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Posted on: Thu, 12/12/2002 - 7:36am
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Hello Cindy:
I have been reading this thread with great interest as we are experiencing similar difficulties at our son's school. First, let me say how sorry I am that you are going through this as I know first hand how frustrating and upsetting it must be for you. I wanted to share my perspective with you for what it's worth. Our school has become "peanut-safe" and our struggles are with the rest of the school, not our son's particular classroom. We have decided that in order to "Reduce the risk", we ask people not to send in actual peanuts or nuts or "May Contain" products because that is what we consider reasonable. We know that this might allow some potentially unsafe products into the class and school due to improper labelling but we are attempting to "reduce" the risk, not "eliminate" the risk altogether. This is how we justify our position as we feel it is reasonable to ask parents to read labels but not to know about products to the extent that we do. I hope this is helpful to you in some way. It sounds as though you have already made your decision regarding "May Contains" and I fully respect that. I simply wanted to share our perspective in hopes it might help you or others in the future. Take care!

Posted on: Thu, 12/12/2002 - 2:15pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

E-mail I just sent to the principal after another parent approached me this afternoon at the school. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. I'll let you know (what else is new [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/rolleyes.gif[/img] ) how it was received:-
Dear Mrs. _____:
Hello! I was approached by yet another parent from Jesse's classroom when I went to pick-up Ember from school to-day. She cannot understand, and with good reason, why a particular food item was not okay for the peanut free classroom. Why? Because it is not labeled as "may contain" and no one but a parent of a peanut allergic child would know whether that particular No Name food item was safe for the classroom or not.
If we go back to the beginning of the year theoretically, as soon as an item came into the classroom that was questionable, i.e., a No Name item or one that didn't appear to be labeled well, according to Jesse's written school plan, as the food monitor for the school, I should have been contacted and asked if the product was okay.
I could have told either school administration, staff or fellow parents that the item was or was not safe.
We are now into the school year for three months. As I have indicated to you in previous e-mails, it is quite clear that food checking of "may contain" items was NEVER done in the Grade 2 classroom, also in direction violation of Jesse's written school plan.
This is the fourth year that Jesse has attended school. We have NEVER had this problem in the past with a teacher who has chosen to ignore or simply not deal with his written school plan. In fact, this is only the third year that Jesse has had a written school plan. The first year, all of his written school plan was adhered to, without it being in writing.
I did discuss, with Jesse, tonight, the possibility of taking the "may contain" clause out of his school plan immediately. Unfortunately, because Jesse was suffering anxiety regarding his peanut allergy for most of the summer and has been verbally threatened since entering _____ _________ this fall, he was not okay with this.
I do believe that between the end of this school year and the beginning of the next school year, I will be able to discuss this with Jesse in a more thorough manner and be able to remove the "may contain" clause from his school plan although it does go against my better judgement as his parent.
For Jesse, the only "safe" place at school is his classroom. His classroom has the same requirements as we do in his home, i.e., no blatant peanut products, no "may contains", no "made ins". He does manage to navigate through the school in relative safety to computer, science, gym, library, and even the extracurricular karate where children are eating their lunches. I feel that this is risk enough for Jesse.
In saying that I would consider the removal of the "may contain" clause from his written school plan for next year, it would only be if I knew for sure that another part of his written school plan was being adhered to - that children wash their hands after snack and lunch.
I am not sure if I have made it clear why "may contains" are not allowed in the peanut free classroom. A "may contain" product has a 1 in 5 chance of actually containing traces of peanuts. It is basically like playing Russian Roulette with my son's life. Of course, the risk is lessened if he is not eating the product, but it is still there if the product is in the classroom.
What I would like to suggest is this. Any items that appear to be labeled "properly", i.e., all of the No Name crackers, etc. that I know are not safe, but any other diligently label reading parent would not know, can be allowed into the classroom. I believe this will help to alleviate confusion, misunderstanding, backlash and a litany of other emotions that are currently running high at the school.
However, in saying this, I do not want it to be interpreted by anyone or to anyone, that I have sent out a mixed message and that the information the teacher received to begin with was confusing. This was never the case. The case has simply been that of a teacher that has chosen not to adhere to a written school plan for an anaphylactic child.
I also feel it is imperative for the Safe Snack and Lunch List, regardless of the number of pages (11, I believe) to go home to the parents. This list is comprehensive and explains why another child is in position of being in a peanut free classroom. It is also an excellent document for meal planning. As I offered to you last week, I will have this photocopied myself for distribution. At Jesse's school in our previous town, I often had photocopying done at the school regarding his peanut allergy and simply paid the school. I can have it copied here downtown for free.
