Do nut free classrooms ask too much from other parents

I've been reading some discussions here and some things that i saw surprised me. I get that parents of PA children want their kids to be safe but it feels like they ask too much of the the other parents. I'm saying this because from what I have read it looks like the teacher demands parents not send in nut treats for the kids without proper notification. Because of this it looks like PA parents are telling other parents that "our family and our child deserve better than yours", since these are demands not discussions. I'm only saying this because it looks like parents are told of a PA kid right at the start of the school year.

Now sometimes busy parents need to stock up on treats for the kids, which means peanut butter and sometimes nut snack bars. Also due to family beliefs or other medical needs nuts may be needed to provide protein in a diet.

So I am just wondering why the parents are told the first day of school or only a few days prior? No one seems to give them enough planning time in their budgets or shopping to prepare. From the context of what I've read on here this is what appears to happen. I am just surprised that PA parents wonder why it is so hard for other parents to comply when these other parents are not given the information well ahead of time. If they were given the information at the start of the summer then they would have the option of planning in these alternative snacks or meeting with the school to discuss switching one of the children out of this class.

This is just something I was wondering about since I saw many people arguing this issue in forums and although I see why parents of PA kids want these classrooms I don't get why they demand them of other parents instead of having parents decide if they want their child to be in the classroom.

Also, why are peanuts allowed in lunch rooms and not classrooms? How is this different as the PA child eats in the lunch room? And, if a child in a nut free class brings in a peanut butter sandwich then that sandwich would be in the classroom just like having a bag of peanuts for snack would be.

Thanks

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By mom1995 on Fri, 03-29-13, 14:47

As the mother of a 17yr old public school student for her entire life reading this thread is so heart warming. To see calm rational thought and dialog gives me hope for future generations. In 11 school years we always had nut free classrooms. In elementary we had a nut free cafeteria and a nut free table. Kids could choose to sit there with their nut free lunch. In the classroom especially in elementary kids touch everything. Having a lunch stored in a lunch box unopened is not a threat. When school would first start we would provide those classroom snacks and the teacher always had something safe on hand that we would provide. As the years have progressed we have asked less and less of the school so our daughter learned to manage herself as she would in the real world. Now she feels empowered to speak up respectfully and not from a place of fear and panic. She has had to deal with teachers who refused to follow school policy and put her in danger. She has addressed poor manors from school nurses that are uneducated about her level of allergy. I am VERY proud that we did things the way we did and even grateful for those parents and staff that did not cooperate because that has created a wonderful young lady. Who has announced she wants to go to law school to fight for the rights of kids who's schools wont do the right thing. So look out ISD's .

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By terric411 on Thu, 03-28-13, 17:44

First off, it sounds like you are not a parent of a child with a food allergy, so I want to say thank you for even reading up about it and understanding the severity and the concern of parents of kids with food allergies. To answer some of your specific comments - totally agree that it would be nice to have warning about food allergies. The reality is that most schools don't actually pick the classes until a few days before school starts. We would have loved to known who our class was at the beginning of summer, so that we could reach out to parents about the allergy. I asked this of my school, but due to the fact that they don't know who will be in which class until right before school, we have no ability to let anyone else in the class know about the allergy. We can let the teacher and principal and school nurse know about it - but we have no access to how to communicate to other parents. I think this is the case for many schools, so please don't blame the parents, but it certainly can be something you could bring up with the school. On the other hand, now that you know (and other parents probably know) that there are allergies in schools, it would make sense to just stock up if need be on non-peanut/nut foods. I also totally understand the comment about diet and nuts for protein - there certainly is no problem with giving those to your child at home. It would be great if you could just wash their hands before they leave for school if they have peanut butter for breakfast. And there are alternatives to peanut butter for lunches - there is sunbutter and soynut butter, both of which are good protein alternatives, taste good, and are safe for kids. What you need to understand is this.... a peanut butter sandwich could kill my son. I send him to school every day and pray he comes home safely. At my son's school they allow peanuts/nuts in the lunchroom, where my son eats, and I'm afraid every single day that something will happen. They don't allow peanuts in the classroom, because that's where he is all day, touching things, etc. In theory, in the lunchroom, he goes in, sits at a clean table, and hopefully doesn't sit next to anyone that is eating peanuts (they don't have a peanut free table at my son's school, but I wish they did). But in the classroom, if someone eats peanut butter and it gets on the table, or on a book or a toy, and my son touches it, he could go into anaphylactic shock and die. So it's critical to keep it out of the classroom (snack). It's risk enough that he has to be near it at lunch time. We don't want our kids to be isolated, we want them to be normal just like everyone else. But we also want them to be safe. So we ask other parents to keep our kids safe. Just as no one would want a kid walking into school with a gun or a knife that could hurt someone, I don't want them walking in with peanuts - because it's the same for me. I teach my son to avoid other people's food, to only eat what I give him, and to not sit next to anyone with nuts. But as a parent, I reach out to parents of other kids asking (perhaps begging) for their consideration to also try to keep my son safe. To not make him have to choose between sitting by his friend at lunch or being safe. It's an easy change. There are alternatives to peanut butter and to peanut granola bars. Pretzels.... fruit... fruit snacks... cheese... crackers... all kinds of things in it's place. Thank you for thinking about this, and thank you for trying to keep all kids safe!

