Need advice - nut free class or whole school?

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 11:11am
mcmom's picture
Joined: 06/15/2004 - 09:00

I am beginning to work on a 504 plan for my son. His school has had other PA students in the past, but there is no kind of nut free policy, not even a classroom one. He went to school all this year in Pre-K and the teachers were vigilant about keeping everything clean, hands washed, etc. Next year in Kindergarten, again the snacks will be eaten in the classroom (it's half day kindergarten) and I would really like to have nuts out of the class. Is that enough? What is reasonable? For those of you whose kids have nut free classrooms, does it bother you that there are still nuts in the cafeteria?

Right now I am pretty focused on the classroom itself. Even when he moves up to first grade, I have the option to let him come home every day for lunch if I want to, so I don't know if it's worth trying to fight for the entire school to ban pn. There is another PA child in my son's grade but her parents evidently haven't made any waves yet. There was another child with PA who recently graduated, but his parents have a pretty relaxed comfort zone, and frankly, I don't.

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 12:28pm
momma2boys's picture
Joined: 03/14/2003 - 09:00

mcmom, hi, alot of this depends on your comfort zone, and if your child is contact, airborne, or just ingestion allergic.
We started out with just my ds classroom being peanut free and common areas food free. After he had a contact reaction at his birthday party, they stopped serving pb in the cafeteria.
We don't have the option of going home for lunch, but even if your son goes home for lunch, you will have kids going back in his classroom that have eaten pb. Do they plan to wash hands after lunch? That would have a big impact on your decision too. And once you decide to go with him leaving at lunch, what happens if you change your mind. You will have to start the fight then to remove it, or find ways to be safe with it.
I did start a thread here, where I felt that serving p.b. undermines the seriousness of a pf classroom. Just my personal opinion though, and for the time they did serve p.b. he had no reactions.
You could also suggest they try serving Sunbutter instead of p.b. It is now on the govt. approved commodity list. I can raise that thread for you too, if you'd like.

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 2:20pm
mcmom's picture
Joined: 06/15/2004 - 09:00

I honestly don't know if he would have a contact reaction. He's never had one, but he is severely allergic (just had him retested and he was at over 100.) Other kids have eaten pb in the class with him, but not right next to him, they usually switch seats if someone has pb.
The cafeteria menu has no pb (good), although I know they keep a jar of pb and some jelly in the kitchen in case a kid forgets his lunch (not good). But I'm sure there are quite a few who bring lunch from home, and your point about the hand washing is a good one.
I'm somewhat apprehensive about the whole thing; the next town over has a child with a latex allergy, and there was evidently a lot of outrage over the accommodations that were made for him.

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 2:39pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

mcmom, I'm Canadian so I don't know very much about 504 Plans. Are you able to request a "peanut free" school in a 504 Plan or can you simply request a "peanut free" classroom and say a "peanut free" table in the cafeteria?
As I say, I'm not familiar with 504 Plans in America that well and don't know if the request can be made through a 504 Plan for a school to be made "peanut free".
I know that where I live, in Ontario, Canada, my PA child has the right to a "peanut free" classroom. Whether a school becomes "peanut free" (or any of the other terms), the decision rests solely with the principal of each school.
In my experience in two school board districts in Ontario, I have only seen a couple of "reduce the risk" schools running, although I do know in the first one where I did work to get the "reduce the risk" school with the principal, there were other "peanut free" schools covered under that same school board district policy, but in towns hundreds of miles away from me.
I, myself, cannot ask for a school to be "peanut free". I can hope that I have a principal that is willing to work with me to achieve that, but, it hasn't been my experience so far. As I said, I did finally get a "reduce the risk" school through working with the principal for two years. Whether it remained "reduce the risk" after we left that town (and school board district), I have no idea.
Also, with children in our schools, we don't have cafeterias. Eating is always done in the classrooms (or, much to my horror this year, on the playground during recess is where their morning and afternoon snacks are consumed), so I don't have the cafeteria stuff to worry about.
I do believe that momma2boys is definitely "right on" about serving pb in a cafeteria and how it does certainly undermine the concept (and implementation) of a "peanut free" classroom.
But again, I am actually quite curious to know if you can ask for a "peanut free" school with a 504 Plan.
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 9:31pm
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Knowing the mentality of the area in which I've lived most of life, I chose to have a VERY vigilant peanut-free classroom. I thought this was the way I could gain the support of all involved with little negativity. Keep in mind our school is very large with 1400+ kids and growing everyday in Ryan's elementary school.
We've nitpicked every little area when he's outside the classroom. The past two years have been extremely successful with no asthma attacks or reactions to peanuts. His attendance rate hovers around 98 to 99% for both years, which is excellent given his situation and classification as severely allergic (touch, inhalation, ingestion).
Our cafeteria does not serve PB anymore--has been totally erased from the menu as a daily option for breakfast and lunch. This past year it was only served as special treat bars with lunches on the holidays. Our principal told me last week he is looking into eliminating that too, although I've never asked him. Ryan has not eaten in the cafeteria on these high-risk days when baking them or serving them.
It would be hard to write all the details of our plan. Ry's 504 has been posted even though there's a lot of good minute details that have been implemented, not specifically stated in the 504, but resulted from how we implement it.
I do not think serving PB in the cafeteria undermines the peanut-free classroom. These are two issues that must be dealt with separately. If a school is doing everything specified in the 504 to protect your child, and the cafeteria has not been addressed (re serving PB), then undermining the PF classroom (IMO, of course) is not the issue, yet it is one which a parent would want to address separately to complement it. Could be a component of the 504 in that case.
I never asked that the cafeteria stop serving PB. Once the facts were laid out on the table so to speak (Ryan's severe PA), there has been a gradually reduction in PA, with the distinct probability it will be totally eliminated this coming year.
I must add that I'm dealing with reasonable, trustworthy, and compassionate people (principal and vice principals). This is not always the case for everyone unfortunately.
Bottom line? If you felt you would get little hassle by insisting on a peanut-free school, then by all means do it. However, there is a VERY wide range of "peanut-free" schools, some of which are very lax, IMO. If someone were to tell me (a principal) that their school was peanut-free, I'd say prove it. Show me the facts. I do not go by someone's word--I want specific details.
I chose to go the other route based on my perception of our situation. It has been nothing but successful so far. I have a heavy hand in what goes on in the classroom and I like it that way--makes me feel so much better when he's at school and I sleep better at night.
Whatever you choose, I would recommend that you be very specific in the objectives of your 504/school plan. Leaving little to the imagination keeps your own imagination in check.

