Dietary Allergies - Feedback Friday

The Today Show covered a story yesterday morning about a student with a severe peanut allergy attending a school in Edgewater, Florida.

The first grader, has a rare, life-threatening peanut allergy and can have no exposure to someone who has eaten a product containing nuts. "We're not talking about she will break out in a rash. We are talking about she will die, stop breathing." her parents told the website clickorlando.com.

To protect this student, other first graders had to wash their hands and rinse their mouths 3 times a day and teachers must clean students' desks with Clorox wipes.

Angry parents within the school believe their children were spending up to 30 minutes a day sanitizing themselves and their classroom rather than learning. Some parents are protesting that this student should be home schooled if her allergies are so severe that others (including children) are responsible for protecting her.

Due to the protests, the school changed the medical plan to washing hands and wiping mouths twice a day. A peanut sniffing dog was used to pin point areas throughout the school with peanut residue and those items were cleaned or removed.

The parents of the child in question say they feel bad for the classroom disruptions, but it's a matter of protecting their daughter. Her condition is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the school is mandated to provide her a safe environment.

It's Feedback Friday and if you have a school-aged child, I'm sure you have dealt with allergy issues, so let me ask you:

What do you think of the measures this school has taken to protect one child?

Have you had any allergy issues in your classrooms over the years?


  1. Good Morning Jen,
    This is a hard one. I am very sympathetic to this child and his family, however I really believe this child should be home schooled. This is not you typical allergy...why would they want to take the risk that the school would do an adequate job of safe guarding their child. Especially if death could occur.

    Were do we draw the line in protecting children with extremely severe allergies?
    I found this article about a boy in Britain who is similiarly allergic to the sun and light.
    Should the children in his scholl be forced to learn in a building with blacked out windows and dark classrooms?

    Check it out...


    Just some food for thought.

    janet xox

    Again, let me state I am very sympathetic to this family and wish the child the best

  2. I can see both sides.
    When I had my first two children, I would get irritated when I couldn't pack them a PBJ for snack at school. Then I had my third, and she has a peanut allergy, and suddenly, I was THAT hyper-vigillant mom. Fortunately, she is not as allergic as the FL girl, but it is hard as a mom to trust that she will be protected. We have already had an incident at my gym nursery where a gym worker gave her a homemade PB cookie, and she, of course, had a reaction. As a teacher, I know how those disruptions in class time DO add up, but as a mom of a child with an allergy, I do not feel that she should be isolated from the world.
    It is such a tough decision and problem.
    I could see a resolution going either way, and I would understand.
    Thanks for the forum . . .

  3. The school should offer for her to be in a self-contained special ed class.
    If it is that deadly, as a parent I would not send her to school.
    P.S. Why were there no peanut allergies when I was a kid?

  4. This is tough and has to be difficult for all involved, but I'm thinking about the teacher. It has to be incredibly frustrating to be hyper vigilant about hand washing, mouth rinsing, cleaning desks, etc?! My daughter's school day is only 6 hours. A half hour of cleaning takes out a lot of learning time. And with all the products out there that have the possibility of peanut contamination, even if they don't have peanuts in them....ugh! This would be a nightmare.

    I'm with Michele R, where were the peanut allergies when I was a kid? I'm only 35, but I don't remember allergies, asthma, ADD, any of the things that are so common now, being issues when I was in school. But then again, maybe I just wasn't paying attention.

  5. Are the measurements really that disruptive to the class and to learning? Is this not a learning experience in tolerance and inclusion? I am sure that the students in the classroom don't sit at their desks all day. They have lunch, recess and other times that they need to get up from their desks anyway. Why not work they the hand washing and moth rinsing into those times when there is already a disruption.

    My son has special needs but he spends time in the typical classroom, concessions have been made for him that would probably be considered a disruption to many people, but he has been shown nothing but compassion by the other students in the classroom and by parents. Should I home school my son because his presence in the classroom might be considered a 'disruption'?

    Personally, I can see the difference in how he is treated by children who have been exposed to differences and those who have not.

