Talking Allergies

Greetings! - Long but I would really appreciate help! :-)
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Author:  SaskMom2 [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 1:11 am ]
Post subject:  Greetings! - Long but I would really appreciate help! :-)

Hi all

I am new here, my daughter just started kindergarten and while I was ok with her school's policies regarding her peanut allergy, the more I am looking into it the more panicky I am getting. Here's the scoop:

My daughter had a reaction to a peanut butter cookie when she was 15 months old - she had hives and we took her to emergency, probably about 45 minutes after she had the cookie (I was at work and my husband was with her at the mall - I didn't know what it was and thought we should take her to the walk-in clinic but he wanted to take her to emerg). They took one look at her and rushed her in, the dr.'s rushed over, but they did not give her epinephrine and kept her awhile for observation.

We enrolled her in a school with peanut-alert classrooms (not the entire school) and where the information and photo is posted for all staff and they are all trained in how to use an epipen. We thought this was sufficient as she had never had another reaction and we were pretty sure she had outgrown the allergy.

She was retested in June and the allergy Dr. told us it was a "significant" allergy. We kept her in the same school as all her friends were there, and we thought, "well, if she was one of those hyper-sensitive kids who reacts to a touch or a kiss she would have had another reaction by now."

Into september of her starting Kindergarten, casual conversations revealed that many other schools had peanut-alert policies (bans for the enitre school). I inquired whether our school could do this, as I thought, if others are doing it, why aren't we?

That was september 26th and I have gotten almost nowhere. I heard nothing for a month, then when I asked the principal about it again, she finally got going and just mentioned the idea to the staff. I wrote a letter explaining why I thought we should do it(I previously gave them a copy of my newsletter from the AAIA that said that 90% of children will not have a severe reaction to casual contact, and pointed out that 10% will, and that this is significant, along with some other info). With this letter I included the position paper of anaphylaxis canada stating that elementary schools should have no peanuts.

Last week I finally talked to the principal again and have gotten nowhere. She continues to insist that my daughter needs to take responsibility for her allergy. She thinks that schools that have peanut-alert policies have not done their research (and her main argument for her point was that her school nurse supports the current policy).

There was also an instance where my daughter ate some chocolate a sub had offered her without asking for permission. This was about 10 days ago and I was not informed until that meeting with the principal last friday. She again stressed that my daughter needed to take more responsibility. My daughter is FIVE. I talked to the teacher about it today and she basically parroted the principal, and said that the sub had said "is anyone allergic to chocolate?", my daughter ate the chocolate, and then informed the sub she was allergic to peanuts. That already seems pretty mature for a 50yr-old to me.

Anyway they have not made their final decision yet, the principal asked me to call another nut-allergic parent and to meet the school nurse, presumably to talk me out of it. I did call the other parent and her daughter is allergic to tree nuts, she is ok with things as they are now but her daughter is in grade 7, and she admitted she worried very much until about grade 3 and that she did not know what she would do if it was a peanut allergy.

So the point of my story is, should I bother to press on, I have written another letter refuting the principal's position but have not given it to her yet. I have asked her to call the allergy doctor in our city. I could give her this new information about Sabrina's law too. But my feeling is that if what I have already done has not convinced her, and the rest of the staff is not taking it seriously either, that nothing else is going to convince her. And even if I do go to the superintedant and he forces the school to do it, is she really going to be any better off if the don't really support it. At this point I am seriously considering just giving up and switching schools to one that is already peanut-alert. But this is where we live, and where my daughter's friends are, and I'm really at a loss of what to do.

Any advice I would greatly appreciate.

