boisterous than is normal for middle-schoolers, Salerno said.


When questioned, some students have blamed their behavior on energy drinks, Salerno said.


“We want to be able to take that out of the equation for them, so they can focus on what’s important for them right now, which is their studies and being a productive member of our schools,” Salerno said.


“Of course, we cannot prevent students from drinking them before school,” the memo states. “However, we encourage our parents to look at the research on these items so they can make an informed decision about what’s right for their child.”


Caffeine is a habit-forming stimulant.


“Medical articles from the United States and Canada indicate that children and pre-teenager children may be more adversely affected by caffeine,” according to the memo. “This effect may be related to a child’s developing nervous system and the up-and-down hormone levels in pre-teenage children.”


There appears to be no proof, however, that moderate caffeine consumption is harmful to children.


The large doses in energy drinks are most concerning, Salerno said.


A 16-ounce energy drink could contain more than three times the amount of caffeine in a 12-ounce caffeinated soft drink or a cup of coffee.


Salerno and Haeger also worry about the high levels of sugar in energy drinks: “This sugar initially provides a boost of energy but two to three hours later can lead to a loss of energy, feeling hungry and unfocused concentration.”


The schools already limit the sale of soda pop and other sweetened drinks to after-school hours.


IF YOU GO

What: Janesville School Board meeting where the board will be asked to act on a proposal to ban of energy drinks in schools.


When: 7 p.m. Tuesday.


Where: Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St., Janesville.



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