Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Peanut-free or Not Peanut-free

Well, it's been awhile since I posted a letter, but here's one I wrote to Pink's principal this morning. Interesting timing especially given my last post about food allergies (link). Also, apparently May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month (so now you know!). I think this e-mail letter speaks for itself, but what do you think?

Dear Principal Edwards,

We write to let you know about a frightening incident that occurred on the bus on the way home yesterday. Pink tells us that the girl sitting in front of her was eating a peanut butter sandwich on the bus and when Pink informed the girl of her peanut allergy, the girl shoved her sandwich in Pink's face. Luckily, the peanut butter did not touch Pink, but since smelling it, she has had a tight chest and asthma-like symptoms. Only this morning did Pink think to tell us about this as she was preparing to ride the bus and reminded of what happened.

Recent allergy testing has re-confirmed for us that Pink's peanut allergy is at the severest level, and exposure to peanuts in any form constitutes a high risk. Given the severity of Pink's peanut allergy, this behavior by the other little girl on the bus is similar to a life-threatening assault. It is particularly concerning since Pink does not have an epi-pen with her on the bus ride due to the fact that the bus has been assumed to be an allergen-free space.

We'd like to request several things happen as a result of this incident. First, we'd like to ask that the child who did this to Pink is educated so she fully grasps the implications and potential outcomes of her behavior. We'd like to be sure that the child understands she shouldn’t do something like that again.

Second, we'd like broader education for students regarding severe food allergies. We are sure that no parent would like their child to be the cause of another child's serious illness or death and believe it's important to educate children about these risks and to promote better awareness.

Third, we'd like to ask that the district re-examine its policies regarding peanut/nut allergies. While we understand that there are many different kinds of food allergies (indeed, Pink has many other food allergies herself), peanuts are a special issue because they are more easily spread (from oil left on children's hands and through dust particles) than eggs, soy, or shellfish, particularly in the school environment. While it's not the most common allergy, it’s potentially very deadly with a very small amount of the allergen. 

While Pink's teacher is aware of these risks and we have epi-pens available at school, we remain unconvinced that Pink is safe in her current environment, particularly in light of yesterday's events. Pink's teacher has been very good about maintaining a peanut-free classroom. We are less sure that Pink is safe in the cafeteria or on the playground or in the hallways or on the bus. A severe peanut allergy like Pink has is classified as a disability and therefore is subject to FAPE. We would like to explore ways to ensure that Pink is safe and healthy at school and that she is not unfairly limited by her allergy. We understand this request is coming near the end of the school year, but we think it's important to address this issue for her future placements particularly in light of the district-wide policies regarding life-threatening food allergies.


Moe and Ren

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