Anxious, Stressed, and Depressed :shock:

Author:  _Susan_ [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 7:46 am ]
Post subject: 

You are absolutley right to want to keep your daughter safe!
Why was the sub asking if anyone was allergic to chocolate?
Why ddn't she have a full page allergy warning in the front of her lesson plan with your daughters picture and all of her allergies? Did she ask if anyone was diabetic?
Was the sub trained in the use of an EpiPen? Did she know where it is kept?
What is the age that children are this responsible? Geez, lets just give the kids guns, let them drive and let them fill out our income tax forms! :roll:
I have to get my daughter up and ready for school now, but I will write you again tonight!
I am reading a book at this time which says your emotions are like a tool kit. Anger is useful to give you the energy and confidence to make changes.
I can hear your anger, I am sure that you can make a change in this situation! :)

Author:  Andrea [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 10:28 am ]
Post subject: 

Isn't it ironic that some principals, the leaders of our children's education, can't grasp this concept? Even after your attempts to further educate them on this topic they still fail to respond in a responsible manner and then attempt to shift all of the resposibility back to a five year old.

Whenever I have faced difficulties, like this one, I always refer to Isabel Grant's article "Life, Liberty and Peanut Butter"(I think it is still on the Calgary AAIA website). It helps to give me clarity of thought and the conviction for the cause- my child's well being as well as that of every other anaphylactic child who will have this principal.

As for the superintendant, if you do not get anywhere with the principal and don't go beyond her then she has effectively stopped you. The school board does not know there are inconsistencies within their board on dealing with anaphylactic students. Nobody may have told them. In worst case scenario, if something should happen to an anaphylactic child while in their care and they knowingly did not have reasonable measures in place to ensure that child's safety I believe the word used could be malfeasance. Point out there inconsistencies and liabilities. Ask the superindendant how they deal with this issue at other schools. Let he/she do their homework. What is the board policy, if any? Point out your efforts to educate, hand the superintendant the same articles. If you have elected school board members, contact them as well. And let them know you were not informed about the chocolate incident until 10 days after the incident! Does the nurse/principal/substitute teacher know about biphasic reactions?

Would your allergist be willing to speak with the school nurse or principal? Ask the nurse for her stance/research on the topic in writing.

As for the principal's tactic to have you contact another parent who goes along with the current situation-do not fall for it. My first thought is can you help it if those parents are too stupid to do something better for their child-but that wouldn't be PC. As I mentioned in the high school forum, my son entered high school this year. There are approximately 7 students with a peanut/nut allergy. I was the only parent to address this issue with the school even up to two weeks prior to school starting!!!!! If I hadn't spoken up would the other parents? It seems unlikely.

You have every reason to be outraged( I know I am getting worked up over it as I write). Take that energy and direct it to affect change!

Author:  youngvader [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 11:01 am ]
Post subject: 

Yes, you should press the matter and if you get no result, change school. Sure, she'll lose friends but better be safe than sorry. And at that age, she'll make new friends.

Author:  Helen [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 11:07 am ]
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Maybe it would be a good idea to make record of all of your interactions with the principal!

Here's a good resource:

That story about the supply teacher *really* demonstrates the danger that your child is exposed to---chocolate especially can cause trouble for people who are peanut allergic. Dr. Peter Vadas and co. did a study in which they simply pulled chocolate off of shelves in stores in Toronto and analysed it for peanut protein. A surprising amount of imported chocolate which did not contain nuts in the ingredients contained a significant amount of peanut protein.

Best of luck with this!

Author:  saskmommyof3 [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 12:12 pm ]
Post subject: 

When I contacted my MP and the principal of my daughters future school they were under the impression that all school boards have policies, and that legislation is not that necessary. Please write a letter about your situation to the Sask. ministers asking for legislation.

I believe that your daughters school is one of the few "dinosaur" schools left. I'm sure that the super intendant would be stunned to hear your situation. The minister of education would be stunned too! I'm not sure if they realize that situations like this exist.

