Need Some Help Pondering My Position(s) Re School Stuff

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 7:51am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I really need some help pondering my position(s) re school stuff and I'd really appreciate any advice anyone has. I have a few things whirling around in my brain and one part of me knows my position (and it's fairly strong) and yet another part of me is beginning to question that position.

When Jesse first started school at age 3-3/4, I was told by his teacher that he would be sitting beside other children eating pb. He had just had an anaphylactic reaction six months previous to this where he almost died.
I thought, okay, he doesn't have to legally go to school until Grade 1. I'll keep him home. Settled down, of course, during only a 20 minute walk home to realize that there must be a school board policy in place that would ensure the relative safety of my son at school.

So, in Ontario, we have a school board policy (which is pretty well the same from district to district) which ensures the right of PA children to a "peanut free" classroom. This right would extend up until when they complete school in Grade 12, so at the age of 17 or 18.

Fine. Found the school board policy, had a peanut free classroom instituted for Jesse. His teacher for JK and SK worked really well with me re his PA and she wouldn't allow "may contain" products into the classroom. I had suggested that perhaps the other children could eat them (they were holiday cookies) but simply not Jesse. She was adamant - peanut free to her meant no may contains or made ins. With her backing, I tended to agree with this position.

I had a lot of difficulty with the principal of that school but did manage to work things out with her by the time we left that town, to the point where the school was "reduce the risk" and other teachers were choosing to run peanut free classrooms.

Then, we move here. I'm fine last year. Communicate with the new principal before we even arrive in town and everything seems to go well last year really re PA. No complaints heard from other parents (even though I am sure there were some), the staff were accepting, etc.

So, change schools this year. The principal is working really well with me re this but I feel as though I am constantly butting heads with Jesse's teacher.

Here's the latest situation. I go into the classroom the other day and a few things in the garbage are "may contain" items which, according to Jesse's school plan are not allowed in the peanut free classroom. So, I come home and e-mail her re this violation (if you will).

The other thing was Jesse came home last week with two round donut things I had sent into the classroom that had coconut on them. I asked him why he hadn't eaten them because he loves them. The other child whose Mother's confidentiality I felt I had violated (different thread here) is allergic to coconut as well as the other foods his Mom told me about. I went "Oh my God" and both kids are looking at me and asking me when I'm going to stop it. I was really upset because no one has told us not to send coconut items into the classroom and I know how I would feel if a peanut product was sent in. So, I had also asked the teacher in the e-mail why we hadn't been told about the coconut.

To-day, she stopped me after school. She said that she didn't know where the "may contain" items came from that were in her classroom garbage but thought that the cheese and cracker mix ones were okay because they are elsewhere in the school. It's like WHAT?
Yes, they are elsewhere in the school because it is not a peanut free school, you are simply running a peanut free classroom.

She said that she wasn't aware of any food allergies the other child had except to shellfish (meanwhile, his Mother has told me that she spoke with the teacher specifically about watermelon so the teacher would not give it to him in the summer months). I said that no, I had been told tree nuts (not peanuts), shellfish, and watermelon, but not coconut.

The teacher then goes on to say that perhaps we weren't told about the coconut because the Mother is in the classroom a great part of the time. Fine. I understand that. The woman obviously has a totally different comfort zone than I do and I guess she feels if she is in the classroom, should her son react, at least she's there volunteering. I don't know.

But the way the teacher said it was like I was the pain in the a** for having the requirements I do and for not being in the classroom to watch my son. She just looks at me with this stone face and you can tell she's really ticked off with me each time she gets caught (if you will) bugging something up.

Come home, read her monthly newsletter, which is mostly about the Work to Rule situation.
But lumped into thank-you for accommodating or understanding about the different work-to-rule things is "no peanut products".
I feel it should have been a totally separate thing, but perhaps I'm being nitpicky. I just feel that the food allergy should not have been placed in with basically an apology re a political situation the teachers are in.

As most of you can see, I've posted different questions re schools on the board and Sue re-raised some older ones as well.

