ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Some public school parents in Edgewater, Florida, want a first-grade girl with life-threatening peanut allergies removed from the classroom and home-schooled, rather than deal with special rules to protect her health, a school official said.My first thought upon reading this article was that it's simply amazing to me that in my lifetime homeschooling has gone from being perceived as a suspicious activity engaged in only by hippies, government conspiracy theorists, and ultra-religious cultist types to being so acceptable that mainstream public school parents would suggest it as an option for the parents of a child with life-threatening allergies.
"That was one of the suggestions that kept coming forward from parents, to have her home schooled. But we're required by federal law to provide accommodations. That's just not even an option for us," said Nancy Wait, spokeswoman for the Volusia County School District.
Wait said the 6-year-old's peanut allergy is so severe it is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
To protect the girl, students in her class at Edgewater Elementary School are required to wash their hands before entering the classroom in the morning and after lunch, and rinse out their mouths, Wait said, and a peanut-sniffing dog checked out the school during last week's spring break.
Wait said school leaders will meet this week with parents to address concerns and try to halt inaccurate rumors that children's mouths were being wiped with disinfectant.
My second was that I do have some sympathy for this little girl and her parents. They may be unable to homeschool, or be unwilling to send their child the message that her very scary allergy is a reason for her to be isolated from other people. That's not something you want a six-year-old to believe.
But my third thought was that overall my sympathies lie with the parents of the other children in the classroom. It is one thing to require students not to bring peanuts or peanut products in their lunches, a reasonable accommodation that is made in plenty of places for children with these allergies; it is another if the child's allergies are so severe that the traces of a food processed in the same plant as peanuts (as many foods are) must be eliminated by careful hand-washing and mouth-rinsing when the children enter the classroom in the morning and before the children return to the classroom after lunch. This, in a way, places the child's life and health in the hands--literally--of a group of her peers and a busy teacher; one slip-up, one child whose hands don't get washed thoroughly enough, one nut-containing snack from home unconsciously left in a jacket pocket, and this child could actually die.
And what about the copy repairman who shows up with a Payday (tm) bar in his pocket? What about the visitor to the school who has been eating sunflower seeds--processed in peanut oil--before making a stop at the child's classroom? What about the school library book a child checked out and read at home, his hands leaving peanut-butter smudges on some of the pages? There are just so many ways for a tragedy to occur in a situation like this.
If you think I'm exaggerating, consider this tragic story:
This recent article contains the information that lab testing on the Chinese food served showed that it contained trace amounts of peanut products. Trace amounts were, apparently, all it took to cause this tragic death.
CHICAGO (CBS) - The family of a Chicago Public Schools student, who died last year after suffering an allergic reaction to peanuts at her school, is suing the Chinese restaurant that supplied the food.
Thomas A. Edison Regional Gifted Center student Katelyn Carlson, 13, died after eating peanuts inside food her seventh grade teacher ordered from Chinese Inn Restaurant for a Dec. 17, 2010, class holiday party, according to a suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court.
The suit claims the teacher told an employee of the Chinese Inn Restaurant the food was for a class party and students in the class had peanut allergies and the restaurant agreed to provide food that was free of peanut oils, peanut derivatives and peanut flavorings.
But officials said in January that the food might have been cooked in peanut oil, despite the teacher’s instructions.Carlson was pronounced dead at 5:40 p.m. Dec. 17, 2010, at Children’s Memorial Hospital, according to the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office. An autopsy determined she died from anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) to food allergy and her death was ruled an accident. [Linked paragraph in original--E.M.]
The young lady in this sad story was thirteen, and had been dealing with her allergy all her life. But the young lady in the Florida school is only six--is she supposed to have better awareness of her environment and its unique dangers to her than a girl more than twice her age?
I know the parents in Florida are trying to do what is best for their daughter, and I hope everything will be resolved in a way that benefits her and puts her safety first. That said, if I had a child with so severe an allergy, I would want to teach her at home. I couldn't imagine getting the kind of phone call Miss Carlson's parents might have gotten on that terrible day when being in school proved fatal to their child.