Good Snackage

by admin on August 29, 2012

I have often hoped that I would never have a story to share, but alas, my time has come.

My kids participated in a community outdoor children’s play this summer. The organizers are friends of ours and this was the second year they have taken on, and we’ve participated in, this wonderful event. Getting 35 kids between the ages of 5-12 to learn lines , cues and directions is a momentous task.

This year, it was decided to form committees for certain things, rather than just have parents step in as needed. I signed up to be on the “snack committee” as well as help out with stage managing.

The “official” duties of snack committee were to bring snacks the last two weeks of practice when the entire cast would be present. However, since I was there almost ever night anyway, I generally brought some type of snack for the kids when they had a break. Personally, I hate the idea of snacks because they usually involve junk food. So I made sure I was bringing fresh fruit, vegetables from the garden, or something homemade, like zucchini muffins. But always something healthy, low in sugar and fat.

One of the snack committee members took it upon herself to become the “committee chair”. The second week of practice I received an email from her expressing displeasure over my snack choices. Her child has a gluten allergy and she was very angry that I was not providing something her daughter could eat. She went so far as to outline exactly what I could bring and if I was to deviate from this list, I should let her know so that she may provide something for her daughter.

Not every child was present each night for practice, and not all choose to eat snacks. So I was really surprised that her daughter would feel excluded to the extent that her mother would have to send such an angry email. I responded with my polite spine and stated that the “official” snack committee had not started and I was doing this simply because I had time. I said I would not make something special for her daughter, but that I would make sure there was something available for her. I did go out and buy some gluten free cookies for her, but I was simply not going to try and bake something gluten free as I know my kitchen is not gluten free.

As the weeks went on, I received email after email from this woman about how inconsiderate I was being. Now, I might have taken this better if her daughter was young, but she’s 12. Her mother never attended a single practice to even personally see what was being served. Her daughter, on the other hand, was very nice about it. She would simply walk up and grab the fruit or veggies. If there was something I baked that she was interested in, she would ask if it contained gluten and I would let her know if it did or if I had something else for her.

The week before the official snack duties started, I received an email from her basically stating that I was killing her child. Because of work, I wasn’t able to get a snack together for one of the last rehearsals before the official snack dates. She sent an email saying she was glad her message finally was received (thinking that I didn’t bring a snack because of her). She sent a follow up email to the entire committee listing out what they should bring and when, and letting us know she would be there to supervise. Her list involved a lot of summer sausage type meat, cheese and chocolate- none of which does well in the summer heat.

I did continue to bring the fresh fruit and vegetables though I kept them close to my folding chair (where I had been placing snacks the entire time) rather than putting them on the official snack table. My inner witch was devilishly pleased by the fact that the kids came to my area for snack, instead of choosing the other option.

Is it wrong to think that if your child has special dietary needs, that you should provide it, rather than dictating what someone else is doing? 0824-12

I’m a big advocate for personal responsibility and one’s health (or that if your minor-aged child) is specifically within one’s own sphere of responsibility.   It’s a form of entitlement to expect others to know your health limitations and cater to them in an educated manner.   If you have a gluten/nut/shellfish or any other food allergy, it is your job to manage your own food intake.

By offering fruit, veggies and healthy food choices, you were being a good snack mom.  What the 12 year old eats in the presence of such treats is her own responsibility as well as her parents’ to make sure she makes good choices.

{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

JWH August 29, 2012 at 3:10 pm

“You are the chairperson? But under Robert’s Rules of Order … “

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abf August 29, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Well OP, sounds like to me you did a great job with being a responsible parent and adult. I hope you kept the emails you recieved becuase I think your experience needs to be brought to the attention of the leaders of the organization hosting the event. I would call your experience harrassment. She needs to be called on the carpet for her actions and made clear that such harrassment will not be tolerated.

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SJ August 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

It seems OP and the gluten-intolerant 12-year-old were doing fine with the snacks without the mother intervening. Sounds more like a control issue than anything else.

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Raven August 29, 2012 at 4:11 pm

To chime in with Rug Pilot, and to respond to everyone’s questions about fruit and veg being gluten-free, here goes:

Fruit and veg *are* gluten-free – at least, until they are chopped on the same chopping board as bread, or put in the same container as non-GF muffins/cookies/etc. It’s not an issue of ingredient (as fruit and veg are natrually GF) but an issue of (potential) cross-contamination.

