Thursday, July 30, 2009

Peanut Parents

Allow me (as if you have any choice!) to start this post by quoting from a post I wrote a couple months ago:

It's not that I'm unsympathetic to kids who have allergies, but at some point one kid's allergy cannot impact an entire class or school...

Schools can make reasonable accommodations for students with medical needs. If your child's medical needs are extreme--and life-threatening allergies constitute extreme, in my book--then perhaps an alternative to the neighborhood school would be the appropriate placement.

I am acquainted with another blogger, one who works in the education field but not as a teacher, who wrote a blog post expressing similar sentiments. She may as well have kicked a hornets nest.

It wasn't local parents who got their panties in a bunch. No, it was a group of parents in a distant city who got up in arms because she didn't suggest that schools should do everything under the sun to protect children from the scourge of a peanut. She wasn't sympathetic to their needs, she shouldn't work with children.

She should be fired.

Life got uncomfortable for this blogger when the Peanut Parents decided to march. I'm pleased that her school district didn't buckle.

Again, I'm not unsympathetic to parents who have children with such extreme allergies. However, we have to look at what's reasonable. If your kid has a life-threatening allergy, it's not reasonable to expect the whole school to accommodate that. As I wrote before, what happens when one parent forgets and packs something small in their child's lunch--does the kid get suspended or does the parent get brought up on attempted murder charges?

It's not the school's business at all what I pack in my kid's lunch. If your kid has an allergy, perhaps the school can set aside somewhere besides the cafeteria--where hundreds of kids congregate with all sorts of food--for your kid to eat. Perhaps your kid already knows enough to eat apart, or knows what to do if he/she encounters someone on the playground who might have had a PB&J at lunch.

But to go after someone's job to satisfy your own bloodlust because a school employee doesn't agree with you? I have to wonder if you're really trying to protect your kid, or if perhaps you're lashing out because you're angry that your kid has these allergies.

Peanut Parents, life has dealt you and your kid a difficult hand. I understand that; I have friends and relatives with life-threatening or difficult conditions (cerebral palsy, Parkinson's Disease, Down's Syndrome), and I know how hard it is to accept that. However, your threatening people is not going to make the world a more understanding or sympathetic place. Trying to get someone fired is bad enough--how angry must you be now that you've failed? Stop being angry.

Reasonable people can disagree on where that accommodation line can drawn; that doesn't mean they are insensitive or want your kid to die.

I don't hear anyone suggesting that Safeway not be allowed to have bulk peanuts in a bin over in the produce section. My guess is you just keep your kid away from that part of the store. Likewise, it's unreasonable to expect a school to ban a Snickers bar or a PB&J for several hundred students. Raising awareness in others and teaching your own kid how to cope will elicit plenty of compassion and willingness to help; marching on a school with pitchforks, whether to ban foods or get someone fired--not so much.


Anonymous said...

Several years ago when looking for a daycare facility for my son--who lived on pb&j sandwiches, I turned down a facility that I really liked because of it's "no peanut policy". I teach at a middle school and we are getting a student this year with a peanut allergy, and 2 hours of our pre-school inservice this year will be devoted to that student/issue. I'm very curious as to what expectations the parents have and how our school plans to keep this kid safe.

Eric W. said...

There's a student at Rio who has a peanut allergy, and I think they came up with a good compromise. He's active in the band program (as are most of his friends), so the directors made the band room a "peanut free zone" so that he has a place to eat lunch with his friends.

Sandy said...

In our homeschool co-op last year, we had a young student with a severe peanut allergy, and even among our very small group of 23 students and 8 moms, it was extremely difficult to ensure a completely peanut-free environment. I just can't imagine expecting that level of diligence in a large school-- realistically, it's an impossible task.

The mom of this student chose to homeschool while he is young, but she is training him to look out for himself and not assume others will, and he'll probably return to public school in the next couple of years when he can handle the responsibility.

Darren said...

These sound eminently reasonable to me.

Anonymous said...

You would be singing a different tune if it were your kid who was allergic.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Ok, what IS reasonable? The not-teacher employee at the public school is being paid to be a professional. The parents are not.

How about this? I wish I had advocacy like that when my kid was locked in a closet repeatedly by staff!

It sickens my stomach to read some of these "teacher blogs" of ps teachers who genuinely, absolutely hate the children they're expected to protect. Stuff like this:

I sure hope your friend's entries on peanut allergy kids didn't read like that! But not having read the blog in question, not knowing exactly what was said or implied, I can't say that it isn't a witch hunt either.

Obviously you know your friend, you know her motives, and you feel she is wronged. Maybe so.

Darren said...

Mrs. C, you and I have discussed in the past what I think about what happened to Elf. You and I are on the same sheet of music there.