  6. Wow, that's a tough one...

    It amazes me how up in arms we (the school parents) get over "THAT" child....until it happens to "OUR" child...then We'd tear through heaven and earth to protect her, no doubt about it.

    But, what a burden to place in the hands of that teacher--you Must do abc and d perfectly, while teaching/controlling 30 students...or..you'll kill this kid. Small potatoes, right?!? Seriously...think about that pressure!!!

    Sounds like a risky game to me...

  7. I think every child has a right to an education in a "safe" environment. In the grand scheme of life if it was my kids whose education was being "disrupted" I would want them to understand that these are small concessions to make so that their classmate can come to school everyday and stay safe. During cold and flu season kids wash their hands at least that many times a day (or should be)and using hand sanitizer all the time as well. Maybe we should looking at this as an opportunity for kids to learn good hygiene instead of thinking of it as a burden. When my dad was kid his parents were responsible for making him a ramp to get into the classroom, for the costs of widening the door to the bathroom, and all other costs to attend school and other parents and the teachers still thought it was burden on them. He was born permenantly disabled in a wheel chair. Today these costs are assumed and no thought is given to the "burden".

  8. If 30 minutes of hand washing/mouth rinsing will keep this girl alive and let her go to school, it's worth it. The world is so self-centered...how is this going to effect ME? UGH, some people just need to step back and think about if this was their kid. They wouldn't think it was too much to ask.

  9. Wow! That school is doing a FANTASTIC job at keeping the child safe! Kudos to them!! I can't even get my son's school to keep track of his whereabouts muchless care about any allergies he may have (breaks out on face when he eats anything with peanuts- but he hates the smell, so no worries really). I think the parents of the other children should be thankful that their kids are washing their hands so often! I'm sure there are a lot less missed days due to sickness!

  10. I have a severe peanut allergy. My doctors told me I could possibly "grow out of it" but I'm 21 now and still have to deal with it. My allergy was never as bad as this little guys, but I think it was good for my classmates and my current colleagues to learn how to accommodate someone with special needs.

    With that being said, I learned early how to be vocal and careful about my allergy. If I didn't ask about nuts in home-made cookies or weird salad dressings, I would end up in the hospital. No doubt. Catering too much to one child won't teach him how to deal with his allergy in real life. And if it's that bad... how is he going to handle work? Or hugging his kids who have been at school around other kids with peanut butter?

    Just a few more things to think about...

  11. Wow... what to say... I have always been a little skeptical of all these 'severe food allergies'. So much, in fact that when my young daughter had her first reaction to peanuts (swollen eyes, whelps, rash) i figured, 'one time thing, she'll grow out of it.' Got the epipen, never took it along with us. Then fast forward to age 6. Anaphylactic episode due to ingestion of a peanut m&m. (1) She was minutes away from dying. Completely out of it. E.R. doc said afterward that he actually had other patients who had died of anaphylaxis. He heavily scolded us for not taking it seriously enough.
    During the elementary years i did inservices with the students and teachers. It is wonderful to see how kids work to protect my daughter. They take it more seriously than a lot of adults do. The school does have a peanut free section but Claire wants to sit with her friends. Her condition is the most severe and we do have concerns. We have trained her through discipline to never leave the house without her epipen, to never eat anything she doesn't know about, and not to sit too close to someone eating peanut products. One day she will be off alone in this big ole world and no one will be responsible to protect her from food allergies but CLAIRE. The school should take measures, but going overboard could help make this child way too anxious throughout life. I feel for this child. It's bad enough to have to live with such a condition. Obviously, if a parent doesn't fight for their child, who will? Not the parents of their schoolmates... I GUARANTEE you, this child's schoolmates do not feel the same about this as these picketing parents. Kids are amazingly protective of one another.

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  13. I second everything Jill wrote. In the grand scheme of thing what a small concession to make so that this child can have a semi-normal life. Just imagine all the things she doesn't get to do because of this allergy.

  14. I've dealt with a son who had food allergies. He either was mis-diagnosed with the peanut allergy or outgrew (his first test results were odd and they told me to treat him as severely allergic and wait to be tested again in two years. He tested allergy free, eats peanut butter all the time now and has no problem. But he is the exception.)

