An Open Letter to the Author of “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay”

Hi Mama,

I wanted to reach out to you regarding your blog post, “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay.”.

Brava! Seriously, Nicolette, I want to thank you for sharing your different perspectives on peanut allergies and attempting to “walk full circle” around this sensitive issue. As the parent of children both with a severe peanut allergy and without, and as the sister of a sibling who had needs of his own, I applaud your desire to point out how the typical kiddos’ needs sometimes get lost in the shuffle. They surely do. And, wow, do I ever know it!

Are you still reading? I hope so. Because now, I’m going to offer you just a couple of different perspectives. This is not a bashing. I promise. You’ve had enough of that.

Regarding point #7, you had me at utilizing alternative methods for educating your child because, as any parent of a child who is immunocompromised will tell you, yes! That is necessary. Their childrens’ bodies cannot handle the influx of germs that are constantly circulating within a school building. They must seek alternative education sources and venues for this very reason. Is it hard? Oh yes it is. Is it their life? Yes indeedy.

But, you lost me at meeting a “basic set bar of expectations”. I’m wondering if you envision a society where the folks who can’t meet a basic set bar of expectations are required to live, work, and play in areas that don’t infringe in any way on those who can. Will my child, with autism, who is most times able to meet that bar, but not always, be allowed to interact with those who’ve met the bar? Or, should he be educated at home. And, once he becomes an adult, maybe he should just work from his home, or mine (whichever – we’re cool with however that plays out) so that his needs don’t infringe on the needs of those working diligently, you know, at the bar.  Because, of course, our children are equal.

If my son becomes a brilliant scientist (from my lips to God’s ears!) who is able to research a cure for cancer because of his experiences and perspectives, but can’t be near peanuts while he’s researching, he will take the necessary precautions. Because, here’s another place we agree, it’s ultimately going to be his responsibility to take the precautions necessary to guard his life.

Here’s the thing, though – any adult he is working with is probably going to take precautions as well. Because, respect for differences manifests itself through kindness and consideration. We don’t take breaks for those kinds of character traits.

Another perspective I’d ask you to consider is when my son, who is peanut allergic, attends school with sweet Sally. I’m talking about this precious child, that you mentioned, who just lost her sweet mother to cancer. And, Sally does indeed need to eat peanut butter each day to help her soothe her grief over her mama’s recent death. So, because I care about all children, I encourage my child to leave the table where all of the other children are sitting and go sit at the peanut free table. And, he does.

He’s told by their teacher, of course, that he can ask a friend to sit with him. But, at the tender age of 9,10,11… no one wants to sit with him because, well … I’m sure you are totally aware of the social interaction dynamics of pre-adolescents. So he sits there. Alone. And, that’s okay. That’s his cross to bear. Not sweet Sally’s.

But then, there are a group of Sally’s, or Sals, who have parents who have voiced their own perspective about why “these kids” even need to be at school with their typical children. They get agitated that they can’t bring in candy for holidays and cupcakes for birthdays. It is so frustrating that they vent about it. At home, of course. But, Sal and Sally hear all of this venting and begin to live out what they hear at home, as children sometimes do. And one day, they jokingly smear peanut butter across the back of my son’s shirt as he is eating, at the peanut-free table, because they think it’s funny. And, well, he shouldn’t even be at school anyway.

“My child would never!”, you are thinking. Right? I mean, I would too! But, the reality is that lots of our children do.

Unless…

Unless we stress the importance of not taking a break from kindness and consideration. Not because we want to maximize the importance of some over all. But because that’s what respecting differences is all about. I move over to make room for you because it’s the right thing to do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I respect you. You are a human with different perspectives than me. And I hope that you never stop writing what you think – because then we shut down dialogue, altogether. I don’t want our society to become an us versus them society. And, I’m pretty confident that you don’t either.

So, I’ll wrap up my letter to you by asking you to never stop walking full circle around these issues. And, please, never stop listening when others point out that you didn’t quite close that circle up.

Sincerely,
Missy (Another Mama)

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9 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Author of “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay”

  1. Please post this version- I found a few typos in the other!

    Peanuts really are different. They are the only food allergen I know of that can set off a deadly reaction through breathing or touch. Kids are messy and do not clean up well. Yes we teach them, but it is a learning process. Eating peanut foods, especially peanut butter at school means a high likelihood of common objects (books, playground equipment, door handles, math manipulatives, etc) having smeary peanut butter fingerprints. Is it really ok to risk a child dying because someone wants their child to eat peanut products?

    As a teacher – 32 years, 22 in first grade in Public School- the amount of cleaning I have to do daily in my classroom is already high- there is no way I could daily wipe down every single shared art material, pattern block, stencil, domino, calculator, etc.

