Parents and food allergies…

I read on CNN today about a town where parents are trying to push a first grader out of school because they don’t like the accomodations required by the school to keep the little girl safe.

I’ve often felt torn on the issue of food allergies.

On one hand, I don’t know that it’s actually a reasonable request to make a school nut free.  Having worked with urban poor kids, I can tell you that PBJ is what many of their families can afford, and that even though some would qualify for free lunch, many parents are too proud to fill out the paperwork to get it.  That PB in the PBJ is often a big source of protein.  Making a school nut free has socio-economic implications, and poor kid’s parents are NOT going to go buy soy butter or any of the alternatives.

On the other hand, if there is an individual who has that level of severe allergy, when children are quite young (pre-k, k-5) I can see why a school would choose that as a coping method.  Young kids aren’t good at keeping their hands to themselves.  But I think a doctor’s note should be involved…I’ve met many the overprivledged parent who has exaggerated the severity of their child’s allergies (remember, I taught 6th graders…and I knew several well enough that I know they were telling me the truth and their parents were overstressing something).

I also think that middle schools and high schools should not go peanut free.  Eventually these allergic children do need to go out into the world, where there are peanuts.  Giving them a space where they can learn how to advocate for themselves and gain confidence is important.  Mommy isn’t going to go to college with them and hold their hands, is she?

As the parent of a child who suffered food allergies, I know what it’s like to pour over menus for those scary items.  And to have a child suffer an allergic reaction because a kitchen lied or didn’t understand the question (or just didn’t care).  If Ellie were still having allergy issues, I’d be far more worried about her school and the ease with which they hand children food items.

In the case of the school on CNN, the parents are just acting unreasonable.  If you have a problem with a school’s reasonable accomodations (and nothing they asked was unreasonable, really), then it’s you who should consider moving schools, not picketing a six year old. Way to teach tolerance, folks.

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