Friday, September 4, 2009

No Special Treatment For THAT Kid!!!

One of the Park City (our fancy-schmancy mountain resort town) elementary schools just announced that the entire school would be a peanut-free zone. One of their new little students is violently allergic to tree nuts--to the point that exposure could kill him.

The outrage was immediate.

Our Local Conservative Radio Talk Show Host went on the offensive, bewailing the Constitutional right of little children to bring peanut butter sandwiches to schools, about sweet elderly grannies deprived of packing homemade peanut butter cookies into lunch sacks. Then, more ominously about what the PUNISHMENT for bringing tree nuts to school could be--suspension? Actually being EXPELLED FOR EATING A SNICKERS BAR ON SCHOOL GROUNDS? The calls were what you'd expect: indignant folk hissing that "that kid should just stay home!" And "why does everything have to change for THAT kid?" And "who do his parents think they are, ANYWAY?"

(Editor's note: in defense of Doug Wright, L.C.R.T.S.H.--he's a good guy. He treads a narrow line. He has a clunky sense of humour, sort of like your dorky uncle at Thanksgiving, but he's pretty smart and reads a great deal.)

I'm sure the natural response here is indignation that someone has the NERVE to expect the school to change everything for ONE kid.


Don't you think (or as a parent, don't you already know) that EVERY child ends up with some kind of special provision? Our children are unique. They battle challenges that were rare when we were young.

Autism has gone from 1 in every 10,000 children in 1980 to 1 in every 133 today.

ADHD and ADD diagnoses tripled in the 1990's, and quadrupled in the first decade of 2000.

Asthma and allergies have skyrocketed. For any parent staring at their child's chest and willing it to rise and fall will tell you that an allergy isn't a fashionable way to "get attention." (Another caller's opinion.)

This doesn't even take into account the myriad ways that we now know about how children learn--visual learners, kids who retain information through movement, those who read words that make sense when printed only on mauve paper.


My twins have gone to a strict peanut-free preschool, kindergarten and now elementary school. It has never been any sort of hardship or trauma--except for the time I forgot a Almond Joy stuck in my MacLean's pocket. I was horrified that I could have put his little classmate in danger. Talk about winning Totally Suck Mother Of The Month.

I got depressed hearing the pleasure, the self-righteousness in these "adult" voices when they talked about excluding the little allergy dude. How he should "just stay home." And when the time comes when THEIR kid needs special help, should THEY "just stay home?"

This isn't about inconvenience. This is about tolerance. Civility. Kindness. Patience. Aren't these the things we want our children to learn? Will this peanut-free ban really deprive any child of their Constitutional, God-Given right to a peanut butter sandwich? (Editor's note: cue the patriotic music, I'm the one in the corner throwing up in my mouth.)

Upon occasion, my twins require special assistance. The Todd and I do a great deal to show our appreciation to the school for their kindness and flexibility. We try to make their requirements as minimally intrusive as possible. We are deeply, deeply appreciative of our beautiful school and the lovely souls and hearts that teach and learn within it. If your kid does need special help, I think it behooves you to show appreciation and repayment of the Karmic debt whenever possible. I think sincere appreciation instead of a strident "that's our legal RIGHT!" works wonders.

I volunteered in my twin's class last year and watched as one little guy paced back and forth while the teacher talked about pronouns. It's the only way he could keep from exploding behaviorally. But, he learned. Another little girl was doodling as Miss Karen spoke. Her doodles were pictures that helped her understand the concept of "pronoun."

It was a little messy. A little noisy. And incredibly beautiful.


  1. Ok, as usual, we don't have all the facts therefore how can we make an informed, educated judgement? They use the term that, "exposure could kill him". Clearly every parent, non-parent, and human being would be outraged if this child were to die on school grounds because of an exposure to nuts. But first I think we need to define what "exposure" is in this case. Is it direct contact to skin? Contact to open ductile glands such as eyes, mouth, nasals, etc? Or is it not even being in contact, just by being in the room he become ill?

    I am a Father, Husband, brother, son, and citizen, but I also am a Paramedic. Therefore, might I suggest that prior to the school shutting down this entire school, they need to take a more educated role in this. For example. If one of the children were to have peanut butter on their pancakes before school for breakfast (at home) but were to have the oil residue on their fingers from this, it can, and I stress CAN be lethal. Not GUARANTEED. So just how far will and should this go? Perhaps a compromise is better suited. Having him eat in locations other than the cafeteria, thereby allowing the other children to continue with their lifestyles. Remember that this child we remain allergic to nuts for his entire life. Will he expect the same treatment in all areas of life? Picnics for church? Workplace enviroment? Street side food vendors? Clearly this CAN get out of hand.

    Every prevention should be made to protect this child from harm. But to suggest that hundreds of children and families will have to modify their lives is also an unacceptable option in my opinion.

    By obtaining more detailed information, a better choice can be made, one that will ensure a safe enviroment for the child and on that will allow the other children to continue on with their normal lives. Normal is the key word here. This child's normal life is to have a life threatening allergy while the rest of the school kids have their "normal" lives. Remember that each an every single one of us ALL have special needs in one form or another.

    Don't be quick to condem this school or child....but don't be too quick to hand them the keys to the kingdom either.