    My niece's peanut allergy is similar to the 1st grader's. She goes to a small private school and the entire school is peanut free. They have some type of similar measures in place, though what exactly I'm not sure. I do know that a few years ago the family flew somewhere. Their flight was peanut free but the plane's previous flight was not. She broke out in head to toe hives and had to be rushed to the ER when they arrived. That was just from the trace amounts of peanut dust remaining in the air system.

    They have to be hyper-vigilant but still give her a normal life. Children shouldn't have to live in a bubble. As the child gets older, he will learn how to speak for himself and the intricasies of having this allergy. But at 6, it's up to the adults in his life to protect him. Homeschooling is not the answer. He has to learn how to live and participate in society. He shouldn't be shut away some where because he is different. That is no way for a child to grow up.

  15. Were it my kids that had such a dangerous condition...? I would absolutely keep her home.

    As much as I would want her to have a "normal" life, I would want her to have A life even more. Even though it looks like the school is trying to take every precaution, there is still so much that is out of their control.

    I highly doubt that the extra hand washing/mouth rinsing is taking up as much time as the other parents say it is; however, I sure would not want to worry that MY child inadvertently caused a fatal allergic reaction for a classmate because he didn't rinse his mouth out properly. It's a sticky situation all around, but I really think the girl should be home-schooled for safety reasons.

  16. I think this child should have just as much of a right to safely attend public school as any other child. But if my child had that kind of severe allergy, I would probably look into homeschooling for his or her safety. If it's life-threatening, I would prefer not to trust other people to take the necessary steps to keep my kid alive. I'm not distrustful of others in general, but when it comes to a life or death situation with my child, I'd rather handle it myself. Wow, I'm already a control freak for the kids I don't even have. ;-)

  17. In our area of North Alabama, we have several schools that are completly peanut free schools. My husband did his student teaching at one of the schools, and they check the children's lunches and backpacks everyday for peanut products. Our children do not attend a peanut free school, and my son has a classmate with severe peanut allergies. The child's mother was at the school during all school hours accompanying her child. She had a kit that contained epi pens and all of the necessary items that they would need to stabilize the child if she were to have an attack. The classroom teacher also had an epi pen that she wore in a container aroud her neck as a secondary precaution. As a wife to someone who has OCD, the repetitive handwashing and mouth rinsing would scare me, and I can see where it could cause hypervigilancy problems in children.

  18. Such an interesting discussion. I agree that this child has a right to go to public school, but all children have the right to be educated in the *least restrictive* environment - is repetitive handwashing and mouth rinsing the least restrictive environment for the other students??

    My only other thought is that homeschooling is not a punishment!! Many people choose to homeschool their children for many different reasons - life threatening allergies would make my list.

  19. Like many other moms have said, I applaud the school for their actions to help this child attend school if that's what she really desires.

    If my own child had such a severe allergy, I'd probably be homeschooling her (partly because I'm sort of convinced that homeschooling is more beneficial to the kids if their parents are smart/balanced people).

    I like the idea that the kids are responsible for making sure their friend is okay, but they are still kids. If they eat a cookie that was made by a baker that also had nuts on their work surface and accidentally kill their friend, there is no fixing that mistake. The child is dead, and I'd find it hard not to feel like the parents may have put too strong a burden on others for such a mortally allergic child.

  20. Hey Jen,
    Just wanted to make it clear that my saying the child should be homeschooled is not to make it easier on the rest od the students or the teacher, but based on the fact that I would not want to put my childs life in the hands of the school.

    I agree with Tisha...homeschooling is Not a punishment and not an isolated experience.
    Janet xox

  21. A few of the comments mentioned that they don't remember these severe food allergies when they were young. Last year I read a book about food allergies by Robyn O'Brien. She says that the peanut allergy rate had doubled from 1997 to 2002. Think how much more it's grown now in 2011! Her book Unhealthy Truth, how our food is making us sick and What we can do about it is all about WHY this could be. Our food had changed dramatically over the course of our generation and has resulted in some big effects. It's a good read if this is an interesting topic.


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