The Christmas Pot Luck that Led To Filing an Ont. Human Rights Commission Complaint

Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 9:01am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Okay, so in the thread about Jesse not attending school for two days at the beginning of this school year, I posted about how I had recently learned, from another Mom, that unsafe food was being brought into the classroom and her daughter had spoken up on Jesse's behalf. I also posted about it separately under Living with PA.

To-day, Jesse's class had a pot luck luncheon. Each parent was given a very specific thing they were supposed to provide for the luncheon. What did the teacher provide the PA parent with? Two bottles of fruit punch. Should probably have spoken up a couple of weeks ago and told her that since I was the PA parent, it would be *better* for me to provide say a "safe" dessert or something so my son could enjoy it without worry. Didn't do that, head stuck in sand still.

So, conversations re the legalities of checking lunches, etc. have been posted throughout the board now by myself in various different threads.

But to-day, it was okay for me to check the pot luck lunch food because it was on a table instead of in lunch boxes or knap sacks. Go in this morning, with both children with me, before the bell rings to check the food that has arrived by this time.

Oh, am stopped on the way into the school by a Dad I know saying that he has just learned this morning that he has to provide a baked good and if he bought a cake at No Frills would it be okay for Jesse to have? I said no, it wouldn't be, but understanding the man's position (time frame, other children to be picked up at noon from JK, no vehicle), I said, if that was what he bought, it would be okay, Jesse would know now to eat it. But, also knowing that this man would do the *right* thing because it's his daughter that has been speaking up on Jesse's behalf in the classroom.

Lovely candy pizza, made of brownies, topped with Christmas coloured M&M's. Plain M&M's, but still "may contain". Still a 1 in 5 chance of residue becoming smeared (especially 'cus the brownies are gucky) in the classroom. So, no, not okay.

Voortman's Christmas cookies, clearly labeled, in bold black letters yet, "may contain trace peanuts" so my only assumption is that the person buying the product could not read English. So, no, not okay.

The kids begin to come into the classroom and they're rightfully excited about their day. I speak with the teacher and tell her that everything looks okay except that the candy pizza and the cookies have to leave the room now.

She looked at me, with her Stepford Wife smile and said NO. She said that she would find a way for the other children to eat these goodies when Jesse was not around (I don't know what she was planning to do with Jesse so he wouldn't be around, but anyway).
I said, no, that's not okay, because then you need a handwashing protocol set-up which you don't have in place in this classroom (which they don't - remember no written school plan at this school).

She says she'll speak with the office. I said no, it's okay, I'll speak with the office. Well, someone in heaven above must have been watching me to-day (perhaps my Dad [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] ) because both the a**hole principal and the idiot vice principal were not in to-day. We actually had a substitute principal!

I told her what had happened in the classroom. I said that I had asked the teacher to have those items removed and that they could be given to each child, but Jesse, at the end of the school day. Otherwise, I could remove Jesse from school for the day. She asked me what I wanted to happen. I said that obviously, I wanted the food to be removed and handed out at the end of the day because if I took my son home, I would be filing a complaint to-day with the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

She went and spoke with the teacher and I spent the next hour slicing the candy pizza into 25 slices (hard to do) and separating the cookies onto 25 plates and saran wrapping them for distribution after school was over.

What was the big deal about that?

But you know what? If the principal had of been there, Jesse would have ended up coming home with me. He would have balked and stood firm (can you do the same at once?).

And then, in thinking about it, and calling another PA parent because my head had exploded and I was unable to do this morning what I was supposed to do this morning, I realized that if this happened to-day, it has been happening for the last 3-1/2 months.

When I showed the teacher the cookies with the "may contain" warning, she looked at the warning as though she had never seen one before. And you know what? I bet she hasn't. Not because there haven't been warnings come into her classroom but because, as I was told last week by the vice principal, the teacher gives the snacks/lunches a cursory glance (again, because it's *supposed* to be illegal for them to do anything more).

And I sat and thought and thought about the difficulty that I'm having with the Ministry of Education about even getting IPRC information never mind an actual meeting, and I thought, you know what? To he** with you all! (y'all to my American friends [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img] ).
I've had enough. I am calling the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

I called and went through everything that has happened (or not happened) since Jesse entered school this year and the b/s that the Ministry is trying to shove down my throat as well as the b/s the school is shoving down it about not having anyone to check the lunches even if they did get permission.

The woman had to speak with her supervisor. She came back and said that they felt the only way to deal with this now was by filing a formal complaint against the school board, the school, and individuals at the school.

The process was started to-day. I will now receive paperwork to complete and return in 21 days from date of receipt.

Did I feel like doing this? No.

Are "may contains" such a big deal? Perhaps not to some, to me, yes.