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By mamatofour on Wed, 03-27-13, 03:06

It seems like you are touching on many issues with regards to accomodations for kids with food allergies. I'm not sure if you are upset that the school warned you within the first few days (as if that is too early) or if you wished they had warned you before the school year even started.

I'll just respond to the best of my ability. I'm a mom of 4 kids with only one child with any allergies. My 3rd son is a RAST level 4 peanut allergy and he has had to be treated with an epi-pen once at 2 years old. I understand that this whole situation (kids with food allergies in school) is a difficult one and there are militant people on both sides. I realize the ease and cost effectiveness of peanut butter, but please understand that for these kids it can be a life and death circumstance. It's not just an inconvenient rash or runny nose for these kids. I have seen my son have anaphylaxis, his face turns red and he coughs and squeels while he tries to breath in and tries to cry because he realizes he cannot breathe.

Our family has decided to homeschool all four kids, in part because we don't want our son to feel like an inconvience to the other students and parents. There are lots of cheap, healthy, protein rich alternatives to PB and nuts. We like Belvita bars, high fiber and protein and they are 40 cents a serving at Costco. We use Sunbutter, which is a healthier than peanut butter.

I'm guessing the inconsistant policy between class and lunchroom is that they probably have specific guidelines for lunchroom staff to help keep the kids safe. It would be more difficult to implement that in the individual classrooms of 30+ teachers with 25-30 kids each. My oldest son, while he was in school, was given trail mix and cupcakes from home regularly. It was safe for him, but had it been his younger brother, he would have ended up in the emergency room or worse.

I don't think there is a perfect solution to this issue, but I personally feel that parents who don't have a child with a deadly food allergy can understand. Even before I had a kids with a food allergy, I didn't mind accomodating for friends who had kids with food allergies. I can promise you that any of the effected families at the school would be overjoyed to know that someone else would accomodate for their child. I know I feel like I want to cry for joy, literally, when people accomodate for my son.

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By M1991 on Wed, 03-27-13, 19:52

Hey thanks for the reply,

What I was trying to say was that while I don't think it is too much to ask other parents to help keep the children safe, I do think it is too much to ask them to go about it with little preparation.

While on this site I noticed conversations where parents of peanut allergic children could not understand why other parents refuse to try to help.

My post was trying to point out that PA parents should not expect other parents to be accomadating if they do not try to see it from the other parents view point.

Meaning that if parents are told that their child's classroom is nut free right at the start of school, then it is not fair for PA parents to expect the other parents to be accomadating right away.

Now if the parents are informed of the nut free classroom at the end of the previous school year, meaning the start of summer, they have eight weeks to research safe foods.

I was only writing this because from what I was reading it sounded like PA parents were complaining when other parents would not accommodate their kids, however they were only given a few days notice.

So if this isn't the case and parents are told of a PA child at the start of the summer, than that parent (no allergy child) really has no business fighting the nut free classroom since they had eight weeks to research alternative safe foods or switch their child out before school started.

As for my lunchroom/classroom question that was more of my curiosity. The nut free tables at the High school I went to were right next to the regular tables, so if I was eating pbj I could have been sitting back to back with a PA peer (I don't think this ever happened though). So I was just wondering how that would be safe and it wouldn't sitting back to back eating peanuts in the classroom.

Any answers are appreciated, I don't know anyone with nut allergies but I was in a school recently for a college course and saw the signs for nut free classrooms. I was curious as to what this meant because I thought people with this allergy had to touch or eat nuts to cause a reaction, and so I didnt see why a total no nut classroom was needed. i found this site after searching for nut free classrooms. So I see now how severe it is but am still confused on some points, hence the questions.

Thanks

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By kickert on Wed, 03-27-13, 23:02

Interesting conversation and first let me say that I'm excited that you would go to the extent that you have to learn more about food allergies (nuts) and how that impacts others. I wish others would do the same thing...

I have a 13 year old daughter that is a 6+ on the allergy rating scale (it goes 0 to 6). She can - and has - have a reaction by smelling the product. As she gets older we are finding that her allergy is getting worse not only to peanuts but to other nuts. She was in the public school system k-5, smaller school, very accomidating and very willing to allow me to educate other parents. I joined the PTA, was at school daily, talked to anyone that would listen to the facts about nut allergies. I spoke on parents night, gave the full extent of what could happen to her if she injested a peanut -the thing people don't realize is that one nut can take her life. She doesn't just break out in hives or have a stomach ache, she stops breathing. When other parents hear that they put themselves in your shoes and think about how they would feel if it was reversed. Our school did allow students to be moved out of the classroom if the parents were not comforatable with nut free. But I will tell you she was probably in class with all of those kids in her class during her time between k-5, the students are awesome, they knew her, cared about her and they were the ones to watch out for her and help keep her safe. It is usually the parents that don't get it - until they see that life can go on without peanut butter.
As far as the cafeteria, there were PBJ sandwiches. At the start of school the nurse, teachers and I selected the spot where she would sit. It was a NUT free table at the back of the cafeteria, no one behind her (to prevent what you mentioned) and close access to fresh air if needed. But again, her friends were the ones to look out for her and yes - "SNIFF the air" to help make sure she was safe.
Last I will say that parents listened to us because I was sincere, cautious, didn't push the allergy on them, answered their questions and helped to educate them. I know that it isn't always easy but in the end everyone around my daughter took on the fight to keep her safe.

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