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November 14, 2006

Pushy Food Allergy Parents

I just read this article about parents working/fighting with schoold districts about accomodating their food allergic child at school. Folks, this is yet another example of how some parents go overboard in keeping their child safe. Here's some of the scoop...

The article said one parent "is on a mission to get her son’s school, a public primary school... and eventually the entire Vernon School District, to... take the necessary steps to make the district 'peanut free.'" She says, 'I would like the district to ban it... I feel it should be a district ban not just one school.'

Remember the old saying about getting big things done? How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I feel that getting a district to ban peanuts is not productive. As you've read here on ChildFoodAllergy.com, research shows that touching traces of peanuts is unlikely to envoke a full blown anaphylactic reaction. So, if a reasonable accomodation, such as peanut free tables, is possible, then why ruffle so many feathers trying to get a district wide ban of all peanut products? It's likely to backfire on you and build more opposition to the child food allergy than support. Remember, for the non food allergic child, peanut butter is an inexpesive and nutritious food. See what another parent wrote in response to the peanut ban request...

'Instead of using valuable time that should be used on educating our children wouldn’t it make more sense to take the time to safeguard your child. If you’re worried about people not knowing, then you need to write letters and call everyone that would have contact with your child, teachers, and support staff alike and make sure they’re aware of this allergy. Your child should be given food from home rather than expecting teachers and other parents to keep your child from these foods. Your child should be wearing gloves to keep from oils being transferred to his skin or if your child is that severely allergic, he should be kept from the public schools and put into a home school environment where you will be able to monitor him 100%.'

And don't dramatize to make your point. This parent was quoted as saying, 'In our district they managed to take all the snacks and vending machines out of the schools because they were unhealthy but yet we have to fight to get something that can kill our children out, it is amazing.' We've talked about this before. If you are trying to garner support to help keep your food allergic child safe, don't use overly dramatic language or examples (remember the peanuts are like a loaded gun comment?). Instead of educating, your simply building walls and pushing other parents away by using this tactic.

Use education, not drama to build support for managing your child's food allery. Raise awareness and provide educational tools to help other people help you.

Posted by David at November 14, 2006 4:50 PM


I have used the peanut as loaded gun example, but I wouldn't dream of using that in the context of talking to a teacher or principal or classmate's parent. At least, not as an opening comment. It's only after repeatedly being met with the same confounding refusal to accept reality that I start trying to make it more black and white. It's one of those things, you know? People's ability to understand anaphylaxis is not one-size-fits all. It would be great if everyone were laid back, accepting, cooperative, etc., but everyone isn't. After they blow you off so many times, I think it's human nature to try to frame the danger in a way that they can relate.

At my kid's school, I finally got to talk to the one other parent of a peanut allergic child (our kids share the same teacher but are in different times of day kindergarten), and she expressed concern about issues I didn't even know were a factor. The staff knew of these situations and failed to mention them to me. They're degreed, child-loving people who are experienced with dealing with this other peanut-allergic child for two years through their early education program. At some point I do believe it might be helpful to frame the consequences of their ommissions to them. I can't imagine they truly want to be responsible for the illness or death of anyone, you know? But obviously they don't place the issue at a high enough importance level to address it with everyone concerned.

That tells me they don't get it.

Posted by: Leslea at November 14, 2006 6:57 PM

My daughter (peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and seafood) is in first grade. For the last two years, the kids eating peanut products have sat at one end the table, while the kids with other foods sat at the end. The peanut eating kids have to wash their hands after lunch. This has worked well - the kids actually police their own lunches!
I have read that at some schools, there is a "peanut table" for kids who bring peanut products, instead of a "peanut allergy table." So the kids who bring peanut products have to sit away from the other kids.
I am not for banning peanuts from cold lunches, although I believe hot lunches should be peanut and tree nut free due to possible inhalation of vaporized proteins during cooking.

Posted by: Jodye at November 16, 2006 6:55 AM

I actually sit in our lunchroom every day. My daughter is in first grade and I watch others with allergies as well. Our district is so "green" when it comes to allergies that it has totally been unsafe. Kids try to sit at the allergy table with peanut butter. Also the cafeteria serves peanut butter dipping cups on some days with celery. No one eats the celery and I watch these kids eat using their fingers to scoop it out. Those days are nightmares.

There must be 2-300 children in that cafeteria. Parents just don't see what goes on unless they are there. They use the same cloth to wipe all tables, never wipe chairs, and the allergy kids I watch walk in the cafeteria and sometimes touch all the chairs as they walk in. Hand washing is only in the allergy kids classes that have 504's that specifically instruct to. When I wanted to move my child out of the lunchroom, the assistant principal wanted to basically put her in a storage closet with a table to eat her lunch.

They should have more control over peanuts in the lunchroom, more teachers monitoring, eliminate the peanut butter dipping cups and have a table reserved for peanut eating. I just don't understand why a death always has to happen before things change. I will use a good analogy for you....you wouldn't put a bee allergic child in a cafeteria full of bees would you? But if you could contain the bees you would.

oooh and better yet, eat the peanut butter at home! Most parents wouldn't go through the troube of trying to change a sugar filled habit for a healthier one though. It's too much trouble.

I hope you all are actually sitting in the cafeteria some days to actually see some of the things that go on. It is seriously hard to keep hundreds of kids in their chairs and you find the peanut butter and jelly wanderers. It has been so scary.

All the schools are like this in our county though. I did homeschool her last year through Florida Virtual Academy, but it is her RIGHT to go and she wants to.

No child left behind....unless they have food allergies!

Posted by: Debbie at November 19, 2006 5:19 AM