Last year I read a story about a child who had been bullied because of his allergies and I felt angry. I mean, kids can be thoughtless, even cruel, but to threaten a peanut-allergic child with peanuts? Really? What kind of monster would do that kind of thing? Turns out, plenty of people. According to Allergic Living, their readers have reported "a bully licking an allergic child's pencils and erasers, after consuming an allergen; one child chasing another with his allergen; students handing out a packaged snack in class and refusing to let an allergic child read the label" and more.
Where are these kids getting this kind of intolerance? I'll tell you: their parents.
I'm a member of a number of online communities comprised primarily of parents and I cannot tell you how many times parents express extreme frustration over the limitations put on their lunch-packing options.
"What are we supposed to send if we can't send peanuts and dairy?" asks one parent. Well, I'll tell you: anything else. My child was allergic to both those things and I can assure you, there was plenty he was able to eat. Banning nuts from schools wasn't done to make lunch packing that much more difficult, it was done to save the life of a child. In the extremely rare circumstance when there are multiple severe allergies present, then maybe there's room for complaint, but typically I think it's just sheer laziness behind parents' complaints. I'll guarantee you that any parent of an allergic child would happily trade you for your picky one, regardless of how hard it seems to pack a lunch.
In some cases, parents even suggest allergic kids have no place in schools. When kids hear their parents express disdain for the "problem" (the allergic child), they too become hostile, and this is how these things happen.
This week, Erika Dacunha, a 16-year-old student in Toronto told her story about experiencing allergy bullying in her story for Allergic Living. As a result of her terrifying experiences with allergic reactions, not only does Dacunha suffer from life-threatening allergies, she also has mental health challenges (OCD and PTSD), issues exacerbated by relentless bullying by her peers. Among other horrible acts of bullying, Dacunha walked into a classroom to find her desk covered in pistachios, one of her worst allergies. Can you imagine the terror she felt?
Dacunha has these words to share:
"A message to the bullies out there: get educated and be compassionate. Everyone is different. No one is immune to a tragedy or challenge; one can happen at any moment and change your life forever. Why not spend your time on this Earth making it a better place, being kind and respectful instead of spreading hate and hurt?"
Read her full story on Allergic Living.