I am thinking of removing the "may contain" clause from the school plan, but not for this year. But what would the ramifications of this be when I'm already dealing with a reluctant parent community and difficult teacher? How come we couldn't have "may contain" last year and we can this year and the classroom is still "peanut free"? that kinda thing.

Also, then, I was questioning about my requirements that Jesse have a "peanut free" classroom. We are trying, each of us in our own ways, to teach our children to navigate through life in a peanut full world. If I keep him in a peanut free classroom until he reaches 17 or 18 years old, am I teaching him how to navigate in the world? Or, am I ensuring my child's safety, to the best of my abilities, within his rights, until an age when I no longer can? For example, the next year, he'd be off to university or college where no concessions would be made.

I called the superintendent of the board tonight who deals with the policy re anaphylaxis and have to speak with him tomorrow. I did speak with Jesse's principal tonight and asked her, in her experience, what was the highest grade where a parent had requested a peanut free classroom. Grade 8.
She is e-mailing a high school principal in another town to get an answer re high school.

So, why wouldn't I take this right when I have it and have already used it successfully (albeit with much head banging against walls) for three years, now going on four? Why not keep Jesse safe at school for as long as I can?

What would people think if next year or the year after, in the same school, I chose not to have the same requirements? I'm even unclear as to how they would react if I took out the "may contains".

It's funny how things change. I started out when Jesse was 3-3/4 years old, got the information I needed for a peanut free classroom and thought, okay, that's it. Just kinda thought, okay, that's it until he finishes school (not post-secondary). But along the way and with different experiences, I do feel you begin to question what your needs and requirements are.

I know that many people have posted that they don't have the peanut free classroom requirement because they don't want focus on their child's PA (another comfort zone, which I also understand). But, we are very "out there" as far as Jesse's PA, with newspaper articles, etc.

And just curious, kinda a side-note, but if you knew that a child in the classroom was allergic to coconut, but hadn't received a note home saying so (because of the Mother's comfort zone and the teacher's obvious ignorance), would you send coconut products into the classroom?

Many thanks and best wishes! [img][/img]


Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 8:51am
KayMarks's picture
Joined: 01/10/2000 - 09:00

Hi Cindy- from all your posts I've noticed you've never mentioned the school nurse. Can she maybe help? I know that our school nurse has been so helpful. Our teachers have been great, but the nurse is still making sure that no mistakes happen.
No I wouldn't send in coconut or anything else someone was allergic to. Maybe because I just don't want the worry. In fact, my dd's class has a little boy with a metabolic disorder and his food is even more limited than my daughter. I was lucky enough to be a homeroom mom and I made sure that he was able to eat everything the other kids could. His mom was shocked I would go out of my way. I told her she did for me, I was just returning the favor.
I feel for you and Jessie. It has to be so hard dealing with that teacher. Maybe the nurse could sit her down and sort everything out? I'm lucky (knock on wood) that if I see a problem or whatnot, I am to talk to the nurse or the principal- they will take care of it. That takes the pressure off me and the teacher doesn't take it out on me. For example- she sent home the snack chart and only put "no peanut products". I asked her why she didn't put "no nut products" either and she got very defensive and told me nothing "really has nuts in it". sigh. I waited a day and mentioned it to the nurse and said I wanted it changed and it was. The nurse was kind enough to make seem like "she" noticed it and not me. Oh, I almost forgot- in addition to my 504- the teachers got together and assigned one person to check all the snacks first thing in the morning. That way, if the teachers are busy, reading the ingredients cannot be forgotten.
Hope this helps. Take care, Kelly

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 9:00am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