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 11:21pm
MQriley2's picture
Joined: 05/25/2004 - 09:00

I agree with Ryan's mom. I used her 504 plan as a guide to write my 504 plan and I was very well prepared when I went into my meeting. I just read it off and they wrote it.
As far as the peanut free school. I did not even have that in my mind. It would be nice, but it is impossible. Could you see thousands of parents having to shop the way we shop? That would be unreasonable. As you can see from these boards, there is peanut something in a large amount of products. Just because you say peanut free, people would not assume that also means made from peanut manf. or may contain. These can be just as dangerous as the real thing.
I was very strict about the peanut free classroom and the classes that he will have recess with. As well as the gym items and his recess. I have also had to teach him to not touch things. Like walking down the hallway with his hands on the wall or putting his hands on banisters, etc.
I think that if you tried to make it a peanut free school and were successful, you would also let your guard down. Having a school that is not peanut free, even though it is sometimes nerve racking, it also teaches your child how to keep himself safe in a public setting. School is no different than the mall, movies, grocery stores,park, etc. If they get too comfortable, they forget.
Renee athma/EA
Quinton: PA/TNA/Soy/EA/Severe Asthma/whole egg/onion/cocoa bean/chicken/turkey/string beans/potato
Mykiaja: EA/asthma
Taylor: EA/asthma

Posted on: Wed, 06/16/2004 - 11:24pm
mcmom's picture
Joined: 06/15/2004 - 09:00

Thanks to everyone for your advice!
Cindy, I don't really know what exactly I can ask for in the 504!, and even if I ask, I'm not sure what I will *get*. I'm just afraid of asking for too little, if you know what I mean. I'm worried that maybe I didn't fight hard enough to try to keep nuts out of his classroom this year, and I want to do whatever I can to keep him as safe as possible.
Ryan's mom, my instinct tells me that I may even get some resistance in asking for a pn free classroom. As I've said, they have had one or two PA kids in the school in recent years, and from what I understand, have not ever had one. I believe the cafeteria policy is to have the PA child sit at the end seat of a table and eat his luch on a cardboard disposable tray. They do have moms who work as (paid) lunchroom monitors, so hopefully they would make sure the child isn't sitting right next to someone with pb! (If I did eventually allow my son to eat lunch in school, I was planning on asking to be a monitor.) Again, none of the lunches sold include pb, but I think I must mention to the principal that I'm not comfortable with then keeping a jar of it in the kitchen, way too much chance of cross contamination.
The school he attends is very small. It is only grades Pre-K through second, just one story. It's good in many ways - everyone is pretty aware of who my child is, and that he has PA. There aren't so many kids that you wouldn't be able to easily tell who is eating what - so if kids bring in pb sandwiches from home and eat them in the luchroom, do I ask for some kind of hand washing policy? An important point to mention: the "cafeteria" is not a designated room - it's the all-purpose room. So it's the same room my child plays gym in, and goes to assemblies in.
So far, I have not found too many parents really "getting it". My son's best friend is my neighbor's son - sshe's lovely, weplay there often, and I talk to her a lot about my son's PA. Yet, the other day **on the school playground** she was holding a bag of Cracker Jack with peanuts for her child! I couldn't believe it! Another mom who I considered a "friend", who is also very aware of my son's PA and whose child sits at my son's table, sent her son in a snack of a granola bar with nuts, which according to his teacher got everywhere, and caused her to take a lot of time to stop and clean up after it.
More opinions: is it better if you think the parents are going to get angry to try going the "send a letter home" route? At our school the first week we have "Back to School" night where the parents meet in the class - should I give a short talk? Explain the seriousness of PA (which I'm sure most people out there have no idea is life threatening)?
Again, thanks to you all for the great info/advice.

Posted on: Thu, 06/17/2004 - 8:27am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Agreed MQriley2.
You really have to be prepared on how you/the school will deal with every situation you can think of.
For example, what is acceptable for you in your lunch/all-purpose room? Will you let children bringing lunches from home sit at the PF-table relying on the parents to "do the right thing." We do not. No one bringing a lunch from home can sit at the PF table. Only kids buying school lunch because no PB is served. Do you want a totally separate table set aside?
If gym is in the "cafeteria" do you want gym after lunch when the floor is cleaned/washed (assuming they do this every day? That's what I would prefer.
Can you do brainstorming with your administrators? Are they open to options?
Just some thoughts...
BTW, we did have other peanut-allergic children before Ry in our school. Several, in fact. Lucky me got to be first to do a 504. No other PA child had one, or had the conservative precautions we have implemented. Just because no one ever had a 504 for PA, doesn't mean your child can't be the first. And it can be successful. There are school administrators out there that can provide support to other administrators on the issue.
[This message has been edited by ryan's mom (edited June 17, 2004).]

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