I have three very dear friends whose children have food allergies. They are not seasonal allergies or allergies that are inconvenient. For these children they are truly a matter of life and death. Our school is considered “peanut-aware”. They tried to go peanut-free, but there was too much outcry from the PB&J gang. Plus I bet a lawyer suggested saying the school was peanut-free would open the district to a law suit if little Max snuck in a peanut butter cup and little Lily got a rash. Instead they encourage parents and students to keep a peanut-free environment within the school. As a member of the PB&J and Fluffernutter gang myself, I too was dismayed that I couldn’t just pop a sandwich into my child’s lunch box.
If I didn’t have dear friends who have to worry every time their child goes to a friend’s home, I would probably not understand why a peanut ban is so important in schools. Yet I am conflicted because I also have dear friends whose children will only eat PB&J. Shouldn’t their child have the right to their favorite lunch?
I want to say yes of course! But find I cannot. As my friend Eli stated, one boy might love peanut butter sandwiches. But his girl “loves to breathe.”
As friend A stated, if her son had a disability, would the school have to make accommodations? Yes, they would by law. So why would a potentially deadly allergic reaction not fall under the same accommodation? Life is life, after all. (Her son has previous anaphylaxix reaction from a relative’s kiss)
Obviously the school (and fellow parents) cannot accommodate every allergy. What most don’t understand is that this isn’t some parent panicking. It is more than their child possibly sharing another’s lunch. It is their son’s best friend who eats peanut butter, doesn’t wash his hands and then they play together. Be honest with a show of hands, how many kids wash their hands and faces after they eat? (Am I the only one not raising my hand?).
There is also mal-intent. At a school that is not peanut-free, a friend’s son was bullied by another student with a sandwich saying “will you die?”. The girl did not touch this boy, but what if she had? What if this girl had ended up hitting the boy with the sandwich and he had a reaction? I personally don’t think it is worth the risk.
To my understanding, children do not necessarily have the ability administer Epi-pens to themselves.That sounds reasonable to me. In an emergency, they will not have the dexterity or nerves of steel to self-administer. You cannot practice this skill. It’s not as if you are able to practice being unable to breathe, in panic mode and hey find and then stick yourself with this here pen. Teachers are awesome, smart and educated. But they do not have the emergency training to deal with a true health emergency. I am sure there are more than a few alternatives that would allow peanut butter in the school. These procedures take time, effort, money, training and with all of that there is not a 100% guarantee that a reaction will be averted. Teachers have so much to do, controlling a class of 18 plus children. Should we give them the added burden of being on allergic reaction detail? Or we could just say, for five lunches a week pick something other than peanut butter?
Yes, I know there are so many other allergens (eggs, gluten, the list goes on) but for the sake of this blog post I am choosing to focus on the most common and debated allergy in our children’s school.
To be honest, there are at least 100 other items I could put in my child’s lunchbox that do not contain peanut butter. For me, it’s not worth the risk to another child. Not to sound too argumentative but I am sure that yes your child will “only” eat PB&J, but that’s not the only staple in their diet. I am sure that throughout the day they eat something without peanut butter. I agree it takes creativity, but we can find something other than peanut butter to put in our child’s lunch box.
My daughter might like to have Fluffernutter, Eli’s daughter likes to breathe.
And breathing kind of trumps peanut butter.
As a person with a life-threatening allergy, whose kids’ inherited her life-threatening allergy… I’m SO not a fan of the peanut-and-all-sorts-of-other-foods bans at many schools. The forbidden foods’ list at my kids’ school includes peanuts, walnuts, tomatoes, eggs, dairy products (made from cow milk) and potatoes. Good luck packing a lunch!
The reason I loathe the Ban All the Foods approach many schools adopt is that it isn’t reasonable to ban multiple food groups — nor is it possible to enforce a ban to the degree necessary to protect the rare kid who has the severest of the severe allergies. Like the kid who could die if the wooden spoon you used to stir spaghetti sauce & put in the dishwasher was later used to stir the batter for a cupcake is THAT allergic to tomatoes. (Like me, my kids have an “easy” potentially lethal allergy — sulpha drugs aren’t a danger that potentially lurks in every cupcake or lunch box).
In the city I grew up in, there was ONE designated Allergy School — as it is possible for ONE school to be uber-vigilant.
(It’d also be lovely if schools stopped reading parents the riot act if a kid accidentally turns up with a verboten food — trust me, the disgusting half-rotten McDonald’s French fry wasn’t put in my girl’s gym bag on purpose).
Well said, Kerri! My kids’ elementary school had a peanut free table, but I wonder how effective that really was. It must be terrifying for a parent to send a severely allergic child to school every day.