THIS is actually what I was most confused about in the story. If the mother was so concerned that her daughter’s needs be met, why would she be ok with her eating fruit and veg that wasn’t prepared at home? It’s dangerous to assume other people know how to handle cross-contamination, as there are a lot of things to consider that non-celiacs (or other allergies) wouldn’t think about: tea towels, cutting boards, crumbs, serving plates, those little corners of baking trays that never *quite* come clean… it’s a nightmare. And yes, it is totally possible to get sick from that, if you’re sensitive enough.

The mom in this case should have just sent the daughter with her own snacks and called it a day. Safer for the daughter, kinder to everyone else.

Very, very rarely will I ever eat anyone’s cooking, and this is exactly why – I don’t want to be like this mom! (I like having friends.)

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Lita August 29, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Ugh. Some people…

I’m very impressed by the daughter’s graciousness in this situation. She seems to be doing an incredible job of dealing with her own allergy without her overbearing mother’s “help”, and being polite about it to boot! Why can’t parents take cues from their kids and become a little more understanding and accepting too? Ugh.

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Moo August 29, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Me and my sisters all have dietary needs (gluten, dairy and lactose allergies) and we have never expected to be fed, my Mum has always provided my youngest sister (4) with snacks and food to take to parties, friends houses and days out. This not only means my Mum is assured that my sisters food is gluten and dairy free, but also reduces the stress on the host, as it can be very difficult to cook food for people with dietary needs if you are not very familiar with the need.

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Snarkastic August 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

@PM
Your comment is by far my favorite. I really like the way the parents are handling their kids’ special dietary restrictions. I also wish I had a “treat cache”.

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Cat Whisperer August 29, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Jays said: “…I have some sympathy with the schools that ban peanuts because of one child with an allergy … because with some kids, the merest whiff of such a thing is dangerous. My son went to a school like this. Inconvenient, but we’re talking about a children’s life … and there’s nothing the child can do about it. He was entitled to an education, after all, and there’s no way a school be reasonably be sure that he cannot smell peanuts other than utterly banning them…”

The problem is that some people with kids who have special needs define “reasonable accomodation” to mean “what I want, the way I want it, when I want it, and nothing else is reasonable!” And if you dare to disagree with them, or even just want to discuss with them, they accuse you of being indifferent to their problems, or even actually causing harm– like the mother in OP’s story, who accused OP of “killing” her child. You aren’t allowed to disagree with them or even to discuss the issue.

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Rebecca August 29, 2012 at 4:54 pm

Wow. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. You handled it well. I’d want to say, “I’m sorry your daughter cannot partake in the snacks I bring along. These snacks are not a part of the official snack committee, but I bring them along as an extra. I’m sure the kids would be happy if you wanted to bring along some gluten free options for everyone to try. In the meantime, your daughter does seem to enjoy the fruits and other non-gluten items I bring along.”

What would happen if one couldn’t eat gluten, another couldn’t have nuts, another was allergic to tomatoes and strawberries, etc etc? My vote would be for everyone to bring whatever, and the parent of the child with the food restriction would have to be responsible for any special items. As long as every single item didn’t contain nuts, strawberries, whatever, and if there was a very serious peanut allergy or something, then it would make sense to ban peanuts.

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Jess August 29, 2012 at 7:03 pm

Roslyn August 29, 2012 at 9:53 am and Molly August 29, 2012 at 10:08 am

Every school in Australia including daycares has banned peanut products. I agree TOTALLY with this scheme even thought my kids adore peanut butter. I dont think some people realise just how deadly a peanut allergy can be. A child can DIE (yes not being dramatic it is a fact) from even the smallest contact with peanuts. It is not about being pedantic or fussy its life or death. My niece’s best friend died from allergic reaction to peanuts. How? because she held hands with a child who had eaten lunch with another child who ate a peanut butter sandwich.

In the OP’s case it was ridiculous because the mother was not required to bring snacks and the other woman’s daughter attended the function voluntarily. School is not voluntary and to tell you the truth I think I would rather not risk children’s lives simply because my kids WANT a certain type of sandwich it is simply not worth it. There are healthier options than peanut butter anyway.

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German Shepherd August 29, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Raven said everything I thought. The 12 year old’s mother should’ve sent her with gluten-free snacks instead of bothering the OP. At least OP bought gf cookies.