KayMarks, thank-you for your wonderful, well thought out response to my dilemma. [img][/img] Only problem is, sometime in the last decade or two since I completed school in the province
of Ontario, we no longer have public school nurses. I know we had them 25 years ago when I was in high school because I distinctly remember going to get Midol from her. But no, none in Ontario anymore.
I had been told that there was a public health nurse in checking for head lice last week by another parent and when I called the school the secretary said no, the public health nurse doesn't even come in for things like that.
Your advice was really great and much appreciated.
What I particularly liked and what I may find helpful is dealing with the principal rather than the teacher (since I don't have the school nurse option).
My previous experience had been that I worked really well with Jesse's teacher and NOT the principal (the exact opposite of now) for JK/SK so I tended not to approach the principal with anything. Last year, both principal and teacher seemed to be on the same page as me. And now, I have the completely reverse situation.
I know, just for me, that I'll be sure not to send coconut products into the classroom only because it's like what a lot of parents say to me, should Jesse have a reaction, they want to know that at least they didn't send in the peanut product that caused it. I feel the same way about the coconut even if the child's Mother doesn't.
Many thanks and best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 10:27am
Chicago's picture
Joined: 04/21/2001 - 09:00

Hi Cindy,
Not sure if I can help here - I went through the whole thread (and have been thru some of the others) but bear with me if I miss stuff.
Coconut is not a tree net (it is a seed) per my allergist. DD had a very low rast test reading to coconut so she had not had "pure" cocunut, but has had many things in which coconut oil is included. Lots of the gummy snacks, even some sports drinks have coconut oil, so I am thankful we don't have to avoid that.
So maybe the mom has had the same sort of advice from her allergist that I did regarding coconut - ie, the child is "allergic" but it is more of a sensitivity then an anaphlaxisis risk. As I understood it that is because the protein is not as strong as it would be in (for example) a peanut. And coconut snacks for kids are rare - nasty hairy stuff.
But Blah blah blah from me. We can't get inside her head. I have had a new experience this year with having another PA child in the class and swinging from "isn't it nice everyone is thinking/doing whatever" to "what are they thinking allowing whatever". You have seen how some quarrel on these boards regarding comfort level - and it is different when you are there live. I have decided to mind my own business and when I am in charge of the child (class parties, play dates etc...) things happen by my rules.

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 12:52pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Very good point about the coconut. My first thought was - I definitely wouldn't send it in. However, if I knew the parent I would ask specific questions before considering sending it in.
My youngest son is in a peanut-free school. He is not allergic (he can't eat it at home because of me - boo hoo). As far as I understand, they do not allow PEANUTS/NUTS in the entire school - including on "special" days i.e. bake sales, halloween parties, etc. They have never mentioned "may contain".
Now, I am assuming your son has been instructed not to eat anything without your OK. If you are now comfortable with "may contain" products in his class that makes sense - he's older, and understands more. You can't expect that one day - BAM - he takes over his own care. It has to start slow. So, maybe he - and you - are ready for others to bring "may contain" in to the class.
Has he reacted to touch/smell? If not there may eventually come a day when you are comfortable with actual peanuts in his class. And if that day comes, take the time to make sure you are sure, then let the school know you feel it is no longer necessary to have a peanut free room. (I wouldn't actually send a letter home saying send peanuts - just stop asking that they not be sent.)
Now about high school! I'm not sure where you got info about peanut-free classes in high school. I guess the classroom maybe. But since everyone eats in the same cafeteria it would have to be a peanut free school. One of my kids just graduated a few years ago, and another is in high school now. Sorry, but, honestly, I don't think peanut free is doable. They can't keep the drugs out. They can't keep weapons out. I don't see a teacher feeling a peanut is a priority.
Last point - regarding the teaching sticking the "don't send peanut products" in the middle of her rantings. Since it's the whole school that is peanut free the monthly newsletter always has a reminder - it is written as a separate paragraph and mentions that "one or more children has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts/nuts"
My son's teacher sends stuff home every week, and it used to include the information that it is a peanut free school and no peanuts/nuts are allowed. She has stopped including that - I think because whoever was sending it in finally got the message and stopped. Actually, my son told me that sometimes she didn't let kids eat their snacks. Sometimes because it was sweets (not allowed) but sometimes it was a sandwich (PB?). I don't think the pa child is in my son's class, but if it's a peanut free school I'm glad his teacher stands her ground.
OK, lots of rambling, but not much help. Soooooo, I'll just say, good luck and I truly hope all works out well - soon.