If you, yourself, feel that you would like to read documentation regarding "may contain" products, please let me know and I can easily provide that to you.
Mrs. _____, you cannot begin to understand how difficult this situation has been for me, and I suspect somehow, also Jesse. I have dealt with a reluctant principal before, but I have never dealt with a reluctant teacher before. It is a very new and sad situation for me.
If you think this would be okay, I can easily help the parent volunteer go through the snacks and lunches again to re-familiarize her with the new requirements.
It should also be implicit in this that any cookies, crackers, etc., that come in, not pre-packaged that we know are not "safe" will not be allowed in the classroom.
I do have to ask if there is a reminder note that goes home with a child that brings in an unsafe snack/lunch. Is there? There has been some concern raised by other parents of peanut allergic children about our substituting snacks from the breakfast program. If we continue to substitute snacks, how will the parent ever know/learn that it is not okay to send the unsafe snack in?
And, of course, there is the alternative that I am a bit uncomfortable with. Any child that does have a snack that is not okay, i.e., "may contain" only (not a blatant peanut product - they are NEVER allowed) is asked to eat it outside of the peanut free classroom and someone makes sure that the child washes their hands before re-entering the classroom. I am uncomfortable with this for a couple of reasons - I do not feel it is okay to ostracize another child and I also don't feel comfortable that the written school plan would not be adhered to.
As far as the parent that called the school board (finally), was it ever suggested to her that her child could be moved to the split Grade 2/3 class? It has been quite obvious that she has not been comfortable since Day 1 with the peanut free classroom and these latest restrictions (again, ones that should have been in place since the beginning of the school year) brought this to a head for her.
This afternoon I was able to tell the parent that Food Basics' No Name products are okay. Dewe's No Name products aren't. But how can we get that specific? I believe the majority of parents of Jesse's classmates have been doing a wonderful job label reading. They have gone above and beyond the call of duty. I don't believe his teacher has (especially given Duty of Care). I would like to alleviate the stresses on the parents and I'd like to relieve it now, and, if possible, without explanation, especially from the teacher.
Please let me know what you think. I'd like you to know also that this is the first time that I have ever had to have so much principal involvement with the peanut free classroom issue. Obviously, I do at the beginning of the school year when I present the written school plan, but usually after that, I tend to deal only with the teacher. In this case, unfortunately, it is entirely not possible.
Thank-you for your time and consideration.
Best wishes,
Cindy Spowart Cook
I also copied the superintendent on this one, as I did on one a couple of weeks ago. I want him to be aware as well that a written school plan is not being followed or has not been followed since the first day of school.
I'm hoping that I do come across as reasonable and caring and I'm hoping that I don't tick the principal off, especially by copying the superintendent, but I really want them both to be aware that I feel the teacher has bugged up big time and that I'm not okay with it.
As someone mentioned above, a superintendent would especially be aware of the legalities/liabilities involved in someone not following a school plan.
Tonight, after I got home from the school, DH could immediately tell that something was wrong with me (more *wrong* than usual [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img] ) and we did discuss taking out the "may contain" clause immediately. But I also felt it was important to approach and include Jesse and to put it mildly, he kinda freaked.
Not everyone may remember, but Jesse had a hard time this last summer with anxiety re his PA (posted about, of course [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/rolleyes.gif[/img] under Living with PA).
I'm wishing this would be the thread that would die a happy death and quickly, but I have to say that although I did need a break from it this week, it's also good that it's here so that I can continue to post under one thread what's going on with the school.
And my soul, if only ONE person learns something from this (other than me), I'm thankful.
Thanks for continuing to read. I appreciate it.
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Thu, 12/12/2002 - 2:22pm
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Nicely (and tactfully) put, Cindy.

Posted on: Fri, 12/13/2002 - 4:07am
Codyman's picture
Joined: 08/14/2002 - 09:00

Cindy, hope the break was enough to clear your mind.
My daughter has her picture on the Emergency Form in the office. Just my signature on the medical form NO doctor's okay.
As for the Epipen, last year (JK) and this year (SK) the children hang their backpacks in the classroom and her Epipen and Puffers are in a Medical Alert bag in her backpack. There is also another Epipen in the classroom on a hook.
I have read in the school newsletters about medications being stored in the office and mentioned this to my daughter's teacher and whether or not I should approach the principal about her Epipen and Puffers. The teacher said "No, it needs to be with her at all time".
My daughter goes to Daycare before and after school and needs to bring her Epipen and Puffer to the Daycare even though they have an Epipen there, I like her to carry extras.
Perhaps next year I may need something in writing because the Grade one's hang their backpacks in the hallway. My daughter will still need her Epipen and Puffer with her and perhaps she will start wearing it all the time. For now, I carry it most of the time, she wears it when we go on trips- zoo etc. I will have to approach the Principal towards the end of the year about this. I may need your help later this year in setting up a plan.