  2. It's a stinkin' peanut butter sandwich! It makes me so mad that parents feel put out that they can't pack a peanut sandwich for their child when they would be putting another child's life in danger. I don't get how parents can be so outraged about this. And no, my child doesn't have a peanut allergy, thank heaven. Parents need to think about other's for just one moment and think of how they would feel if it were their child. Erin, I think your post is great and I wish people could be a little bit more tolerant. What are they teaching their kids when they're acting this way over peanut butter? I would guess that within the next 5-10 years almost ALL schools will end up having to go peanut free. It's just the way the future is looking with the rise of allergies in our kids.

  3. Sorry, I agree with the paramedic.

  4. I have a kid and I don't expect everyone else to adapt their lives for her. If she has an allergy it is my responsbility to deal with it, not everyone else's.

  5. I think the paramedic is trying to appear to be fair, but if you read carefully you can see which side he clearly chooses. The peanut butter oil from a pancake is indeed a real scenario, but it's extreme. They're just stating that kids can't bring pb into the school. The exposure from a pb&j sandwich presents a scenario that would be more likely to cause harm than a child who might have the oil on his hands. They do have all the information and know that this boy cannot be exposed. Haven't any of you been an airplane and have been told there will be no snack b/c someone on the plane has a severe peanut allergy? Many, many people these days have severe peanut the point they can't even smell a peanut. I just think it's so sad that parents are so upset that they can't have peanuts at school. And for the poster who says it's her responsibility to deal with it and not everyone else's-you CLEARLY don't understand a peanut allergy. If you did, you would realize that the choice would be to ask parents to please don't bring peanuts to school or keep your child at home in a bubble. Would you want that for your own child? Where's the compassion? Geez. All the parents that are super upset must have perfect children that don't have any problems, limitations or disabilities.

  6. Well said, Erin! I couldn't have said it better!

  7. I don't think it is too much to ask to save a childs life. Good for the school to make it safe for this little kid. I also have a child with food allergies and couldn't keep her safe on my own. We all need to have more compassion to accomidate others when their health and safety is at risk!

  8. My youngest son is airborne allergic to peanuts. Having peanut butter on your breath is - and has been - enough to cause him to react. And his reaction is more than just the itchy inconvenience of hives - he goes into anaphylactic shock and his blood pressure drops.

    His classroom is peanut-free, for which we are grateful. And no, we don't expect the school to provide this kind of environment throughout the years. However, during this time of early elementary - before he is fully capable of managing his own allergy and self-limiting his exposure - it is absolutely necessary.

    Thank you for this post.

  9. I have to say, I go back and forth on this one, and here's what goes through my head:

    I DEFINITELY don't want to put a child's life in danger! It's not his fault he has an extreme alergy!

    But, if it is so extreme, is it fair to make a school full of children and their families become the families of an extremely allergic kid, and all that that entails? I.e. if he is REALLY allergic, even items processed in places that also process peanuts could cause a reaction. That would mean all parents packing lunches, treats, etc. would have to read labels and be as careful as the parents of the actual child. Now, I don't know if his allergy is that bad, but what if it was? What about the parent that has a child with another extreme allergy? Should that parent be subjected to dealing with a peanut allergy as well for her child's whole elementary education? And, if that child's allergy were just as extreme, (for example, I know a young girl that is VERY allergic to dairy) should the WHOLE school give up all of their milk and dairy products, as well?

    I think I would have a hard time trusting a WHOLE school full of parents and kids and workers to not forget or mess up. (I've done that before! Boy, did I feel bad - and what if?) Would it be easier to allow the child to come home at lunch where the environment is easier to control? The girl I mentioned earlier is SO allergic to dairy that even indirect contact sends her into bad allergic reactions! The cleaning and hand-washing, etc. that is involved is CRAZY! Even if everyone was nice enough to try and follow the same procedures, 1st - would I want to subject them to that and 2nd - would I trust them all to get it done as well as is needed? (OK, yes, I'm one of those people, that think a job is done better by myself! Sorry!! ;)

    But, then is it OK to make the child live in a bubble? But how is the rest of the outside world dealt with?

    Can a society possibly cater to EVERY child or person? I definitely think there are cases where it should - this child, for example, should - but maybe not in quite so extreme a way. If the school can't allow peanuts, what about the hypoglycemic child that needs constant protein? Should they be limited to only eggs and jerky which can prove unhealthy if eaten too often or is hard for a youngster to eat (wow, I get a sore jaw just thinking about it!)? It may not be life-threatening, but if you've ever dealt with that health issue, simple functions become very difficult when your blood sugar drops! For one extreme, there is always an opposite extreme.

    I definitely don't think that this child should be deprived of the chance to go to school, and I do understand that help is needed at that young age. So, I certainly don't think that NOTHING should be done for this child, but maybe something less extreme, and I'm not saying this just because of the right to have a peanut butter sandwich! (although, I will admit, I don't know what I would do without PB&J sandwiches!)

    Our school has a "peanut free" table in the cafeteria. The table gets special cleanings, etc. Also, the classrooms of the children that have those allergies are peanut free as well, but not the whole school. That, at least, leaves room for accomodations to be made for children who need "the opposite". I think that is fair, and I have had NO problems with it. (Except for when I messed up, and then I had the guilt!! Ugh!!) I don't think people need to be quite so riled up and mean about it, but I lean towards the idea of compromise.

    Again, a VERY hard dilema! Something obviously must be done, but to what extent? It is definitely NOT something that should be dealt with in ignorance, rudeness, or hostility! I would hope all sides would work toward a reasonable resolution.