Whose Job is it to Protect Students?

Why one mom removed her child from school

by: Alex Thom
sending lunch to school

I know, we've talked this topic to death around here, haven't we? And I know you're as sick of it as I am, and I'm a parent of an anaphylactic kid. We got the letter, too. The one that says we can't send any dairy, eggs, or nuts to school in lunches. And as I read it, I looked through my cupboards and fridge at the cheese and cracker snacks, the yogurt, the egg salad ready for tomorrow's sandwich, the cheese strings and granola bars and wondered what the heck I was supposed to pack instead. Frustrations run hot, and we all know how picky kids are at the best of times. It's incredibly frustrating when a child comes home with a full lunch bag because they just didn't feel like eating what was packed, so when there are restrictions on what they will eat, it's even worse. I know. We all know. Kids need to eat, and there's the constant pull between one child's allergies and the rest of the kids' nutritional needs.

I hear all sides of the argument, and as one of the people who is causing you this great annoyance, I apologize for my kid's problem.

Schools restrict foods, but when so many of us are confused about allergies, how can kids really be safe? What happens when a parent forgets almonds are nuts? Or when they don't realize hummus contains sesame? Or when they accidentally send mayo to the classroom of the egg-allergic kid? It's so hard, and I promise you that even we allergy parents are lost half the time, too. Is "may contain" ok? Is it ok if my kid sits at that other table? Should my kid sit in a different room? Schools are trying to become educated on how best to protect students, but how far can they really be expected to go? 

One mom, Lynne Glover, resorted to pulling her six-year-old daughter from school because of anaphylactic allergies. Her argument is that if schools accommodate nut allergies, they owe it to children with other life-threatening allergies to protect them, too. In her daughter's case, it would mean a full ban of dairy and egg products because of her daughter's severe contact allergies and the school just hasn't been able to do that with confidence. Glover's daughter Elodie suffered anaphylaxis seven times already — what if the next reaction was fatal?

There's the argument that it's every kid for themselves out there, and that it's just "too bad" that some suffer allergies.

There's the idea that schools should start lunch programs with safe foods.

Some people think a list of specific, acceptable lunches would be good.

Some think kids with allergies have no place in the public school system.

There are suggestions for allergic-kid specific lunch rooms.

I don't know what the answer is, but I know that sending an anaphylactic kid to school every day is a scary experience. I don't mind rethinking our lunches, but it's becoming harder and harder to pack them safely, that's for sure.