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 1:03pm
kelly01's picture
Joined: 03/19/2001 - 09:00

Hi Cindy:
I have posted on other threads that I have not requested a peanut free room for my child this year (6 years old and in kindergarten), so I won't rehash my reasoning. As I have said before, I was very conflicted about my decision, so I certainly understand the viewpoint of wanting a peanut free room.
However, if you truly did want to move away from the peanut free room, I think you could simply explain that you are more comfortable with Jesse taking more control and/or responsiblity as he grows older. Children are much messier in the early grades so it is reasonable that you would want to have more protection for your son when he is younger. I think most parents would understand. (Similarly, the kindergarteners in our school are not "released" from school until the teacher sees a parent...however the older children are let our the front door to find their parents...same type of reasoning).
Don't know if this helps at all. I think this is something we all struggle with.

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 1:24pm
k's picture
Joined: 09/22/2001 - 09:00

Hi Cindy~
What does your gut say? I figure your child still gets practice with the "real world" whenever he goes anywhere other than home or school (as if home and school are not the real world....?ha). So, in my opinion, I say...if you got it....let it ride! [img][/img]
I don't know if you agree, but sometimes I too doubt maybe something I am doing and I begin to think.....hhmmmmm? You know something? I only begin to doubt things when other people (people who don't understand this and are ignorant...or some, just down right stupid or mean)voice their objections. I try to find my center and get to the "gut" of it. I ask myself the hard questions....and 9 out of 10 times I feel I made the right decision. I just have to remind myself not to buy into what I hear if I really do believe I am doing the right thing for my child. There have always been moments of self-doubt for anyone who has ever stood up for anything. It is afterall...a tiring and sometimes lonely affair.
Get to your know.
ps...hope this makes some sense...I am very tired but just wanted to extend my support!

Posted on: Mon, 11/18/2002 - 11:41pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