I contacted the school that my daughter will be attending next fall to see what their position is. If their position was not acceptable, I would have looked elsewhere for her education. The school we've chosen for next year I've heard is one of the best in Prince Albert in regards to allergies...and that there are a few allergic students from out of the district because of their policies regarding allergies. The school is nut free, all teachers, subs, recess supervisors are trained, and informed of which kids have allergies. Spare epi-pens are kept in the office, as well as the ones provided by parents. For allergies other than nuts, the classroom is free of the allergen, and not used as a lunchroom. Clubs and other groups that use the school must not bring nuts into the school or allergens into a allergen free classroom. The preschool in the school (who is not a part of the school ) is also willing to go milk/egg free as well for my other daughter and only allow snacks that I have pre-approved.

I know another parent of a peanut allergic child who attended a "dinosaur" school. Kids were even allowed to eat peanut butter in his classroom. He was having behavior problems in school. The school thought he had ADD. His mom thought that he was anxious because of all the nuts around him ( peanuts, tree nuts and the stupid teachers ha ha ). The school was unwilling to change so he changed schools. He's been happy and safe ever since, and there is no talk of ADD. He's made new friends, and is much happier at his new school.

There is probably a school in Saskatoon that has great policies regarding allergies. If it was me, I would change schools. Trying to bring that school to a level of safe management of allergies is a huge emotionally draining task. Feel free to take advantage of the schools that are already out there willing to provide the safest environment. I would still inform the superintendant and minister of education. That situation should not still exist today. Hopefully they will be forced to "get with reality" and your daughter will not be at the school as "the reason" that everything had to change.

Author:  SaskMom2 [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 12:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Thank you

Thank you for your help everyone. The current school does have pretty good policies already, my daughter's epipen is tacked right up on the bulletin board behind the teachers desk and they have epipens in the office as well. The have the kids' pictures and info in the office and all the staff are trained how to use an epipen, as well the individual classrooms are nut-free.

However I feel that these are just superficial measures and that the underlying opinion is that they do these things becuase they have to, not because they really believe that food allergies are extremely dangerous. The principal stresses to me each time I talk to ther that whenever they have an assembly that they offer a peanut-free option. WHO CARES????!!! It is not about her not being disappointed about not getting a peice of cake. And the fact that the cake with traces of nuts is there already is worrisome.

Yes, I have documented everything. After 5 days of doing nothing but thinking about this and reading up more and more on it, and getting your guys' opinions, my plan at the moment is to give my most current letter to the teacher and principal, all info to the parent council, all info to the superintendant including documentation.

If they do decide in my favour, I haven't 100% decided on this, but I will probably keep my daughter there until the end of the year, and if not, switch her at Christmas. There are plenty of schools in Saskatoon with much better attitudes and school-wide peanut-alert policies. Although I may still switch her at christmas regardless as I am quite disgusted by the whole thing. But her teacher has been very good about it usually, I just think as of late the teachers have been influenced by the principa'ls opinion of "greater responsibility" though. Ridiculous. :x

Author:  ethansmom [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:04 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Thank you

SaskMom2 wrote:
However I feel that these are just superficial measures and that the underlying opinion is that they do these things becuase they have to, not because they really believe that food allergies are extremely dangerous.

I really feel for you and can feel your frustration and worry - you are concerned and rightly so. My feeling is this -- a school can have everything, in terms of policy, in place - but you can't make people care. It sounds as though this principal is unwilling to open up to seeing someone else's perspective and, it seems, more concerned about having their authority questioned than ensuring your child's safety. Because this is your daughter's life we're talking about -- I would change schools where the atomosphere was already one of caring and concern about her allergy - where they understand that a 5-year-old child needs a supportive and safe environment to learn in. It blows my mind that a person who is supposed to be a children's professional would say that a 5-year-old is responsible and mature enough to police the actions of the adults responsible for her care! Good luck to you and keep us posted!

Author:  youngvader [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 2:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Comments like this might catch the superintendent's attention. If talking to the superintendent doesn't do anything, maybe the local media might be interested.