Posted on: Fri, 01/17/2003 - 2:09pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just posted this in another thread but chrikey, it ties in here as well (probably better here), so I control C'd, Control V'd (thanks Cayley's Mom [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] ) it into this thread as well. What the he**! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
Okay, so here's why I posted this question. In JK/SK Jesse did not have a written school plan. He had an absolutely fabulous teacher and if any little blips came up (and I mean little), I dealt with her personally by speaking with her. That young woman learned more about PA simply because she had Jesse in her class than I think she'd ever really need to know (except that she is a teacher and will have PA children in her class). She was great. The principal at that time was not that great, couldn't figure out why I thought it was important Jesse be included in all school events safely as well and I also dealt with her in meetings. Finally, at the suggestion of another PA.com member, I got superintendent involvement just as Jesse was about to enter Grade 1 in that school district. The teacher and I had always gotten along fine but the principal and I well, we butted heads. We butted heads verbally and I have to say nicely.
So, we come to a new town and last year, any little blips re Jesse's written school plan (which he had implemented for Grade 1) were dealt with again very simply by speaking with his teacher. I don't think I ever had to speak with the principal about anything to do with PA last year (I may be mistaken), but we certainly seemed to have had an easy go of it last year compared to this.
This year. Well. Jesse's teacher is not one that will stand and talk after class because she has too many parents in the classroom trying to talk to her about various things. She's just not open to discussion. I did try. Honestly I did.
I have found out that the woman has consistently screwed up Jesse's written school plan since Day 1, little by little. Well, each time there was a mistake (let's not say "screw up"), since she's not conducive to verbal communication, I thought I would simply e-mail her to confirm that this product was not okay in the classroom or whatever.
When I found out that she had not been checking for "may contains" for 3 months, I e-mailed her again and I have to say that the tone of my e-mail was firm. With this one, I also copied the principal.
When Jesse had his anaphylactic reaction, the teacher handed him off to an E.A. in training and didn't deal with him at all. After I got home, I went over and looked over Jesse's emergency medical plan and spoke with the principal (not his teacher) and said that I would get something more comprehensive together and over to her.
I e-mailed the principal and I copied the superintendent of the school board because they basically screwed up big time. I didn't say this in the e-mail though. I just went over the list of symptoms and what our emergency medical plan is and how it was NOT followed on that day.
Fine. I have to meet with Jesse's teacher about her continued segregation of my son from the rest of the class (they sit in small groups of 3 or 4, Jesse sits beside the window separate - there are 3 or 4 other children that do as well). I had spoken with her the day we left for Christmas break and she said that Jesse's behaviour was very much improved and she didn't consider him a problem anymore.
The first day back at school, he was in a group. He came home that night and said that he was so happy he was in a group. He also told us that he understood that the teacher was going to be changing the seating arrangements again but he hoped he would still be in a group.
I checked the board that night when I went to pick him up and his name was not on it for misbehaviour.
The next morning, I take Jesse to class after the breakfast program and there he is in segregation again with the saddest little face on him. My heart was broken.
I came home and e-mailed the teacher. I reminded her of our pre-holiday discussion and explained that I couldn't understand why if he was behaving he was still being segregated and how harmful that could actually be to his self-esteem. I also pointed out that perhaps because he's isolated from the other children that's the reason that he is talking out in the class, just so he has someone to talk to. I told her that I was absolutely heartbroken. It was not a nasty e-mail.
Well, I told my DH about the situation when he got home from school. He was absolutely livid. I love it when I think I've handled a situation accordingly and then he gets even more livid than I do. He called the school and wanted to speak with the teacher who was gone and he left a message for the principal.
I called and left a message for the principal that night asking if I could be relieved from the breakfast program at 8:30 a.m. so that I could have the 15 minutes to speak with Jesse's teacher about his segregation. Relief did not come. I went into the class at 8:45 and asked Jesse's teacher if he would still be segregated. Yes. I pulled him out of class. I went into the office and told the principal I was taking Jesse home and keeping him home until the situation was resolved.