k, right on! [img][/img] I have been examining this since I posted the thread starter last night really closely in my head. Bottom line for me is that I know I can ensure Jesse's (relative) safety by asking for a "peanut free" classroom until he is in Grade 8. The way I feel to-day, that's what I'm going to be doing.
I do have to get the information from his principal re high school and then I believe there must be something in place that would ensure a peanut free table.
The "may contains" are more up in the air for me (and my gut) right now. I'm not going to change his school plan this year but I will look at it closely for when he enters Grade 3 next September. I *may* be able to remove that part of the school plan.
I understand why I'm questioning what we have in place for Jesse. It's because I've come across an extremely reluctant teacher and I also have another parent in the classroom who has a totally different comfort zone re her child's food allergies than I can ever imagine having.
If I didn't have the reluctant teacher or the parent with the different comfort zone, I would not have questioned Jesse's school plan at all. Seriously.
That's why your post was just so right on. It truly was. The other thing about your gut - with PA (and I guess a lot of other things in life), I have always simply trusted my gut instinct. Gut instinct knew that Jesse was having a food reaction of some sort at the age of 18 months, even though I really knew nothing about food allergies and there are none in our respective families. I just knew. So, yes, thank-you.
I believe since we do have the right to ensure his safety by requesting a peanut free classroom at least up until Grade 8 that that's what I should do for him. I won't be able to ensure his safety as well in high school and certainly not after he leaves my home. But I can up until Grade 8, as far as his school setting. We have that basic right so why wouldn't I take advantage of it when I have consistently now for four years? It would be different if I had never had a school plan in place for Jesse. And again, the only thing that I would really question for his school plan next year are the "may contains" but that's after I do a bit more research.
Many thanks and best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Tue, 11/19/2002 - 12:40am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The Mother of the child with the coconut allergy did speak with me this morning after I finished the breakfast club thing. Her son
is not anaphylactic to coconut. I told her how Jesse, upon learning that the child was allergic to coconut, didn't eat any more of the donut things, washed his hands and washed his desk. This would be how Jesse would understand to deal with a food allergy and I actually think it's excellent and extremely compassionate. I now have to explain to him that there are some food allergies that are not life threatening.
The same child, however, is anaphylactic to tree nuts and the Mother quite obviously has an extremely different comfort zone than I do. That's okay. I have no right to question or comment on another person's comfort zone.
I e-mailed the teacher telling her that the Mom had spoken with me and also why I understood why Jesse was as concerned as he was. I also outlined why, for us, no may contains are allowed in the classroom (that 1 in 5 chance). I expressed my understanding for how difficult I realize it is for other parents to deal with this, etc.
I just finished reading another thread under Schools about non-peanut-free classrooms and I have to say that I feel my restrictions that I place on the school make me seem like Psycho Mom from Hell. There are no dissenting comments allowed in the other thread - it is a very positive thread about people who are having good experiences with non-peanut-free classrooms. However, again, I came away with the feeling, after reading it, that I was Psycho Mom from Hell.
I believe that I am teaching my son how to navigate through the world, but navigate as safely as possible with his life threatening allergy. I'm not able to ask for peanut free situations when he's older and not with me, or out of elementary school (have to get the news re high school yet) so why, for now, wouldn't I make sure that I can ensure his safety while I'm able to.
Do I feel saddened that perhaps people see PA stamped across his forehead instead of seeing the wonderful, outgoing little guy I have? Yes. Do I feel angry or sad when he is bullied about his allergy? Yes, I do. But then, I also felt sad when he was bullied last year about having long hair, necessitating a hair cut.
Bottom line for me is that my child almost died 4 years ago by merely touching a pb product to his lip. If I can have him in a classroom whereby there will NOT be a child sitting beside him eating pb, then I will.
Do I teach him the basics about keeping himself safe? Darn straight I do. That is particularly reinforced when I see to what extent he went to when he found out another child in his class was allergic to coconut (without understanding that it wasn't life threatening).
I understand that this is a comfort zone thing. I understand that it is a contentious issue. However, for me, the analogy would be, would I let Jesse sit beside another child with a loaded gun in school? No. And simply a loaded gun isn't as lethal as a peanut product. The other child would have to fire the gun.
k was absolutely correct. My gut tells me what is right and somehow if my gut makes me look like Psycho Mom from Hell, making the school jump through hoops, so be it. I know that my son's safety is relatively ensured when I am not there to ensure it.
For me, I have almost lost my beautiful son because of his allergy. I'll do everything in my power, for as long as I have it, to ensure he is safe. I'll also do everything in my power to continue to educate myself, question my comfort zone and welcome the opinions of others.
Why did I feel the need to explain my position? [img][/img]
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Tue, 11/19/2002 - 1:01am
katiee's picture
Joined: 05/09/2001 - 09:00

Cindy, from one psycho to go girl! [img][/img]
I wanted to remind you that as far as "may contain" products are concerned, there is a 1 in 5 chance that the product contains peanuts. The advice I received from our allergist was to treat "may contains" as though they do contain, to do otherwise is like playing Russian Roulette especially given how severe Jesse's reaction was to simply having a peanut containing product touch his lips.
Just my two cents worth.

Posted on: Tue, 11/19/2002 - 3:37am
williamsmummy's picture
Joined: 03/26/2002 - 09:00

I too, cindy think that I am a rather obsessed creature when it comes to williams allergies. Not something I am proud of , but sadly needed in this world. We are driven to such lengths, (in my opinion) by the very fact that to ensure that people take notice , and take the precautions needed to protect our children we HAVE to become the pain in the backside type of mother. Watch how the poor teachers tense when we enter the room!!!( ha ha ha!!)
IF, we didnt need to do this , if , we didnt need to fight for the simplest things, we wouldnt feel guilty about the allergy 'label'.
If every teacher/ child career /doctor , knew about anaphylaxis . How to adapt a classroom to avoid cross contamination, how to cater for lessons such as cookery with an allergic child in mind. Life would be easier.
Having a child minder with simple knowledge about allergy.
Have a doctor recognise the need for a referal to a allergist ,(with out us begging!! ) life would be better for our whole familys.
just knowing how to spot the signs and symptoms and use an epi-pen is wonderful, but prevention is part of the care of a allergic child.
One day there will be so many children with allergies that it will be unthinkable for any teacher to offer a child any food with out checking first to see that it is safe for everybody in the room. !!!!
bye from one nutty bonkers round the twist mother.


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