Is it going to be worth it, even if I lose? Yes. My children are the most precious things around me. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

I asked Jesse on the way home how he felt about the other children being handed out the things I had wrapped up and he said "I don't know" and he sounded kinda sad but also like he felt different. If only the candy pizza maker had chosen red and green Smarties instead.

And the Dad that spoke with me, he ended up making chocolate chip cookies and buying an assortment of fruit. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

I'll continue this thread as the *official* thread for anything re this now formal complaint before the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

On a separate note, I finally received a call tonight, after 5:00 p.m. (unusual) from the gentleman at the Ministry of Education. I'll try to speak with him tomorrow.

I want to know specifically where it says it is illegal to check for peanut products in knapsacks. I want to know specifically where it says it is legal to check for guns and drugs. Where in the Ministry of Education Act are these things clearly spelled out?

And I want to pursue the IPRC with the definition of physical disability I posted here in a different thread, regardless of what the man tells me.

And, I am tired.

Thanks for listening. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

Happy Holidays! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

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Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 10:22am
Sandra Y's picture
Offline
Joined: 08/22/2000 - 09:00

Sorry for all your troubles.
The schools are just looking for trouble and making it hard on themselves. When will they realize that life-threatening allergies will not disappear (in fact they are increasing rapidly) and parents of allergic children are not going to stand by and meekly allow their kids to be threatened in school?
They need to change. One simple change they could make is to STOP distributing food in schools and STOP focusing so many activities around the consumption of food. Basically it's laziness. Much easier to hand out food and call it a party than to actually come up with some fun, educational activities and call that a party instead.
I keep reading posts here about parents running around trying to find safe food products to use in the classroom to substitute for unsafe foods the schools want to use. This only works if the parent of the allergic child has the time, knowledge, and personality to commit herself to doing this over and over again all year long, every time there is an "event" at school.
And what is the big deal about checking backpacks in elementary school? Our school did this routinely with younger grades to check for homework folders, notes from parents, missing library books, etc. What is so secret about a 6-yr-old's school backpack?
Good for you for filing the complaint. You have a lot of energy! Enough of these complaints and maybe schools will wake up and realize they have to change with the times, show a little flexibility.

Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 10:28am
momjd's picture
Offline
Joined: 02/24/2002 - 09:00

Wow. I admire your courage. :-) You are probably in for a long haul and it will probably get worse before it gets better. Take care of your kids and keep your chin up. I can't believe the teacher wouldn't get rid of the food. (Ok, I can believe it- but shouldn't have to) Like kids need 50 kinds of sweets in order to have a successful party!
You may want to have a serious talk with J about coming to you immediately when something happens. Now that you've gotten the ball rolling, it's hard to predict what might happen at the school.

Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 10:41am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sandra Y., thank-you for your very compassionate and understanding reply. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] You know, I am just simply tired of it all. And basically, that's what the school would like. For me to get so tired that I remove my children from school and homeschool them. Not going to happen.
I went into babble speak yesterday somewhere on the board about how I end up having to deal with something at the kids' school every day, whether it's getting a book for my son to do his book report or speaking with my daughter's teacher about something the teacher did that has upset her. I explained to my children that MY Mother only met the teachers ONCE a year, at parents' night. And, my Mom was a SAHM, albeit 35 years ago.
I told both of them that they had to start focusing and taking more responsibility for themselves as far as speaking with the teacher about their concerns or figuring out when the library is open. I am very fortunate that I am still at home, but in the New Year, that all could change. And I can just see my two wandering around the school looking dazed and confused. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/confused.gif[/img]
And this has nothing to do with PA. Jesse is aware of his allergy. He was very careful about the food that he did choose at the pot luck to-day even after I told him what was okay (I told him NO to the jelly sandwiches just in case of cross contamination). He is empowered. Had the principal sat down and worked with me re Jesse's written school plan, Jesse would have been in the meeting this year. He can do all of that.
But, as I explained to the Ontario Human Rights Commission person to-day, I can only protect my son in the school system until he hits high school. I understand that he has to learn each year and develop and *own* his allergy more and more. But, my soul, he's still my guy. And, again, I only have until he's 14 where I can actually request a "peanut free" classroom here for him in Ontario.
And I'm damn straight going to do it.
It's funny you should mention the amount of foods in the schools. I was talking about that to-day with the woman at the Ontario Human Rights Commission office. She has three children in the school system here. Her youngest, in JK, only goes to school for half a day, or from 9:00 a.m. 'til 11:30 a.m. This woman could not figure out, why, if the child eats a *good* breakfast, she is required to have a snack before leaving again to come home for lunch and the end of her school day.
In speaking with another PA parent to-day, same thing. Food food food. Jesse's teacher, at the beginning of this school year, told me that she uses candy as an incentive.
Jesse had to check with me say within the last couple of months to see if a particular jelly bean was okay. All the other classmates had gotten them for incentive during the day. I checked the label, okayed them and he got two jelly beans.
Can anyone tell me what kind of incentive two bloody jelly beans are to an 8 year old (or then 7 year old)?
With dollar stores galore, and stickers and pencils and all sorts of nifty stuff out there, what the he** is wrong with teachers that they have to use food as incentive? And even having said that, what about the incentive that comes in word form?
The only incentive I got in school was the gold star I got on my report card from the principal. You lined up at his door and went in and met Mr. Jack and he put a gold star on your report card (if you had earned one). I survived.
With obesity on the rise and also food allergies on the rise, what is it with this obsession with food in the schools? I know we have discussed it here before and certainly I think we've come to the conclusion that society period is food obsessed, but oh my soul.
I'm simply thankful that I had a substitute principal to-day. If I had had the regular principal, I would have had Jesse pulled out of school to-day. I was already playing the scenario in my head. I've been able to do newspaper article interview like things to increase awareness re Jesse's PA (PA in general), but the thought of TV media would scare the bejesus out of me. However, I honestly thought to-day that if I had to bring Jesse home with me, I was calling the media to-day, BEFORE I called the Ontario Human Rights Commission.
BTW, I will post their phone number should anyone else require it.
The woman I spoke with to-day, now she won't be the investigator, but she basically told me that their feeling would be that someone has to be checking the lunches/snacks of the children.
And the right of the child to eat the "may contain" cookie (the vice principal brought that up to me a couple of weeks ago) versus my son's *right* to attend school safely or his *right* to die in a school in Ontario (whichever way you care to read that one), she said Jesse's rights do come first.
What is it with food?
Sandra Y., again, thank-you. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
Happy Holidays! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 10:46am
MommaBear's picture
Offline
Joined: 09/23/2002 - 09:00

