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Teasing/Bullying

My son is severely allergic to tree nuts and peanuts. His school's way of handling the allergy is mainly through isolation (i.e. nut free table). He was seriously bullied last year because of the allergy. He had a child try to put a peanut granola bar in his mouth, someone left a wad of PB near his lunch box, etc. We met with the school, and they were very proactive. We also had a 504 plan put in place for him. All staff were trained to how recognize allergy symptoms and what to do in case of an allergic reaction. Kids in my son's class saw a presentation on food allergy, etc. The rest of the kids in the school were supposed to see it, but I don't think they ever did. Anyway, skip to this school year. I thought that things had been going very well. And, while there haven't been any outright threats, my son is being teased. He hates going to recess. He finally told me that there are some kids who call him "Peanut Boy." And, one child shakes his pocket and tells him that it's full of peanuts that he'll lob his way. Others tell him that they're going to smear PB&J on his lunch table. Sigh. I know that teasing is part of growing up (my son is 8, but teasing someone because of a disability is just unacceptable to me. And, teasing in a way that is actually a true threat is unacceptable. I'm not sure what to do. I've asked him if he's told them that what they're saying hurts his feeling. Has he explained that it's no fun having an allergy, and that peanuts could actually kill him. He hasn't. He told me that he just walks away hoping they'll become bored and find a new target . I guess that's a step up from the meltdowns he used to have. How have you all handled this issue? Any advice for me to give my son? Thank you.

By thekilij on Sun, 12-01-13, 17:10

Some of what you are describing is not simply bullying or teasing, but could be considered assault or even aggravated assault. You may want to consider filing criminal and even civil charges.

Otherwise, I would at least tell the school staff that if they do not successfully correct the behavior, you plan to file charges. Were this my son, I would also tell him that you are very proud of his behavior; that what his peers are seeing as a weakness right now can eventually turn into a strength of understanding and compassion for others.

I wish you and your son the best.

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By mom1995 on Sun, 12-01-13, 16:40

I am so sorry for what your son is going threw. The first thing I would say is EXCLUSSION is NOT acceptable. Part of his target is that he seen as different by being excluded. There are plenty of ways to make even lunch time inclussive. The same approach was tried with our daughter in third grade. She was actually placed in the 'punishment desk' . That was for three mornings until she told me. Then she and I went in I tried talking to the teacher in charge and she informed that she was in charge and she would do as she saw fit. Then daughter and I went to the office and enlisted the Principal. The three of us walked back and he helped that teacher understand that what she was doing was wrong. I explain all the steps because our daughter recounted this story in high school as an example of how we taught her to stand up for herself and how to do it with respect and calm. So this was lesson for her and the teacher. The solution was in the rows of tables her class (each year) would have a safe zone in the middle of their seating. That safe zone was for our daughter and three others on either side as well as the six accross for no nuts. Her table was cleaned as they entered and after she ate. It was a task for the class helper so everyone was involved in her safety without being anything other then we eat at a clean table.
THe second thing is to partner with his teacher (if possible) to identify those kids teasing and yes it is bullying. Explain that your sons concerns and see if you can reach a less punishment way to deal with those few kids that just don't get it.
Third is to find ways to make his allergy a positive. So class party .... can't have nuts.... instead of saying can't say because of the allergy we are getting .... and have something to sub that is cooler. Your son can tell you ideas. We always took little party favor bags with whatever was the in thing. I would always give the teacher a supply of snacks or rewards that could be used in place of those items that were not safe. Many times they would just trade a not safe item for a safe one. And then send a reminder home to that parent about the item.
We never asked for the school to be nut free as the world is not. We did however require that her classroom was nut free. We also had a condission that if she was ever in a not safe situation she could leave that room and go dirrectly to the nurse. She would tell who ever was closest to her and then leave. She knew this was not a something to be taken lightly and that it was only for seriuos issues.
She is a senior this year and we have had issues but never a reaction. I credit that more to her own sense of ownership of her allergy and being aware of her environment. I hope this helps. Good luck !!!

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By jap on Sun, 12-01-13, 16:18

There is something wrong with a school or its pupils if teasing still goes on in this day and age. Trying to shove a peanut granola bar in his mouth is attempted murder and threatening to throw peanuts, that is another issue and I am sure it falls under criminal threatening or manslaughter threats as the peanut could kill him, I would press charges. A girl this summer died from peanut in her mouth, charges should be pressed on those children.
The School should also point out that he has a disability and ask if they would tease a person in a wheelchair ?
Gotta love the thugs some parents raise
julian

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By Mcsmallness on Fri, 11-29-13, 09:47

I can't give advice re bullying in school because we chose to home educate our daughter. She's surrounded by a community of caring, fun, playful (sometimes rambunctious, but never deliberately hurtful) children. She is having a happy healthy childhood, despite her allergy. Perhaps home schooling is something you could consider? It's not as scary as you'd think. Best of luck.

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By NoPeanutsSince2011 on Thu, 11-28-13, 23:25

Well the edited Facebook post left out some of the most severe points, and I wrote this:

"I would suggest teaching him to learn to make fun of himself. It may sound strange, but developing a sense of humor about one's own issues can really empower them, and disarm the bullies. The other kids know that doing something can result in negative consequences, to the allergic victim and the perpetrator(s), but they don't fully understand the allergy from their perspective. Laughter could bring them all together, and make friends where there seems only some anxiety now."

