Parents take on the school system in BC

Posted on: Mon, 01/12/2004 - 1:07pm
KarenH's picture
Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

I am part of an advocacy group and was given permission to post's long...

From: Sue Halstead
To: echo
Sent: Sunday, January 04, 2004 2:32 PM
Subject: letter to the editor


As the president of PAVE I was appalled to read the trustee's responses to Shelley and Jeff Gailloux regarding the rights of their child to a safe learning environment. In another school district a parent has come to me for advocacy support because her young child was put in the corner on the floor to eat his lunch in order that the rest of the class could bring peanut butter to school. The parent complained that her son's rights were being violated by ostracizing, humiliating and punishing him in front of his peers for a medical condition he had no control over. The teacher went to the union. The parent was threatened with a "harassment suit" by the union and the principal then moved the child to another class (without the parent's permission) to appease the teacher. This despite the SD Policy and the Human Rights Code. The new teacher "agreed" to cooperate and protect her son.

This story serves to explain why we feel a person's rights cannot be dealt with through negotiation and consensus. Rights are inherent. The child has to have a safe learning environment. That is the law. Allowing children to bring peanut butter into that classroom, for that child, is as negligent as allowing her peers to bring a gun into the classroom. It is a political response by trustees and not a legal one. Trustees need education, not the parents who insist on sending the peanut butter. Dr. Yvonne Martin-Newcombe told us in September that "inaction" on the part of the school board is the same as "negligence".

If the issue truly stems from financial hardship, a room should be provided for the peanut butter that the anaphylactic child never has to enter. Not a classroom that is their learning environment in a public school. Many school PACs have supported parents financially with lunch programs and other equitable resources. It should not come down to putting any single child at risk of death. The majority of these children that die, die in their schools according to a handbook put out by the Canadian School Board Association.

The right to bring peanut butter to school does not exist and is not an education issue. The right of every child to have a safe learning environment is an education issue because the child has an invisibile disability and must be protected as needed. Equity of access means children are treated in an equitable manner taking into consideration each child's needs, not wants.

This policy is necessary from a risk management point of view. Enforcing it is paramount. Sometimes parents feel that what they perceive to be the rights of the majority should take precedence over an individual's rights.

When that happens a tyranny will form and it becomes an ugly situation of division instead of support. Whether it is about a child's right to be protected from a life threatening substance or an individual's right to bring forward concerns/issues and to be heard and respected for what they have to say.

The PAC should be taking a leadership role in this issue. The school board has the role of enforcing the policy. There is no room and no time to negotiate a child's safety, our school board should know better by now.

Remove the peanuts. The peanuts are the problem. The child and parents are not the problem.

Sue Halstead,
Parents Against Violence Everywhere

School board grapples with peanut policies

Safety vs. right to eat peanut butter lunches

By Melissa Fryer Echo Staff

What is more important -a child's safety or a child's right to eat peanut butter in class?

That's the question a parent put to school trustees recent- ly over a new district policy on medical conditions and life threatening allergies.

Shelley Gailloux's daughter was in kindergarten when she found out the hard way that her little girl had a poten- tially deadly allergy to peanuts. It was during her research into her daughter's condition that she discovered the Comox Valley School District did not have a policy to deal with medical emergencies, like anaphylaxis. '. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction characterized by a sharp drop in blood pressure and difficulty breathing that is caused by things like nuts, shellfish and bee stings. The reaction may be fatal if emergency treatment, like epineph- t rine injections, is not given immediately.

Gailloux worked with teachers, parents and administrators to help create a policy that could save a child's life. In the beginning, she told trustees, her daughter's school was great. Students took home letters to their parents, advising them that one of their classmates had a severe peanut allergy and requested that no peanut butter be brought in the school.

But then the peanut butter sandwiches statred showing up again as parents complained their children should be allowed to eat peanut butter sandwiches with their classmates.

"We're talking about a child's safety versus a child's right to eat peanut butter in class," Gallloux said. ~

Trustees not involved in drafting the policy asked during discussion what the background to the problem was; Superintendent Dan Russell said usually when there is an allergy, letters go home to parents asking them to co-operate by not sending the allergen to school.

"Usually that works out fine," Russell said. "At one of our schools, it has become an issue."

When food, like peanut butter, is sent to school, the allergic child can leave the lunch area and eat separately from the rest of the students. Or, the child with the peanut butter can eat away from classmates, said Russell. "

That is often not a popular option because children like to eat with their friends. Another option is to keep all the children with peanut butter at one table and then thoroughly clean it once the children are finished eating.

Russell said some parents still think that's unsafe and that peanut butter shouldn't even be brought into the school.

Trustee Janice Caton, who is also chair of the policy committee, said they tried to balance the issues when drafting the policy.