Quote:Originally posted by Sandra Y:
[b] Much easier to hand out food and call it a party than to actually come up with some fun, educational activities and call that a party instead.
[/b]
He!!, I wouldn't even care if it was educational. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img]

Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 10:50am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

momjd, thank-you for your advice. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] Since they were mailing the forms out to-day and I have 21 days to return them, I don't anticipate the sh** hitting the fan until nearly the end of January month. I am NOT going to give the school any kind of heads-up that this formal complaint has now been started.
But yes, it would be very wise for me to speak with Jesse to see if anything happens to him as a result of what may be an ugly battle.
I don't want an ugly battle. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/frown.gif[/img]
Another PA parent, very outspoken, speaks up for her child at school. The teacher doesn't like her. What does she do? She takes it out on the child.
I never even connected the dots between that and what I've just done.
Did I mention speaking to the custodian when I was cutting up the candy pizza? All of the staff were supposed to be Epi-pen trained, including the custodians. In the school Jesse was in in Grade One, there was a wonderful custodian, long haired Native American fellow (my Father, also a custodian in later life would have cringed at the long hair [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img] ) told my DH and I that he always had his eye on Jess and not to worry about him. He was Epi-pen trained.
Custodian walks into the staff kitchen to-day as I'm cutting up the pizza thing. I asked him if he had had Epi-pen training. What's an Epi-pen? Oh, for allergies? No, he has not received Epi-pen training. Something else to pick at.
Or, I told this to someone to-day who was horrified and surprised that I have allowed it. A jar of peanuts in the office. Shelled peanuts but with the brown skin stuff still on them, in a glass jar, not where a student could touch it if they came into the office, but on a shelf behind the main desk, but still part of the whole cubicle thing.
I saw it. Cringed. Have never said anything.
But, as was pointed out to me to-day, what if Jesse went to the office having a reaction, or not even having a reaction and the secretary had eaten some of this and touched him? WHAT IF?
Sometimes, honest to God, when I look at how I can stick my head in the sand, and then unstick it and get things rolling, I wonder how my son survives. 3-1/2 months I did NOTHING. NOTHING.
CSI and Without a Trace look new tonight. I need some respite after exploded head episode to-day. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img]
Many thanks and Happy Holidays! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 10:52am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Momma Bear, yes, just sheer holiday fun for the he** of it! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/wink.gif[/img]
Happy Holidays! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 11:37am
Cindia's picture
Offline
Joined: 06/05/2001 - 09:00

Cindy, I want to let you know that I think that you are very brave for doing this. I also think that yes, unfortunately, you may be in for a long, ugly battle.
You might want to consider how Jesse feels about all of this and think about how much you want to have him in the daily loop. I know he has daily school stress (as all our PA children do). This will add to it. And, by no means am I saying that you should not pursue this. I just know that things like this can be all consuming.
A word of advice: Keep a daily journal and make a written record of every telephone conversation and include who you talked to, the date, and what was said.
Ps. Try and limit e-mail correspondence to those involved with the case. Anything you send via e-mail is "discoverable" according to the law.
Good luck to you and keep us up to date!
Cindia

Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 12:27pm
synthia's picture
Offline
Joined: 10/05/2002 - 09:00

ATM
First of all (YOU GO GIRL!!)don't back down.
Document all calls and conversations,maybe a letter of understanding to back that up.
Ask for a list of all those trained in Epi-Pen and document that request and date all documents.
Be nice, and I know that one is going to be hard it was (and is) for myself and most PA parents.You can get more flies with honey then with vinger(an old saying).
I know you are not in the states but just some suggestions.I hope they help and good luck.
Stay strong
Love this site
Synthia

Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 1:25pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Strange thing I didn't realize to-day when I filed the complaint and subsequently spoke with two PA parents in my province - that this is going to be an ugly battle. It was only after posting here and had the responses that I did that I realized I've bitten off, well, quite a chunk. A do-able thing and certainly not just for my son, but for all food allergic children in a province where *most* of us just *assumed* that we had certain rights.
I am going to be contacting the Minister of Education for the province, newly appointed since we have a new Liberal government in office. He is an excellent, compassionate man who did deal with me three years ago re school board policies regarding anaphylaxis.
Also, on the up-side is the most probable passing of the Anaphylaxis Protection Act (not clear of the title) that Katiee started a TAKE ACTION thread about some time ago and that we have been working on quite a bit and posting about quite a bit here. erik has also posted a thread re this in the Schools section. That should also be a helpful thing to have in place.
Cindia, I have spoken with Jesse about what I did after what happened to-day at school. I simply explained to him that what was going on was not right and that I was pursuing it further. But, as with all of my difficulties with his schools in the past, or parents making horrible horrible comments to my face, Jesse NEVER knows what is wrong with me. In fact, he wouldn't know that anything was *wrong* period.
For that, I have the members of PA.com to thank from the bottom of my heart. You give me a place to talk about things and relieve the stress and get support so that my son doesn't see some wigged out Mom about his allergy.
Through the years, certainly, I've chronicled different things that have happened, which happen to all of us, here on PA.com and yet Jesse didn't know that anything was upsetting me. You all knew here. Jesse didn't.
I don't think it's important for him to know all of what will be involved. What I do think is important for him to know is that I don't think what the school is doing is right and that I am willing to fight, to the bitter end, for him.
I especially appreciated the words of advice that both you and synthia gave me about documenting everything.
Life turned somehow topsy turvy for me at the beginning of November month and my phone, which never rings, is constantly ringing off the hook. Not with personal calls, but all things that would be considered, I don't know, "official" things. My kitchen table, where my phone is, has become a pile of paperwork where notes are taken on each of the various conversations I have, none of which, until last week, had to do with PA. So, I am good at documenting.
I had an appointment earlier this week scheduled. It was clear to me that the woman was coming to my home. Monday came, she never showed up. I called her and she thought I was supposed to be at her office. When she spoke with me in a most condescending tone about perhaps me being confused, I explained that no, I'm sorry, I write everything down from all of the phone calls I'm receiving now, and I was not mistaken. I go to her office to see her tomorrow.
I know that I come across very strong and adamant here and sometimes it can be downright off-putting to some. I just wish that everyone could meet me in *real* life and see that I'm really this shy middle-aged woman (who suddenly went grey this past year and is trying to decide whether to continue to hide it or let it be) and I have tried to live my life in such a non-confrontational manner. I don't like confrontation. I don't deal well with it and I don't do it well.
But somehow, when it comes to the life of my child, or the safety of him at school, I am different. I am not a screaming maniac when I go into the school. I was very calm and clear with the substitute principal to-day (so yes, synthia, honey, not vinegar) and even my threat, if you will, to her, that if I had to take Jesse home I would be filing a complaint, was just said as a woman who knows her stuff (although I don't really know all of the intricacies and have to rely on other members here for help).
I felt good to-day when I filed the complaint. I called my friend back to tell her I'd done it. She congratulated me (she's another PA parent). But now, just having realized it may be a bitter battle, I'm kinda scared and doubting myself (although that won't stop me).
Many many thanks and Happy Holidays! [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]
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Posted on: Thu, 12/18/2003 - 1:34pm
DebO's picture
Offline
Joined: 03/15/1999 - 09:00

Hi cindy
Hang in there. I have been searching since you started posting a couple of days ago and have not yet found anything about searching or not searching - I have read through the privacy acts and the education act and there is nothing there. Took a quick look with the Attorney General of Ontario and Police Services and there is nothing there either.
Interestingly enough, though, the Ontario Schools Code of Conduct (which the Ministry implemented along with the Safe Schools Act) states that Students will:
refrain from bringing anything to school that may compromise the safety of others;
I have some other questions/comments but need some time to think them through. In the meantime, good luck to you and take care.
deb

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