(As you can see, this really has nothing to do with his written school plan, does it?)
I went to the school in the afternoon when the teacher had her prep time. This is the time that she is available to meet with parents. The principal was the referee. The teacher basically sat there and would not say anything to me at all. The principal had to ask her questions to try to get some answers out of her.
The principal did explain to me that under The Ministry of Education Act there is something called *preferred seating* for children that are considered problematic by their teachers. However, I referred back to what the teacher had said pre-holidays.
I knew this wasn't just about Jesse's segregation but I also explained to the principal that I spend a lot of time advocating on behalf of Jesse's allergy and sometimes other issues get waylaid and almost lost and this one had to be dealt with.
I told the teacher that her discipline methods were archaic - that my ex-husband had been placed in a cardboard box outside the classroom by nuns almost 40 years ago and her methods were not much different. I told her her clean-up crew was Nazi-like (I'm sorry, Miriam and others [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img] ) and that as per Jesse's school plan if he should be on the Clean-up Crew he better bloody not be touching any food.
She still sat there and basically said nothing. Then I said what was really bothering me. I said when Jesse had his reaction you didn't even deal with it, you handed him off to an E.A. in training. She got up to leave the room to go back to class (it was time) and I left her with the parting comment that she better re-read Duty of Care.
I went red in the face. My eyes were on the ground. My hands were shaking. And this woman has this face of stone and will not respond.
The principal had three options for me. Jesse could remain in her class, which may mean remain in segregation. He could be moved to the split Grade 2/3 class (remember I had a meeting already with this witch a couple of months ago and that's what we wanted to do but it was considered too "disruptive") but he would have to be very quiet in the class and I don't think Jesse could do that. Or, we could leave the school and go to a school close to us that would be like a 1960's or 1970's "free school" (I'm actually going to look into that for future years for both children - I was so jealous that I never went to one and my sister did).
Surprisingly, Jesse chose to stay in her class.
Interestingly, Jesse has not been in segregation since that meeting.
What I decided to do was completely stay away from the teacher (until she kills my child).
I will not check to see if his name is on the board. I will not even enter her classroom.
I will wait outside like a lot of other parents simply do for my sweet guy to come running to me.
The principal thought that perhaps this would work.
And how does this tie into the question? The teacher found my e-mails (of which there were not many) HARRASSMENT. When I reminded her of how she was not following Jesse's written school plan in writing either by e-mail or letter (for example, I had written about Tim Horton's not being okay in a handwritten note on beautiful stationery), she has considered this HARRASSMENT.
Of course, she also considered my DH's message left for the principal to be embarrassing, threatening and abusive.
How can dealing with your child's written school plan be considered harrassment unless the person knows that they have screwed up consistently? How can a caring parent bringing something to a teacher's attention for their child's safety and their child's LIFE be considered HARRASSMENT.
This happened last week. I was without my phone and without the internet. I was absolutely beside myself.
This week, Jesse had a skating outting which I posted about in Tamie's thread under Schools as well. I was literally scared to approach his teacher about the parent designated supervisor and carrying his meds.
I didn't. I called the principal instead.
Thank heaven for the principal. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
I had wanted to do a couple of web searches tonight (Matthew Modine comes to mind [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img] ) and I had wanted to ask a few more questions here as well, but I have to admit I'm tired after that long winded posting.
Thanks for listening. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Mon, 01/20/2003 - 1:35pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Simply re-raising for another member to see.
Best wishes! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Posted on: Mon, 01/20/2003 - 10:29pm
anonymous's picture
Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Oh my goodness, Cindy!
After all the moves you've already made, I hesitate to say this, but... you need to get the heck out of there!! Unless you can see light at the end of the tunnel - meaning a better time next year, and the year after that, etc...
My heart is breaking for Jesse and for you. I'm so sorry about all this. I wish there were something I could do.
Can you take the next step up the ladder of administration, or do you think that would just make things even worse?
I'm so, so sorry.