I like, Lisa. :)

Author:  katec [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

As a teacher I have observed a variety of policies and attitudes to allergies. I also have a daughter with multiple food allergies. She is in Jk this year. My husband also teaches - just a few blocks from our home. It would have been great to have her attend his school. However given the administration, attitudes and policies at his school--- we felt she was safer in another school. He has worked to change things but it is difficult without support from all staff and the principal. I would also suggest changing schools - but keep working with the board to implement consistent policies.

Once thing we wrote into our daughter's avoidance / emergency plan was that M was only allowed to eat food that was provided by or approved by her parents. Having things in writing helps to make sure that nothing is unclear. But the difficult part of dealing with schools is making sure that they follow their policy. Good luck.

Author:  SaskMom2 [ Tue Nov 08, 2005 11:23 pm ]
Post subject:  oops

Sorry, I just wanted to edit this. I was just asking about Catholic schools and then I thought, you know, I should have phrased it better so that I don't offend anyone who is involved in Catholic Schools. But I didn't get here in time! :oops: Good way to start out on a new board, offend the current members!

Sorry vader

It was off topic anyway. :oops:

Author:  youngvader [ Wed Nov 09, 2005 9:52 am ]
Post subject: 

This is Canada, not the middle-east or the Bible belt in the USA. You won't get hung if you don't agree with their way of thought. I went to a Catholic high school and I'm atheist. They did not brain wash me and I'm sure if you are involved in your kid religious education, the school is not enough to make you change your faith, IMHO.

Author:  Andrea'smom [ Wed Nov 09, 2005 12:09 pm ]
Post subject: 

I do feel for you but I believe that you shouldn't quit. By quiting we are sending them the message that they are right and that our children with allergies have less rights to an education free from abuse, because putting our kids with allergies at risk is abuse. My daughter started JK this year and since day one, it's been a battle. Not with the school but with the bus lines and other parents. After two months of arguing with the bus lines we've come to a mutual agreement. Now our battles are with other parents who do not understand the severity of my daughter's allergies, I will not stop!! I do get frustrated, I do scream and even cry.....but my husband and I are determined to fight for her rights and the one's of other children living with life treathening allergies. :wink:

Author:  saskmommyof3 [ Wed Nov 09, 2005 1:26 pm ]
Post subject: 

We live in a society with a mix of nut free very good schools and nut filled nightmare schools. I have actually met parents of non-allergic children who have placed their children in nut filled schools specifically because they allow peanut butter sandwhiches. I have also met parents on non-allergic children who have placed their children in nut free schools specifically because they promote the idea that everyone should help on making the world a safer place for everyone...and promote a great community attitude. The parents that are at the allergy friendly schools have the option of feeding their kids lunch at home if the food allowed at school isn't their childs favorite foods. They also have the option of going to a different school, and some of them choose to.

The nut filled schools are full of parents who are there because it is easy to send P.B. to school. I feel that the schools that are unwilling to be a safe place for allergic kids are promoting being selfish, and putting a sandwhich ahead of the life of a child. These schools, these people, its just not the situation I want my daughter in. I will still fight and advocate for all schools to be safer...but if a school already exists where she will be safe, and treated with dignity and respect then that is where she'll be. I'm not comfortable putting my innocent, wonderful little girl into a school full of people that do not want the best for her.

Author:  ethansmom [ Wed Nov 09, 2005 4:30 pm ]
Post subject: 

saskmommyof2 wrote:
I will still fight and advocate for all schools to be safer...but if a school already exists where she will be safe, and treated with dignity and respect then that is where she'll be.

I agree with you wholeheartedly! Continue to fight the fight and advocate for change but I don't think it's necessary that children endure a situation that isn't in their best interest if a more emotionally supportive and safe alternative is available to them. I would also think that if you're working with a school administration that is genuinely concerned and supportive, it would make it much easier to deal with other disgruntled individuals (ie. parents, school bus officials, etc.)

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