...but I would still suggest some of the same, and align, in part, with the PA.com comment. I just don't think that your son constantly looking for adult intervention will help him with his peers. Make some jokes, build a knowledgeable group of friends that help in awareness and protection, and then let authorities intervene in any escalated case(s).

It's hard, and I wish I could say I knew what it was like back then; my allergy to peanuts struck when I was 27. It's not fun, but I try to have a sense of humor about it. Doctors, active prevention, turning down offerings of home-cooked foods that cannot be verified as safe, having to constantly have that "talk" in restaurants or with new people... it's all so time intensive; and not very fun at all. Trying to make it so is part of how I deal with it all. It's not always easy, but the idea of facing one's mortality over a tiny legume (or tree nut, or anything) is a rough, humbling, and strengthening position to be in.

We, with any allergies, all have to own it... and part of doing so means it is a struggle, but really can be lightened up - if we aren't trying to be serious all the time. If your son made some of his peers laugh over it, then I think he can grow to have another weapon in his own battle with severe food allergies.

All the best.

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By PeanutAllergy.com on Wed, 11-27-13, 23:17

Question of the Week: Answered!

Every week, PeanutAllergy.com is answering one of the questions posted in our community.

Our Answer:
Bullying of any form is unacceptable. According to a 2010 study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, more than 30 percent of children with food allergies over the age of 5 are bullied.

Here are some tips to help your son deal with bullying:

  • - Make sure your son knows to report the incidents to faculty and staff at his school.
  • - Help your son develop a healthy self-esteem. Identify his strengths and unique characteristics. Show him that having a food allergy does not have to limit him in other areas of his life.
  • - Talk with his teacher to see if he or she can help to resolve the problem.
  • - Encourage other teachers to educate their students on the severity of his peanut allergy. Also, talk to parents of children at his school, as they can talk to their kids about bullying.
  • - Because your son has a 504 plan, he has a right to a free public education; therefore, the school must address the bullying. You can file a complaint with your school district section 504 coordinator or with the Office for Civil Rights.
  • - Speak with your son and the school regularly for updates on the bullying.
  • - Find a PAL for your son. The Be a PAL: Protect A Life From Food Allergies education program pairs food-allergic children with students who don’t have a food allergy. Students learn about the signs of allergic reactions and offer support for kids with food allergies. Learn more about Be a PAL: Protect A Life From Food Allergies here.

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has more tips and resources for dealing with food allergy bullying. Click here for more tips.

We asked our Facebook fans for their advice on helping children deal with bullies, and you can read their responses here.

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By SmilinMo on Mon, 12-02-13, 16:01

Hello, I just read this and it broke my heart... yet I also chuckled, from experience, and I assure you it will get better and easier for your child living with a nut allergy! I have had the peanut allergy for 45 years, when there were no EPI pens and very little awareness like we have today. Now my daughter has the peanut allergy - and she is allergic to two tree nuts also, which I do not have. To top it off, I married a guy with the last name Rash... so I am a majorly allergic, asthmatic, and eczema person who is now... Mrs. Rash! My daughter is a "little rash"! The joke is on us, I guess! The person who suggested humor is right on, as laughter is great medicine, a strong defense, and a healthy response for your child to develop and cultivate. We all know that life threatening allergies and bullying is no laughing matter, and I am not making light of any of this. I have taught myself and my kid, how to use humor safely and keeping my self esteem in tact. I make jokes that I am a funny, "nutty" person, so it's kinda funny (Irony is hard to understand at this age) that I am allergic to nuts! I take the approach that it's a PEANUT-FULL world, not a peanut-free world, and WE have to adjust, not the other way around. They used to say... lets give her a peanut and see what happens, not nice at all, but looking back my humor saved me time and time again. My response to that mean remark was... well, if you do... stand back cuz I might vomit directly upon you! (but my response was always said in a funny way, not mean back) Or, I hope you know CPR cuz you would feel really bad if something serious happened to me, and I know we both don't want that to happen! If you make jokes with me about my allergies, I will do the same to you. What is really funny is that you don't understand that it's serious, so...lets find something else to make jokes about!

To this day, adults still joke inappropriately, or they comment ignorantly about my allergies, and I am allergic to all sorts of things. My favorite question, when they learn I am allergic to peanuts is... So you can't eat peanut butter? To that I always ask... "Well do you think there are more peanuts, or more butter in PB?" The response is always an embarrassed laugh. I'm so annoyed that you have to go through what you are, with your school. I pray it gets better. Always "talk up" with you child, treating them very grown up and teaching them how/why people use humor and sarcasm in good and bad ways. Sadly, I have to teach my daughter to choose wisely, (about life in general) between 1) not letting other people's actions or words determine her responses and a healthy bit of 2) do unto others, and give back to others what they give to you, both positive and negative. I also have taught her a tremendous amount about Karma (Lady Karma/G-d/The Universe, however you want to explain it, usually takes care of wrong doers, and also rewards kindness and good choices, in response to those mean/ignorant people) Your greatest roll as a parent is to protect and care for your child, however you are also your child's life long teacher. It's a little easier for my kid because I have the allergy too, and she is a girl, and I think they tease less. I hope your situation gets better at school and that any of my input is helpful. I would hope that you could share my letter with you son, I think it's easy enough to understand. I'm cheering for him!

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