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.
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.