Teachers Who Ignore Kids With Food Allergies Should Be Fired

by Bill Brenner on June 12, 2012

When school officials repeatedly fail to protect a child from something like a life-threatening nut allergy, the damage to that child’s mental health is as bad as to their physical health. When that happens, even if the child is physically unharmed, the reaction from us grown-ups should be nothing other than outrage.

Mood music:

[spotify:track:5t8sFMJ2aQaHqLnrAd4Q40]

In elementary school, I was banned from any food product with dairy in it. Even a trace of it was forbidden. That was the Crohn’s Disease. I often felt left out when some kid brought cookies to school or the class got to have an ice cream social. But overall, my teachers worked hard to make sure I was taken care of. Say what you will about Revere Public Schools in the 1970s and ’80s; I’ll always be grateful for the care they gave me as a little boy coming to grips with a scary and, back then, rare disease. Today everyone and their grandma seems to have Crohn’s Disease, but at that time the illness was still a mystery to most people, including those in the medical profession.

By contrast, the childhood nut allergies we hear about so much these days aren’t a mystery. Every day you can find a news report about a child having a severe allergy attack and in some cases dying from it.

So when high school friend Carl Sackrison and his wife Glenda told me about their son’s experience in the Methuen Public School System, I was mystified. I’ve had many backs and forth with them over this, and they permitted me to use their names because, as Glenda said, they’ve already been vocal and public about their son’s experiences.

There was the teacher eating Snicker’s bars in front of their son, even though the nut allergy is well-documented. There was an ice cream social where one of the toppings was contaminated with nuts (the container said manufactured in a facility with nuts), resulting in a facial rash and an ER visit for the young boy. And there was the teacher who told the boy that he wasn’t the snack police when he expressed concern that there was food in the room he might get sick from.

“When we sat down to talk about it, he said to me, ‘Why won’t anyone listen to me? Mommy, I just don’t want to die,'” Glenda told me. “This is very heartbreaking to hear knowing that this has been an ongoing issue since he started school and that there is nothing I can do to make it stop to keep him safe while he’s in school.”

When teachers make a child feel like his health is going to be threatened whenever he enters the classroom, it’s a mental health threat as much as a physical one. Glenda and Carl’s son has experienced a worsening anxiety and paranoia as a result of what’s happening in school.

If the school district doesn’t start dealing with it and getting him the help he needs, things will get a lot worse.

The district needs several big kicks in the ass to keep that from happening. Consider this post one such kick in the ass.

Kids and Peanuts

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Rachel June 14, 2012 at 7:27 am

This really hits me, as I’m from a family where a number of us have or have suffered from food allergies (some life threatening) and my older daughter has food allergies (fortunately, not as serious as your friend’s son, but still serious enough.). Please communicate all my empathy to your friends, because what they and their son are experiencing is disgusting and inhumane.

Josh June 14, 2012 at 5:40 pm

It isn’t in the schools job description to be the food police. My children have extreme allergies to all things shellfish and pork. I don’t expect the school to take responsibility for that allergy. I pack their lunches everyday to ensure they will be eating something that won’t make them sick.

Likewise, other students shouldn’t be penalized just because someone has an allergy to a certain food. I didn’t expect the school to stop serving sausage or ham sandwiches just because my kids have an extreme allergy.

If your child can’t eat or even be in the same room as a common food item such as peanuts, maybe you should consider homeschooling them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for reasonable accommodations, but completely banning a food item because a very small number of people have an extreme reaction seems to be a bit selfish on the part of the people demanding the item be banned.

If your child can’t be around peanuts without fear of dying, I would hope that you would be smart enough not to put them in an environment where PB&J sandwiches and candy bars with nuts are a normal part of life.

As for my children, I made sure the school knows of the allergy and I have provided them with epi-pens.

Michele June 15, 2012 at 7:43 pm

I completely agree with Josh! As parents, it’s our responsibility to take care of our childrens’ needs. The teachers are in the schools to educate, not babysit. When my daughter had to wear a heart monitor 24/7, I didn’t expect the school to cancel gym class! My daughter knew enough to sit out the games and not run around at recess. I’m sure she felt a bit “out of place” having wires sticking out of her shirt & not being able to play with the other children but these learning experiences help our children grow stronger & learn to survive in the real world. Mommy & Daddy can’t follow them around forever, protecting them. I would love to hear the other side of this story. Did the teacher taunt the child with the snickers bar? Was he forced to eat the ice cream toppings? Unless this child is in pre-school or Kindergarten, he should know enough not to touch these items. Especially if he’s so concerned these things could kill him. Maybe his parents should spend less time venting & trying to give the school system a “kick in the ass” & try to spend more time educating their child. This way it’s not the responsibility of the rest of the world to create a bubble around him. It’s time for some personal accountability!

Ed June 15, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Really…fire them. This seems a bit harsh. Bill, are you suggesting teachers need to be held accountable for what children eat? Your comment was “Repeatly fail to protect”….was there a death in Methuen schools I missed? Or was an ambulance sent to a school..if so, then I”m sure the Eagle Tribune would have made this a Sunday Spotlight and the headline would have been ” Some school districts have metal detectors…but Methuen hires TSA for Peanut Scans & Snicker bar pat downs” Your comment was the Administrators didnt do anything. How do you know what they did? Where you there? Or are you taking the parents account only? The Administration must be doing something right or we would be having a run on epi-pens and rash cream at CVS in Methuen. Sorry to make light of it, to the parents, it is a scary thing but let’s put things in perspective and stop looking to blame the teachers for all the ills with children today. By your account it is clear, we really do not know what transpired. There is always 3 sides to every story.

