Bad responses to school-wide letter

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 7:15am
Jodi2boys's picture
Joined: 01/23/2003 - 09:00

After meeting with my son's Superintendant and Principal, they decided to send a letter to ALL parents and ALL staff informing them of the severity of PA and "asking" them to please not bring in any peanut products for lunch/snack. The letter went out this week and they are getting over-loaded with complaint phone calls from parents! Even the staff is complaining, making alot of rude comments, etc. Alot of kids are angry and even sent around a petition stating it wasn't fair that they have to "suffer" for 2 PA students!! I'm just thrown upset and angry at all their responses. Has anyone else experienced this at school?

Mommy to:
Jake~ 4 yrs. old- PA
Sam~ 2 yrs. old- Not PA

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 9:00am
arachide's picture
Joined: 08/16/2000 - 09:00

Was this issue discussed with parent council beforehand? Does your school have a council of staff and parents who should have deliberated this before a letter was sent out?
I ask these questions because those were the steps taken by our school before any notice went out.
How awful to have such a reaction from people (staff especially!)!
Are the principal and super standing firm and backing their decision?
If no consultations were held beforehand, then things will have to be done in reverse.
What a shame...

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 10:54am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Jodi2boys, it's not your fault. Did the superintendent and principal make this decision and I assume a *request* for a "peanut free" school with you, then sent out the letter without consulting with staff first?
Here, in Ontario, it is the principal's decision whether a whole school goes "peanut free" (use any other wording one feels comfortable with - reduce the risk, peanut safe, whatever).
Now, personally, I don't know if the principal who did decide to run (if you will) a *reduce the risk* school in our previous town consulted with her staff or not. She already knew that there would be two "peanut free" classrooms at least.
I know that certainly there are staff meetings where the principal and the superintendent could have spoken with the staff and told them of their plans and why.
Also, as arachide mentioned, if there is a Parent Council, although the principal does not need Parent Council approval either, it should at least have been mentioned to them and if they balked, supposedly being representative of the parents of the school community, then the principal could have asked someone (perhaps you) to help educate Parent Council as to why the decision was made.
What grade does the school go up to?
To me, it really sounds as though there needs to be some education of the school community - the staff, parents, and students.
Without education, there *can* be backlash as you have experienced.
I dealt with backlash first hand last year and it left me in tears quite a few times. It is not pleasant. What I suspect even more is that it is not pleasant for the PA child.
There is another member here who told me a story of a school playground where pb was purposely being smeared on the playground equipment. A pretty strong statement against a "peanut free" school.
But again, I really believe it begins with education. As I've posted here so often, I have seen children as young as 4 be educated, feel empowered and feel thanked for choosing NOT to bring peanut products in to school.
Perhaps the article posted under Media written by a non-PA parent might even be something that you could present as a start.
I'm assuming that one of the children at least is yours. What about the other child and his/her parents/guardians? How are they dealing with this backlash?
How horribly sad.
If the principal is not able to field the calls, he should send them on to the superintendent. Even the superintendent that I am having difficulty with this year has the same answer that one of my son's principal's had if presented with a nasty phone call about a "peanut free" classroom.
How would you feel if you knew your food choice had KILLED another child?
And to parents - what are you teaching your children when you say that what goes in their mouth food wise is more important than another child's life?
I've also posted this story here as well, but worth posting again just for the heckuva it. My friend's sister was presented with a "peanut free" classroom for one of her four children. She knew that I had a PA son.
We weren't living in the same town at the time thank heaven. Her objection to a peanut free classroom wasn't the low income = pb one we often here. It wasn't the one about pb is the only thing her children will eat. She was bothered by the sheer inconvenience of having her routine disrupted. I was like WHAT? Her sandwich making routine before she goes to bed?
I understand making lunches for four children must be no picnic (no pun intended) and that you probably do have to have some kind of routine in place (heck, even in my own demented way I have one in place), but when met with a "peanut free" classroom, that was what irritated her. It disrupted her routine. So, should my son have been in her class, his life was less important than her routine being disrupted.
(For some reason felt the need to tell that story again)
I know that in parts of Canada (i.e., Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area), you can arrange to have someone from Anaphylaxis Canada come in and speak to the school community. Another member came in and spoke at my son's school in our previous town.
Is there anyone, or even you, that could be available to speak with the school community and help educate them as to why this request was made/required? Public health? A doctor? Anyone?
I know that I'm supposed to go in to speak with my son's school's Parent Council in February month.
If I can say anything, and it's really hard, believe me, try not to take the backlash personally. It can be extremely painful and really unproductive. You sit back and wonder how people could be so uncaring, so thoughtless, etc. Try not to take it personally. It is a really difficult position to be in and right now, despite whatever you may feel, you really have to be able to hold your head up whenever you go near the school and know that you didn't do anything wrong.
Big hugs. [img][/img]
Best wishes! [img][/img]