Don't think that I'd toss aside someone else's kid just because they don't comment on my blog. By now you should know that I have a stronger moral code than that.

It is my opinion that the blogger about whom I wrote was wronged. She was wronged as much as the teacher I once wrote about, who mentioned in his personal blog a car accident everyone in his small town knew about--but because he was a teacher, the driver's parents came after him.

Maybe it's OK, just, and right to hold school employees, or police, to a standard of personal expression different than that of mere mortals. I, however, would like to know what that standard is.

And pointing out how unreasonable some parents are should be well within that standard.

Anonymous said...

This type of demand is not limited to the schools. Some years ago I had a kid in my Scout Troop who had orthopedic issues. His mother demanded that the entire troop not go hiking, or any camping other than car camping.

There seems to be a 'leveling-down' meme kid can't do X, or have X, so no one is allowed to.

Not exactly a brilliant way to prepare an individual with real issues to deal with life.

DADvocate said...

If you want your kids to be able to cope effectively in the real world, you need to teach them as early as possible in their lives how to adapt to the world and compensate for whatever limitations they may have, be it allergies, physical disabilities, etc.

Lots of restaurants use peanut based products or have peanuts for free sitting around. Grocery stores, ballparks, carnivals, festivals, fairs, etc all have peanuts. Certain areas of the southern United States have boiled peanut stands every mile or two. A certain amount of consideration can be expected but, otherwise, learn to adapt. It's a great skill to have.

Unknown said...

I knos a parent who lies about her child having a peanut allergy because she's a "naturopathic doctor" and doesn't want her child to ingest any peanut mold. She also doesn't let her have ANY sugar or preservatives or anything with food dyes or cow's milk. Not that she's had an allergic reaction...that's just their lifestyle. She lies about her child being allergic because it's "easier to explain" than telling the truth. Thank goodness the child is homeschooled, as it inconveniences fewer people.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I think we're probably agreed, Darren, though as I showed before with the link... there are some very nasty, hurtful things *out there* that I think violate a certain level of professionalism. I'm sure your district probably has some sort of guideline for you to read on your off days at home on Mt. Olympus. I know, for instance, that if my husband blogged nasty things about his company, he might be out of work.

(AGAIN... to reiterate, I have not seen your friend's blog, and cannot make any statement about what it contains except infer that it must have been QUITE the post to get all those parents *that* upset. Did it cross a line? Don't know.)

And yes, we also agree that parents *shouldn't* get overly vindictive and hostile. Certainly I am working to change Missouri law, and other than my discussing "Elf's" story for a report presented to Congress and various disability organizations so that this is a DOCUMENTED series of events, I haven't gone "public" with the teachers' names and addresses, or even the school district name.

Why do that? It wouldn't teach the teachers and special ed staff anything useful like banning seclusion rooms and TRAINING STAFF so they can handle things before they get to that breaking point would.

It would just ruin lives of people who SHOULD have known better. And I include myself in that group, Darren. I should not have trusted those people that that was going to "help." It was almost a perfect Milgram experiment, intensifying and becoming worse over several months, and I have learned (now that I am away and my head is clear!) NOT to trust EVEN when teachers are totally reasonable!

So, forgive if I seem biased, because I fully admit I may be. :]

hmmmm said...

I was under the impression that the problem was the implied (for lack of a better term)privacy violation, not just the post-were there two different issues, or just one big muddied issue?

Darren said...

I don't think there were any privacy issues involved, especially since the parents who got angry were not parents at my friend's school or district.

Anonymous said...

Seeing as how peanut allergies can be life-threatening, and seeing as how kids aren't like adults, it IS reasonable to ban peanuts from a school.

I would say that most adults who know they're allergic to peanuts would know not to eat them, but kids don't always understand what's going on. It's common for kids to swap food items in school (and elsewhere), so all you need is for one kid to swap a PB&J sandwich with a kid who is allergic, then when the allergic kid dies, watch for lawsuits against everyone in the school system.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Darren said...

Sorry. I don't feed trolls.

Ellen K said...

I guess the problem Darren is that now we have the ability to adapt our phones, our TV's, our cars and just about every other manmade device to our smallest whims and parents think we can do that in a school where there is a different goal, background and need for every single child. It is a mathematical impossibility. And frankly, no matter how you arrange it, some kids feel burdened by having to bear the weight of someone else's limitations. If a student is so very allergic to a food, then it is the PARENTS' responsibility to educate that child to the dangers and to provide that child with their own lunches, snacks and foods. To deprive other children of a PB&J (which under this current economy is the best that some can afford) is not a solution. It is cossetting a child into a victimhood attitude and making the child feel that everyone else should be far more concerned about his or her life than she is. I feel the same way about schools that limit "bad snacks" or soccer coaches that look down their noses at anything other than the narrowly mandated carrot sticks and orange slices. I am not advocating that we stuff our kids with junk, but frankly it seems that we have more problems with the ultimatims from hysterical helicopter parents than we do in actually dealing with a child's problem in a sensible, down to earth approach.