    That said- there are happy mediums. Our classrooms are nut free, our cafeteria is not. As a teacher, my students are supposed to be eating nut free snacks within the room. They are allowed to eat peanut butter or whatever they want at lunch. Our cafeteria even sells PBJ sandwiches. There is a nut safe “allergy safe” set of tables set aside for kids and their friends if allergies are an issue. Our cafeteria employees check the lunches of any kid who wants to sit there. Kids are great about asking if their food is safe and even saying- I can sit with you because I told my mom not to put any nut stuff in my lunch. ( Their lunches would still be checked)

    Yes, I could see for non-contact food allergies, it is a combination of teaching kids to be safe and knowledgable, good hygiene, no food sharing, and thoughtfulness for parties. Every single kid with a food allergy I have ever taught has brought their own emergency snack to keep on hand for unexpected situations like surprise birthday treats and parties. I’ve never had a parent act as if their child should get special treatment. And pretty much across the board, most parents ask if there are allergies before offering class treats.

    It is not hard or bad. It is just getting along.

    And for the record, I do accommodate other health issues all the time. For example we walk more slowly to specials when a child is on crutches, and I wear a special mic with a speaker when kids have hearing issues. And yes, this means I am louder to all children, not just the one child.

    Crutches are a good example because it is not an unusual thing for there to be a kid with a cast and crutches, or even wheelchair (below a certain age, doctors do not feel they are safe with crutches) When there is a child with impaired mobility, either temporary or permanent, we leave for places sooner, we walk more slowly, we move furniture, and I replace some action games that would leave that child out with others that do not depend on running or balance etc.

    It’s a community. We all live there. We all accommodate each other.

    If a child is too precious and selfish to go 61/2 hours without peanut butter then that child is likely to suffer many frustrations and disappointments in a world that includes other people. That’s the child who grows up and parks in handicap spaces, speeds down the breakdown lane to cut off a line of drivers he is behind, and throws tantrums about things like closed captioning or handicap seating in a theater.

    The selfishness and entitlement in the original post floored me. I cannot imagine having that person’s child in my classroom. The entitled attitude is a much bigger and more disruptive handicap than any disability or allergy.

  2. Oh my word. I haven’t heard of this post until you mentioned it. I just read it and I can’t even put together words. Thank you for writing a response. When you send your 5 year old to school, the basic bar of expectations is that they are safe at school. It’s easy to write about the injustice of not sending peanut butter to school when you have never walked in an allergy mom’s shoes.

  3. This is such a sensitive subject on both sides.

    I totally understand how children with peanut allergies need to be safe, but I don’t think it’s fair to make an ENTIRE school peanut free (<3 the idea of a peanut free table) because there are a few kids who ONLY eat peanut butter for lunch (some for monetary reasons and some because that's ALL they will eat). It's not fair to make an entire school peanut free because the world is NOT peanut free — I realize that there is a very small percentage of children who are so allergic that they can die just from coming in contact with the breath of someone who has eaten peanuts, but they can also come in contact with peanut butter breath on an elevator, or at the doctor's office, etc. Should we make those areas peanut free, too?

    There are children who are allergic to the sunlight and their parents have had to rearrange their work schedules to educate their children and so their children can play outside at night. Should we make public school at night for those children?

    I have worked in the schools for almost 11 years and volunteered for 12. I've seen the growing trend where the rights of the many get trampled on because of a few. The truth is we are not all equal — everyone should be allowed access at an equal education, but the truth is that not everyone is coordinated enough to be a gymnast, just as there are not many who can not understand calculus or who are able to comprehend the workings of an automobile. We are all different and yet we are constantly trying to level the playing field.

    Should we be kind and respectful to each other? Yes, always. Should we embrace our differences? Yes, because that's how God made us!! ❤ ❤ ❤

    If I was working in the lunchroom that day your son was BULLIED (yes, BULLIED) by those girls, they would have gone straight to the principal's office. That should not be tolerated!! Grrrrrrrrrr. (I dislike bullying, can't you tell?)

    • Pat, because you and I have a friendship, I know where your heart is. When all is said and done, you and I care for children. All children. Where we agree is that every child deserves a safe place to learn. Before they learn the compensation skills necessary to safeguard themselves in public situations, we must protect the least of these, the young ones, those not old enough to act better, know better, make better choices. ❤

    • If you have been a teacher for 11 years, then I am sure you hate the “what if” scenario as much as the next teacher. Which is kind of where your allergic to sunlight example falls. Not to say that somewhere, someone hasn’t had to educate their child at night to keep them safe–maybe even right where you live. But I’m thinking sun allergies are a wee bit less common than peanut allergies. And also, about your rights of the few vs rights of the many argument? What we are really talking about there is lots of kids’ “right” to eat peanut butter vs a few kids’ “right” to survive the school day, or at least avoid a trip to the ER. Do you see the difference? The goal is to provide a safe and equal education for all. Peanut butter is not required to attain that goal. But sometimes a peanut free environment is.

  4. I have never been able to articulate my opposition to the new wave of “those kids should stay home”. I just remember my shaking hands when I realized that my 2 year old with an allergy had been given Reese’s in his Halloween bag at his peanut free school. Before he was old enough to know the difference between chocolate and chocolate with peanuts. Thank you for making the points with kindness and consideration.

    • My prayer is that God will give me give others the grace they need to deal with me, when I forget that there is a human on the other end of any of my own ranting. And may be keep one hand on my shoulder and the other hand over my mouth. Seriously.

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