She added that many students in the district are at or below the poverty line' and one of the staples from the food bank is peanut butter.

"It was a very hard decision," Caton " said.

Janice Proudfoot said more parental education and communication would "help both sides understand and the new policy could be a catalyst for that.

"Now we have a tool to establish how'we're going to approach this," Proudfoot said. "Dialogue is very powerful."

No nuts spread like peanut butter

By Mia Stainsby
Special to the Echo

Alberta pea farmer Joe St. Denis was travelling back from Thnisia when a friend asked if he'd ever tried Middle Eastern hummus, a dip made from chick peas.

Why not make a spread out of his peas, he thought, especially the brown pea variety (pissum arvense) he'd been growing on his farm north of Edmonton. A few years later, he had the No Nuts Golden Pea Butter and it has, con- sidering the awards it has garnered, become a very big deal.
It tastes like, looks like, and Canadian school children have a potentially deadly allergy to. Peanut butter is banned from some schools.

Lesley DePodesta, an Ontario registered dietitian, was so thrilled with the product that she's taken it on hers,elf to promote it to media. "There's nothing like it on the market and there's such a need for it," she say. "So many people suf- fer directly or indirectly from peanut butter allergy. It's great for mothers such as myself who want to make peanut butter sandwiches for their kids to take to school. Kids love this stuff."

She introduced it to her children on bread with jam. "They didn't notice the difference," she said. "It's a similar consistency, maybe a little bit smoother. It's the same colour and even smells the same."

Nutritionally, DePodesta gives it a thumbs up. "It's packed with all kinds of nutrients, vitamins, min- erals and protein. It's won so many new product awards already," she says.

Pea butter has received six new products awards this year, winning over products from giants such as Kraft Foods. The latest was an award from the Canadian ministry of agriculture, for excellence in innovation.

St. Denis says the pea butter is made from a pea variety "We make it into a flour, then from there we add a little canola oil and icing sugar", he said from his farm in Legal, Alberta. "We're working on a sugar free product right now".

The Pea Butter was clinically tested on 10 children, aged 18 months to 14 years, who had recently experi- enced an anaphylactic reaction to peanut butter. No allergic reactions resulted. However, Dr. John Tkachyk, who conducted the tests, says because pea butter looks and tastes like peanut butter, parents should be care- ful children don't confuse the two and control its use.

St. Denis says pea butter can be used in baking, just like peanut butter.

A one tablespoon serving of pea butter contains two grams of protein, seven grams of fat, 5.6 grams carbo- hydrates and 93 calories. There is no cholesterol and less than one gram of saturated fat, and it is kosher.
For locations of where to buy the product, check [url=""][/url]

-Vancouver Sun

Posted on: Mon, 01/12/2004 - 4:05pm
MommaBear's picture
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by KarenH:
The right to bring peanut butter to school does not exist and is not an education issue. The right of every child to have a safe learning environment is an education issue because the child has an invisibile disability and must be protected as needed. Equity of access means children are treated in an equitable manner taking into consideration each child's needs, not wants.
This policy is necessary from a risk management point of view. Enforcing it is paramount.
Two concepts *I* glean from this:
Two mountains meet?
To determine which one is standing in the other's shadow, would it depend on where the Sun was positioned?
Maybe it's just me. [i]I could be wrong[/i].
(why do I hear the theme song from a popular David Carradine series?)
edit to add: [i]"I could be wrong."[/i]
[This message has been edited by MommaBear (edited January 13, 2004).]

Posted on: Mon, 01/12/2004 - 10:53pm
StaceyK's picture
Joined: 05/06/2003 - 09:00

My vote for the best line: "The right to bring peanut butter to school does not exist and is not an education issue. The right of every child to have a safe learning environment is an education issue because the child has an invisibile disability and must be protected as needed."

Posted on: Tue, 01/13/2004 - 7:31am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I definitely agree with what Stacey K. posted above. [img][/img]
Excellent stuff! [img][/img] Hard on the parents I'm sure, but well worth the fight, I honestly believe.
Karen H., does British Columbia have a provincial Human Rights Commission?
For example, right now, as everyone knows, I'm filing a complaint against the school board with the Ontario Human Rights Commission so it's a provincial *thing* rather than a Federal (or country-wide) thing. Just wondering if each Province in Canada has their own respective HRC's.
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Wed, 01/14/2004 - 12:01pm
KarenH's picture
Joined: 09/21/2002 - 09:00

NO. Our government got rid of our human rights commission, and is working on the ombosman (sp?) as well. It's darn scary.
I encouraged the writer of the letter, Sue Halstead, to use's addy in her advocacy website as a resource. She also passed it on to the Moms in these two cases. One is the one that I wrote a letter to the paper about, but it wasn't printed. I was hoping these Moms would come here so we could support them. [img][/img]

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