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 12:58pm
Dawn's picture
Joined: 02/22/1999 - 09:00

Jodi2boys, I'm going through something similar, though not quite as widespread. It is very disheartening. I don't understand why people can be the way they are - sometimes I don't know whether to laugh or cry at how ridiculous it all can get. I have to keep telling myself that many have gone before us and faced similar opposition. Not just with pa but with wheelchair access issues, autism diagnosis (30 years ago, there was no such thing), racial inequities...putting myself in a category with those brave souls makes me feel a bit better.
Just wanted to let you know that you are not alone...
By the way, I called my son's allergist for back-up, hoping that something in writing from a doctor about our particular trouble spot will help. I'm also planning a new "visual" for the next teacher's workshop.
Good luck - I hope things turn around for you.

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 9:10pm
StaceyK's picture
Joined: 05/06/2003 - 09:00

Maybe the Parent & Child article in the media section would help some of the staff and parents 'get it.' Maybe they don't realize how deadly the allergy is. After I've said for two years how serious the allergy is, after I forwarded that article to a few friends and family, some of them wrote back: "I didn't realize it was THAT bad." Well, something finally clicked with them when they read it. I'm sorry you are going through this - it's exactly what I dread whem my PA daughter starts kindergarten (a year and a half from now.)

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 10:15pm
Going Nuts's picture
Joined: 10/04/2001 - 09:00

What a shame!
Something similar happened at my friend's kids' school a couple of years ago. There had been no prior discussion of it, all of a sudden this letter came home saying the school was going peanut free to accomodate a PA child. To add fuel to the fire, the child's family happened to be either related to or close friends with the school superintendant. You can imagine what happened next. Suffice it to say this actually made the news here in NY for several days.
They ended up backpedalling (sp?) and giving her a peanut free table and classroom, if I remember correctly.
While there are always going to be those who are more concerned with their own convenience, so much of the reaction has to do with how it is presented. I hope they can do some effective damage control and salvage what you have accomplished.

Posted on: Thu, 01/29/2004 - 11:16pm
momma2boys's picture
Joined: 03/14/2003 - 09:00

Jodi, sorry you are going through this. Our school only has peanut free classrooms and we still had people call and complain. But now they see that its not going to change and I havent heard anything in a while. Also, nutternomore had an actually media frenzy when his sons school went peanut free, you can find threads on this board. And now he posted recently that parents are following the rules and things have calmed down.
I'll raise his thread for you. Good luck!

Posted on: Fri, 01/30/2004 - 2:45am
Mama S's picture
Joined: 01/28/2004 - 09:00

Jodi2boys - we had a similar problem at our school at the beginning of the year, however our letter only went out to DS's class (not the whole school). The school did not put a ban on peanuts. They just put a letter out "requesting" that everyone not send in peanut products. There were several parents who were very upset about being "inconvenienced". Now that a few months have passed, things seem to have quieted down, but there are still a few parents who are sending in peanut butter anyways. DS has a peanut-free zone that he sits at with his "lunch club" (a group of kids whose parents kindly said they would not send in peanut products). The "lunch club" is pretty popular and several kids want to be a part of it. (Sometimes, it seems kids can be more compassionate than adults.) So far, it is working out great.
Also, our school had a representative from the makers of the Epipen come to the school and give a presentation on how to administer the Epi and the seriousness of food allergies, particularly PA. My understanding is that ALL of the staff are now fully aware how severe this allergy is. Maybe that is something your school could do, too?
I wish you the best of luck. I know how stressful this can be, but it will eventually work out if you have your school's backing.