Posted on: Mon, 01/20/2003 - 11:14pm
MommaBear's picture
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

I can't help but wonder, if you enlisted the services of a lawyer, child advocate, intermediary of sorts, would it still called "harrassing"? As is my habit, I always Document, document, document. I had a representative who had offerred to intervene regarding a school/PA related situation, but we declined. I don't regret the decisions we made, since I feel our son is now in an environment where those who watch over and instruct him are genuinely concerned and make concerned efforts to be genuinely informed about his PA/Food allergies/asthma and other matters. They also have, without blinking, taken certain measures to ensure his safety. I cannot express how much that means to us.They truly have demonstrated a desire in action and word to have him in their school. I feel for your situation and Jesse.

Posted on: Tue, 01/21/2003 - 12:16am
becca's picture
Joined: 05/22/2001 - 09:00

This might undo your whole plan regarding the may contain issue, but, can you simply keep a list that goes home to parents of all the items you do consider safe? I realize these things need revision and sometimes a once safe item is no longer, but then you could alert with a note home and alert the staff? At my school(which is far from perfect on the food front as you all know), the actual food intended for daily eating(the daily snack) *is* off a list I provided. If there is anything questionable, like cupcakes for a birthday, I have provided items to give my dd. All items coming in for any/one/all children do have to be PN/TN free as well.
So, individuals might have may contains at lunch time(an optional thing for us anyway), but the notes home do say not to, so the risk is down. When we have a party, the room mother(and I am it for the next party) posts a very specific sign up list. I can even put brands on it, or just do those things myself and put paper products, fruit, veggies, and such on the list for sign up.
Basically, it is (in theory, and we, too, have wrinkles) always in writing exactly what parents can send in. I am not sure I like this because I think people are resistent to being told what to do, but it seems you are being put into that position anyways. Maybe ask around to the toughest ones and ask if they would have an easier time with a specific list for reference?
My friend lives in a city closer to Boston, and her dd's music class has sent home such a list and simply states, "Here is a list of snacks which will keep all the children and staff at our school safe. Please refer to this when sending food into the school." That is it. I will not get this cooperation at my school, but I am happy the whole place is PN/TN free despite my other food issues(sweets). Just some other ideas, but maybe too late or too much change.
Also is of no help for the past troubles and poor treatment. Sorry for that. I was just thinking, maybe a new plan might make for less trouble, but change might make more trouble! The confusion with may contains is the unknown labels and you could explain this simply with a note and a list. So tough. becca

Posted on: Fri, 01/24/2003 - 4:35am
rilira's picture
Joined: 11/11/1999 - 09:00

Your situation greatly reminds me of our situation last year. I don't know if you remember that we were approached about moving grade levels for Rachel? Anyway we went for it. Academically it was the best decision for Rachel. I was pleasantly surprised to be dealing with a situation and decision making at school not dealing with allergy issues.
Anyway the new teacher was a nightmare. Same as your experiences she didn't follow the plan, things had been ignored on the plan, and she picked and chose what she would follow. The teacher viewed the plan as a document she didn't have to follow.
I started out with sending notes (I don't have beautiful stationary though) reminding her of the plan and my concerns. She ignored almost all my notes. She did approach the princiapl saying she was not happy with the plan. The principal explained that we would have to have a meeting to discuss any possible changes. Keep in mind this teacher was given the plan prior to Rachel moving to her class, reviewed it with the nursing director, and spoke with me both on the phone and in person. Needless to say the principal, nurse, asst. principal, all supported the plan as it was.
That was the beginning of the end of the relationship with the teacher. Things got to the point where you are, pulling Rachel out of school, being offered a change in teacher... We thought long and hard about what to do. We also had the support of the principal like you seem to.
We decided to leave Rachel where she was because academically it was the best decision. There were safeguards put in place. I started to deal only with the asst. principal, I never spoke directly with the teacher anymore. Rachel was told that anytime she felt uncomfortable, unsafe, or singled out she could leave class and go directly to the office. The asst. principal and principal made "visits" to the classroom throughout the day. They were subtle so the other kids didn't know why they were there, but Rachel and the teacher did. They would walk by Rachel and lay a hand on her shoulder. It became obvious to the teacher that she was being watched.
I also filed a formal complaint with the district office against the teacher. I kept a written copy of everything and was advised not to e-mail. E-mail is too easy to say they didn't get it. I always hand delivered everything directly to the office.
I have to admit as the year went on, I completely enjoyed the fact that the teacher knew she was being watched and was intimidated by my presence. I know she was reprimanded but they legally can not tell me how. I know on two occasions representatives from the legal dept. were sent to discuss the legal ramifications of violating a written plan.
It was hard as he** to make it through the year. I really felt like if we backed down it would only encourage this teacher to discriminate against the next child. I have to say though if Rachel was not so self aware and I knew could take care of herself, I would have thought twice about it.
On the flip side, Rache llearned at a young age that not all teachers are nice, not all teachers do the right thing, and not all teachers are smart. In the year, she was exposed to this teacher she matured so much with her allergy it was amazing. She went from a child who knew Mom would handle it to taking charge of her own allergy. She is now at a point where I thought it would take until the teenage years to ger to. I have watched her become a tremedous advocate for herself and her self esteem is not so high it is almost embarrassing.
I thought long and hard about our situation and worried about how it was damaging Rachel but like I said she actually is a better person for it.
Continue to let your presence be known at the school and especially let this teacher know you are watching what is going on.
Take care,
P.S. How is that for a long winded reply?


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