Ellen K said...

Anonymous: Do you have any idea how many allergies there are out there? I personally know kids that are allergic to:
dairy in general
soy beans
and that's just the short list. I myself am very allergic to any melon. But do I tell the cafeteria to stop serving this food? No, I just personally avoid it. And yes, melons can cause anyphalactic shock because my entire airway shut down thanks to a cantaloupe slice. So it is going to have to become a personal issue with each kid unless you want to shut down cafeterias and daycare based food services requiring each student to bring their own food....that is what you are suggesting-fulfilling the goals of a few to deprive the rest. That is simply not kind and not realistic.

KauaiMark said...

I figured you'd found the hornets nest SMSS originally poked at just by the number of comments posted so far.

Anonymous said...

I read SMSS's blog when she posted about the peanut allergy. I had been a fan and had enjoyed her posts and insight about middle school.

But her post was out of line. She read the kid's medical file and posted part of it on the internet. Then she mocked the kid's problem and the parents attempt to 1) avail their kid of a FAPE and 2) to protect their kid. That's just not right. And then she suggested that the parents homeschool the kid.

Yes, having a kid in class with a peanut allergy is a hassle. Yes, the parents wanted their kid to have a peanut free classroom and a place to eat lunch in place and a strategy to deal with the emergency situation that could occur if the kid ingested peanut butter. Yes, this is more work for the school than if the kid didn't have the problem.

School still has to comply and the school personnel should comply with at least the appearance of professionalism.

It is not too much of a hassle for another kid to have a PBJ at a different table in the lunch room.

By middle school, the kid probably knows not to eat peanut butter. My six year old knows not to eat the foods he is allergic to.

Our kids have gone to a program where another child had a peanut allergy. The school asked us not to send in peanut products. So we didn't. Honestly, if you weigh a bit of convenience versus sending someone to the hospital, how hard it to make the choice?

Quite frankly, of all the accommodations my relatively normal kids have had to make for kids with issues, this was the simplest. One of my kids was terrorized for a year and a half by a severely disturbed kid because that was part of the kid's accomodation. Not packing peanut butter was a whole lot easier to deal with.

Darren said...

On most days at school I take a glorified ramen meal for lunch. The flavor? Thai Peanut. In fact, it has a small packet of chopped peanuts in it to sprinkle over the top as the final step in the preparation. 88 cents at Wal*Mart.

Would it be reasonable to tell me that I could *not* bring that to school? Would it be reasonable to tell me that I would have to wash my hands after eating it and before returning to class?

Anonymous said...

If you have something in your room that could send one of your students to the hospital, it should not be there.

For the school year when you have the kid with the peanut allergy in your classroom, you should not eat the Thai Peanut flavor in the classroom. Eat it somewhere else and wash your hands thoroughly before potentially coming into contact with the kid.

We all put up with restrictions on our conduct at work that we don't have to do elsewhere. That is one reason it is called work and we get paid to do it.

Dustin Stetina said...

I wrote a blog on this subject a long time ago, from the perspective of someone with bad allergies. It's jus that my allergies are unimportant because they are not food allergies.

Unknown said...

So I'm incredibly, life-threateningly allergic to stupidity. Accomodate my allergy! Stupid people, slit your wrists now!

Ellen K said...

It's interesting how this has become a middle America vs. liberal America issue. If all parents can afford to feed their children is peanut butter, is that not more nutritious than a greasy burger? At some point parents are going to have to realize that the world is not going to bend to their liking.

Anonymous said...

I read a lot of education websites and have found that there is a group of parents who feel that their/their child's needs/desires should trump the needs/desires of all other children/parents. Reasonable is not in their vocabulary, whether the issue is allergies, other food issues or special ed services/mainstreaming. No matter how unreasonable, inconvenient or disruptive their desired accommodation is; they demand anyway. I don't know how large the group is, but it is vocal and angry at any suggestion that their demands should not be met fully and immediately. I suspect they are a minority of their total "issue" population, but it's hard to tell. Sometimes it seems as if no one is willing to stand up for the many kids/parents who behave well and deal with their issues in a reasonable manner. I absolutely disagree with the idea that peanuts or anything else should be banned and I speak as someone who would be extremely unlikely to survive the ingestion of a common antibiotic and I spent 12 years in school with kids who commonly brought those pills to school in an envelope, to be taken at lunchtime.