Christy June 19, 2012 at 11:24 pm

Seriously? I am a bit shocked by the responses here. How many of you know anything about nut allergies? Each time a child allergic to nuts is exposed to nuts ( in any way) it has a potential to make the allergy worse. There are several kids that can not even be in the same room with a nut which is a scary thought. In this day and age and in this economy who can possibly homeschool their child and the basis would be for an allergy? It doesn’t make sense to me. My youngest (4 1/2 years old) has multiple food allergies (including nuts-ALL nuts) and we have been dealing with his allergies since he was 8 months old. I don’t think I need to go into detail to explain how upset I was to read the responses that were left for this post.

Josh June 25, 2012 at 1:37 am

Christy, as a parent, you are solely responsible for your child’s health and wellbeing. I understand how peanut allergies work, that is why I can’t understand a parent expecting a school to go peanut free. It is a little presumptuous to think that the school should take responsibility for your child’s allergy by banning nuts and then attempting to enforce the ban on a daily basis.

Nuts are in everything. If nuts aren’t in it, then it was still probably made in a factory with nuts used in other things. If my child had a deathly reaction to peanuts, I wouldn’t trust any school or teacher to fully eliminate peanuts from the classroom. Your child has a special need that puts an undue hardship on the school.
If it were my child, I would home school them until they were able to fend for themselves (or I would find a school that catered to people with allergies, yes they exist). When my child’s life is on the line, I wouldn’t expect anyone to protect them and watch over them as well as I could. Forcing a teacher to watch your child like a hawk takes away from the rest of the class. You are also setting the school up for a lawsuit if something were to happen.

Josh June 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm

This is a perfect example of what happens when the school is put in charge of kids allergies.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/school-sunscreen-policy-blamed-sending-girls-hospital-article-1.1101567

B.K. January 27, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I am in grade 6 and have an anaphylactic nut allergy, and
I partially agree with what u r saying. Yes it is the parents responsability but, school is supposed to be a safe place to learn. I know that I am now responsible for looking out for myself but in the younger grades it IS important for the teacher to look out for the kids. For the child might not know what is in The food. It’s also not fair if the teacher eats something with your allergy in it. I know one time the teacher gave a treat to the entire class but not me because of my allergy and I felt like crying.

B.K. January 27, 2013 at 11:29 pm

-It’s just not fair

S.S. January 28, 2013 at 12:28 pm

Okay, I agree with some of you but not all of you. If a child is 16 it is a
different story completely but in kindergarten most children know what they’re allergic but not old enough to realize it is life threating. When a parent drops their kids off at school they are intrusting their kids in the school. If a teacher eats nuts in a class while a student is allergic to them, they are putting the child’s life at risk and possibly their emotional state as well. Some people will have an allergic reaction from smelling nuts. In this case the child was fine, but if he had been seriously allergic he could of died. This is not a small deal. I think that teachers should be more responsible and involved with their students… I am in grade 6 too.

penny February 8, 2013 at 12:56 am

Hi , my daughter is in grade 2 with a nut allergy where she has to have an epi pen at school. Her teacher knows about it , yet eats nuts during class time. I am in the middle of dealing with this situation but i know my daughter is becoming very anxious . Are these teachers just STUPID or what?

Sarah April 9, 2013 at 8:27 am

So to all of you who are saying that it’s solely the parents’ responsibility, you would agree, then, that if your child was in a wheel chair the school isn’t responsible for providing a ramp to allow that child into the school. The parents and schools have to work TOGETHER.

Joanna July 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

To the authors of this post, THANK YOU!

I found this after googling around about teachers not following nut policy.. I was on Instagram last night,and randomly found a picture posted with hastag #peanutallergy, it was a picture of a teacher eating her peanut butter sandwich BESIDE her no peanut/nut poster! her captions were..”no more f___ks to give about work”.
i took a screen capture and posted the picture here, http://peanutallergymommy.blogspot.ca.
http://peanutallergymommy.blogspot.ca/2013/07/irresponsible-teacher-making-fun-of.html

I think this teacher needs to be held responsible, I don’t know if she should be fired or not, but I know SOMETHING needs to be done! Please advice!

Joanna July 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

@penny, omg.. that is absolutely ridiculous!!!! What goes around, comes around, I hope she doesn’t have any nut allergy in her family one day!

How horrible is that. This teacher obviously doesn’t understand the simple concept of cross contamination!!!

Joanna July 11, 2013 at 12:57 pm

Josh,

Teachers do not have to be a ‘Food Police’, however, when my child is at school, her well being and safety IS THE RESPONSIBILITY of the school’s.

I’m from Toronto, Canada. We have Sabrina’s Law, where it requires the school to be peanut/nut SAFE. They cannot guarantee completely it will be peanut/nut free, but they try their best, to remind parents, and have peanut/nut free posters up around the school.
Every September, beginning of school year, I go and speak to my daughter’s teacher. They have always been helpful and supportive.
Explaining to the class of a classmate’s severe food allergy, is a learning lesson for all.. learning to care for one another, be protective, be proactive, compassionate, and healthy safety aware.

A classmate brought lunch and it had pieces of nuts inside, immediately, the other children let the lunch room monitors know, they took my daughter and had her exit out of the room (incase she smells it), another teacher assured the other kid that he didn’t do anything wrong, but he’ll have to finish his lunch in the office, and wash his hands and rinse his mouth. They sanitized the room, and my daughter picked 2 of her friends to ‘hang out’ in the library with her for the rest of the lunch recess, so the librarian there can monitor her for 30 minutes in case of an allergic reaction.
The principal then phoned me and told me all this, and she also phoned the little boy’s parents to remind them our school is peanut and nut safe.

NOW THAT IS A SCHOOL I TRUST.
Is it part of their job description to be so diligent? This team of staff is amazing. They care for the safety and health of their students!

It makes dealing with other ignorant parents a bit easier 🙂

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