Posted on: Sat, 01/31/2004 - 1:30am
Jodi2boys's picture
Joined: 01/23/2003 - 09:00

I'd like to thank everyone who responded with such great advice and support!
I'll answer all your questions:
No, this issue was not discussed with the PTO before the letter went out. It was pretty much a surprise to all when they received it and I'm thinking that for a lot of them...their automatic response was to complain or protest. I can just hope that the Super and Principal will stand firm and back their decision. I did mention to them holding an assembly for the students/staff to educate them on this and allow them to ask questions. I think the biggest problem is that they just don't understand.
My son's school is pre-K through 8th grade. I definetly agree, educating them would be so beneficial. My son, only being in pre-school, isn't experiencing any of the backlash and really doesn't know what is going on. I would love for the school to send the Parent & Child article to all of the parents and staff. The other PA student is in 3rd grade so her mother is more concerned about the effects her child will have directly from the other children. If the other students don't understand why they are being asked not to bring in peanut products, they may want to prove a point...children can be cruel. That's exactly how I son's life is less important than the other children's preference in food or the parents not wanting to be inconvienced and change their routine. I don't know if there is anyone that could speak at the school. Thanks for your encouraging words and advice. It is appreciated.
Mama S-
I'm glad to hear that after the initial being upset, things have quieted down and are working me some hope. Did you just call a rep from Epipen and ask them to speak at your child's school. That is a great idea, maybe the school could have a Food Allergy Awareness assembly with a rep that came in to speak and demonstrate the use of the Epipen.
I will keep everyone posted on how things are working out. Again, thanks for being there. It helps a lot getting support from people who understand what you are going through.
Mommy to:
Jake~ 4 yrs. old- PA
Sam~ 2 yrs. old- Not PA

Posted on: Sat, 01/31/2004 - 1:24pm
dmbb's picture
Joined: 10/12/2002 - 09:00

Is it possible to have the children watch one of the children's videos about PA? The video could be rotated from class to class.

Posted on: Mon, 02/02/2004 - 1:36am
jtolpin's picture
Joined: 05/28/2003 - 09:00

As I have told others, my head is coming out of the sand, or some may say out of my... as I begin the 'issues of school' as all before me have faced.
Caitlin goes to preschool tues and fridays. Her teacher was Saras, is VERY aware of Caitlins issues, and has been talked to. We do not have a 504, or even an IHCP. We've got something in place for the teacher, the nurse, et al. Everyone aware. We're comfy (past tense, no more) with that.
Anyhow, the classroom was flooded, and her class on Friday was to be in another classroom, sharing the class time with the other class (Caitlins preschool classroom was nut free).
The activity fo the other teacher's class that day was (sigh) making Peanut butter. The director called us and said it might (!) not be a good idea for Caitlin to go to school that day. She loves school, we're paying tuition, that didnt fly with us. We called, got the activity changed. We're happy. Thursday night/Friday AM sleeping time, Ann wakes me up... says 'Did thursday's class make PB in that classroom??'
Call the teacher Fri AM, and sure enough they did. We agreed, that C wouldnt go to school Friday.
So here we are on Monday, no call yet, to let us know the class is all set (the PN fre one). We're awaiting a call to let us know. But now, I (and DW) seem to be a pioneer for the class. DW has a friend whose children are PN allergic, and one is attending THIS preschool next yr. What we start now, will help HIM next year... We'll see what happens. I'm using all the ink in my toner, at work, printing out the Mass DOE 84 pger, as well as the town on line article (which DW cried over)...
Caitlin 4-17-00 Allergic to Dairy, Egg, Wheat, Bananas, Grapes, Rye, Sesame, Beef, Garlic, Mustard, Onion, Peas and Avoiding Latex and all Nuts
Sara 2-13-98 NKA (avoiding nuts)
Meghan 2-28-03 dx'ed Reflux - Alimentum feeder, Zantac - 1.5ml 2x/day - RAST neg. for everything.


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