HELP! Supervision in Cafeteria

Posted on: Mon, 08/19/2002 - 3:10pm
pamehughes's picture
Joined: 07/24/2002 - 09:00

pHow is your PA child supervised while eating in the school cafeteria? Nurse, teacher, aide, paraprofessional? /p
pOne of my 2 PA kids starts first grade a Maryland public school next week. My summer "negotations" have not yet secured adequate supervision for her lunch period in a peanuts-a-plenty lunchroom. /p
pFor the sake of her social and emotional health, I do not want her totally segregated at lunchtime. She should be in the cafeteria with other kids, not with adults in the office./p
pBut my 100 RAST test daughter must not eat anything, ANYWHERE, without a trained adult ready and able to recognize and treat a reaction. /p
pAll summer, I've been discouraged by district staff from pursuing a 504 plan, and urged instead to create an Individual Health Plan, (which not coincidentally is handled through the health department, rather than the schools). /p
pI think they feared the precedent of the district paying for an aide for one hour per day (lunch and recess), which seemed like the obvious solution to me. (There is a second PA child in her class who would also benefit.) The teachers by contract won't do lunch duty, the principal "can't spare" other staff, and the cafeteria aides say they can barely stop the food fights as it is./p
pIn addition to sharing your solutions here, from any US state or Canada, would anyone who has gotten any kind of paid lunch aide or health technician at any public school in Maryland, PLEASE contact me ASAP at [email][/email] to share details. They said if I found a precedent in MD it would make a big difference. /p
pThanks for sharing how you've coped with this back-to-school challenge. I am one weary Mom. (My second PA child starts kindergarten the same day, at a different school!)br /

Posted on: Mon, 08/19/2002 - 4:56pm
DRobbins's picture
Joined: 07/19/2001 - 09:00

Pam, sorry I don't have any useful info for you, but I just want to tell you I have the same problem here in MA (I don't assume it's state-wide, though). The situations in the cafeteria, playground and schoolbus at my son's school are inadequate. Especially since my son is not allowed to wear his epipen.
If you have any luck finding a solution, I'd love to hear it.

Posted on: Mon, 08/19/2002 - 10:58pm
Tracey's picture
Joined: 04/25/2001 - 09:00

I had the same problem with my PA son's school. They had one person who watched ten classrooms at lunch which was not good enough for me.What we finally decided to do was that my older daughter who is ten (not PA) would monitor my son's classromm at lunch. She would go each day and bring a friend and was there to specifically watch my son. I realize that you may not have an older child but perhaps you could find an older student with a peanut allergy who could do this. I don't know if this helps at all but I think it is important that you find some resolution because lunch time is such a high risk time at school.
Good luck,

Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2002 - 3:59am
Jazz It Up's picture
Joined: 08/19/2002 - 09:00

Hi Pam and welcome to the boards!
My PA son is in 3rd grade and a Paraprofessional is assigned to various tables in the cafeteria.
This is our procedure for lunch and it has worked really well for us:
He has a peanut-free (PF) table which is *connected* to the regular table. The PF table will hold 6 children (the entire table holds 30). He sits at the very end of the PF table so as not to be seated by someone who may have PB at the *regular* table.
He always sits in the same seat *facing* the Para's so they can watch him more closely.
(The cafeteria has a strict "hand raising" rule if a child needs something. The head para in the cafeteria specifically told my son if he needs anything related to peanut butter, he has permission to get up and get any of the para's in there).
At dismissal from the lunch table, each child's hand is physically squirted with liquid soap so they *have* to go in the bathroom and wash their hands. (My son stays with a "Para" while the rest of the class is cleaning up in the bathroom so he isn't around the peanut butter during cleanup). He washes his hands back in the classroom.
THEN they line up in the cafeteria and head back to the classroom.
This procedure has worked for us since Kindergarten and we have not had a problem and my son is also *contact* sensitive and we have not had a problem.
Stay Safe!

Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2002 - 4:30am
pamehughes's picture
Joined: 07/24/2002 - 09:00

Connie, that sounds wonderfully effective. I love the soap squirting drill!
Who pays for the paraprofessional and did you have to fight for it? Is it under 504 or any formal plan? Is this para assigned to all FA kids in the school or just yours? And can you tell me (here or at [email][/email]) which school system or state has allowed this? Many thanks, you are my first beacon of hope!

Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2002 - 4:46am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

My daughter, who is now entering second grade, had a bad experience last year when a child sat next to her eating a PNB cracker snack that she had purchased from the school cafeteria. When the child refused to change her seat, my daughter asked the lunchroom attendant for help. The attendant blew her off, saying "Not now honey, I'm kind of busy here." Colleen was ordered to return to her seat, where she spent the rest of the lunch period terrified that the other child would touch her. I notified the cafeteria manager and principal of the incident, and they agreed to stop selling packaged PNB snacks and to speak to the lunchroom attendants.
As a result of this experience, when I negotiated my daughter's 504 plan for the upcoming school year, I made sure that the following provisions were included:
-Packaged snacks that contain peanut ingredients shall not be sold in the school cafeteria.
-The lunchroom attendants shall closely monitor Colleen during the entire lunch period and shall immediately respond to any questions or concerns that she brings to their attention.
I initially met with some resistance from the school, but eventually they came around. Now we will see if they actually follow these provisions. I have found that the best way to ensure compliance is to make unannounced visits to the lunchroom several times a year. This keeps the staff on their toes and gives you the opportunity see what your child is up against every day. Good luck to you!

Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2002 - 6:14am
pamehughes's picture
Joined: 07/24/2002 - 09:00

Thanks, Colleen's Mom. I think monitoring by an existing school employee is where I'm probably headed, at least to begin. The lunchroom aides seem to answer to the principal, which makes the 504 route look best. (Of course, I've let the summer slip by and allowed the district to deter me from pursuing a 504 plan-- rookie mistake.)
The current lunch aides do not want this extra responsibility, and I can't blame them. Without special training and clear consequences, I do fear that your daughter's dangerous experience would be replicated in our school, with aides already overwhelmed by the chaos of the cafeteria.
It'll be up to the principal to make it work.

Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2002 - 6:28am
Jazz It Up's picture
Joined: 08/19/2002 - 09:00

Hey Pam,
The Para's that work in the lunchroom are paid "teacher assistants" and they are assigned to all the classes that eat in the cafeteria on rotating schedules. They are assigned more than one class to look after at lunch but anyone of them can assist a child from any class.
I do not have a 504 in place. The only *official* thing I have is a dictated letter from my son's doctor regarding his peanut allergy and EpiPen and a written emergency care plan for the school to follow in case of an exposure.
This school has been fabulous when it comes to handling peanut allergy and my son's Kindergarten teacher is now Vice Principal of his school and she has been a tremendous asset to his needs.
Colleen's mom made an excellent point about dropping in unannounced and see what is happening at lunch. Make yourself known at the school if at all possible.
I didn't check your profile so I don't know if you work or not, but I'll tell you, I am a houswife and so I can pop in at anytime and I really feel for the working moms who can't just take off work whenever they want to check on things.
I volunteer once a week at the school and I have such a great support system there. I am very lucky. Some people on this board have had a terrible time with their school/school district and I just feel for them. My son is very fortunate to be able to attend this school. As great as things go, you still want to make your presence known and be able to pop in at any time in case someone new is there working.
We moved in December and they built a brand new elementary school around the corner from us and I wrote a two page letter to the school board to keep him at his present school because his 2nd grade teacher was moving with the same group of students to 3rd grade so this made his life much simpler and safer!
Oh, I forgot to mention we are in Florida.
Stay Safe!
[This message has been edited by Jazz It Up (edited August 20, 2002).]

Posted on: Tue, 08/20/2002 - 10:56am
dhumphries's picture
Joined: 02/02/1999 - 09:00

To Everyone and Connie (who I have not chatted with in a LONG time),
My son just started Kinder yesterday, with much apprehension from Mom. But, after various meetings at school, I feel fairly comfortable with the cafeteria situation. The cafeteria trays have been made peanut free (although I haven't yet let my pa son try them), and the director of the food services for the entire district met me there yesterday to assure me that she was very allergy aware and had read all labels. He has the first to lunch, and he is seated at the end of table that has been cleaned with bleach the night before. Only children with cafeteria trays are allowed to be seated near him. All the kids with lunches brought from home are seated at the end of the approx. 30 seat table. His classroom has been made peanut free, and I have provided a bag of safe snacks in case some have to be confiscated. I have an IEP on file (no 504).
In addition,my allergist wrote a fairly strongly worded letter about strict avoidance of peanut products.
Good luck to all

Posted on: Tue, 09/03/2002 - 2:53am
DonMary's picture
Joined: 09/03/2002 - 09:00

We have the same problem for our 6 year old twins who are both PA, just started 1st grade and are eating in the cafeteria for the first time this year. We had a separate Peanut free table set up, the school cleans the table thoroughly before lunch (1st graders are the first group at lunch) and the monitors were informed about their peanut allergy. The problem is there are only 2-3 monitors for well over 200 children! We had intended to let our children invite others to lunch with them when they do not have any peanut products but without adequate supervision don't know how to verify that only children without peanut foods will sit at the peanut free table. Even if we don't invite others to sit at the table without supervision we're afraid others will come to the table or our children will go visit the other tables - they are very aware of their allergy but our son quickly forgets or underestimates the dangers when he is in a room with other children.
The school has been cooperative and we have adopted an informal plan and are drafting a 504 but the school has said they don't have the funding to have an Aide specifically assigned to the Peanut free table as we have requested. To make matters worse, the children are released from lunch directly to the playground for 15 minutes of recess. We live in Arizona.
I would appreciate any feedback on this topic, for example how many children per monitor are typical in a school lunch room?

Posted on: Tue, 09/03/2002 - 4:01am
Sandra Y's picture
Joined: 08/22/2000 - 09:00

I just got back from monitoring my first grader's first day in the lunchroom. I feel very worried.
Yes, he has a peanut-free "area" around him at his end of the table, but who will be monitoring this? It is so chaotic, crowded and noisy, and the lunchroom aides have so many kids to watch. The room is much too small and the kids are jammed together. Probably 120 kids (grades 1-4) in the first lunch period. There is one teacher and two assistants to monitor. After lunch the kids are dismissed directly to recess.
I met with the principal this morning. An epi-pen will be in the caf and the recess duty teacher will pick it up to take it out to recess. Hmmm. I wonder if they'll really remember? I shadowed my son to lunch and recess today and spoke with 2 of the teachers on duty. They didn't know much about what was going on with my son...guess I will continue going to lunch and recess with him until everyone knows the game plan.
Peanuts peanuts everywhere. A disabled boy was being fed peanut butter sandwich nearby (at a separate table) and it was quite messy and there was a strong odor of peanuts throughout the caf. Most of the packers seemed to have pb. Didn't seem to bother my son. Two of his classmates picked up and moved when they saw my son--they remember about his peanut allergy from last year, and they know not to sit near him with pb. The kids are so sweet--a few of them avoid bringing peanut butter so they can sit with him, which I think is sooo nice of them.
It's nerve-wracking. I need to tell the lunchroom monitors that he can never be the assigned "captain" of the table. The captain has to pick up whatever the others leave behind. I don't want him going near the garbage cans. Ugggh. So many details.


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