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RadManCF August 29, 2012 at 10:20 pm

On the subject of nut free schools, I tend to side with those who think it’s excessive. My opinion is that in these cases, the solution to the needs of a miniscule portion of the population adversely affects the majority. That hardly seems fair to me. I also wonder about these cases where people have died from smelling peanuts. To me it seems like it’s probably a few extreme cases, and should not be used a basis for policy making. In my opinion, banning peanuts in schools because someone, somewhere died from smelling them is like banning auto racing because a physically disabled person might somehow find themselves on the racetrack.

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LindseyD August 29, 2012 at 10:29 pm

I think my favorite part of this is that the woman wanted people to bring “sausage type meat, cheese and chocolate.” All of which are also commonly foods that some people can’t eat, especially cheese and chocolate, which lactose intolerant children couldn’t eat (and despite the current fad of gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance is still more common). Not to mention people who can’t have red meat or someone who can’t have sweets (and, in fact, gluten free stuff is usually much higher in carbs). It’s just proof the woman is a selfish control freak, not honestly someone concerned about the health of children. Otherwise her list would be about people bringing a wide variety of foods so no one would be “left out”.

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Cat Whisperer August 29, 2012 at 11:07 pm

llamaqueen said: “…BUT–gluten free is no longer an allergy thing. Gluten free is being toted as a more healthy life choice, not just for those have an allergy. Is it possible she was trying to promote gluten free, the same some promote sugar free, fat free options for our children’s school lunches, snacks etc. and she was trying to get OP not to make those items AT ALL –not for her child but everyone else’s as well?…”

Even if the woman in this story had the best intentions in the world, and firmly believed that the default snack of choice for children should be gluten free, that does not give her the right to make that choice for other people. Nor does it give her the right to criticize, harass, insult, demean, pester, or otherwise cause problems for someone who is providing snacks on a purely voluntary basis to the kids, which the kids are under no pressure at all to eat. That is just plain ordinary garden-variety RUDE.

Eat what you want, feed your kids what you want, protect them and yourself if necessary from allergens. That can be done politely and without resorting to personal attack. But please don’t try to dictate or police other people’s choices, or demean or insult them because their choices aren’t what you would make. That’s rude.

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Kathryn August 29, 2012 at 11:54 pm

RadManCF (#62):

So the life of a child is worth the rest of the school being able to eat peanut butter? Is eating a PB&J sandwich a right that you are entitled to? Is there NOTHING else your child could possibly eat for lunch? It is a minority that are affected by peanut allergies, but do you want to be responsibly for your child’s classmate going into anaphylactic shock because your child simply had to have a PB&J sandwich?

Your “adverse affect” is not being able to eat peanut butter at school. How is that excessive?

Your example of the disabled person on a racetrack is quite flawed. Child have the right to a public education and to attend school. Children go to school all the time. Children have the right to be safe at school. Physically disabled people do not have the right to hang around on racetracks during a race. They do not hang around on racetracks all the time while cars are racing. Disabled people have the right to be safe while viewing the race in the stands.

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travestine August 30, 2012 at 12:41 am

@RadManCF: While it may seem ‘excessive’ to someone not affected, it really is life and death to someone with a severe, life-threatening allergy. While I don’t agree with my sister’s attitude towards handling the ‘guest’ issue with my niece, I do understand how serious it is that she not eat anything with peanut in it. I don’t want her to die. She must carry an epi pen with her at all times.

It was discovered that she is also allergic to hazelnuts (my allergy) when she wiped sandwich crumbs from a Nutella sandwich from a desk with the side of her hand. Within minutes, her hand nearly doubled in size from the reaction to that minute amount of hazelnut contact. It is that serious.

I don’t think your attitude would be the same if it was one of your loved ones who was at risk of a painful, terrifying death within minutes of exposure to a peanut or other allergen – not if it was avoidable with relatively minor inconvenience to others.

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Melissa August 30, 2012 at 1:27 am

Miss Raven, I am a medical lab technician, and yes, food allergies are detectable through blood tests. The blood samples are screened for antibodies produced by allergic reactions. It is one of many legitimate screening tests.

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Margaret August 30, 2012 at 1:45 am

I have mixed feelings about nut free schools. I think a school wide ban is excessive, but I understand why it is put in place. However, what I’ve always wondered is what does the school do if a child enrolls with a deadly allergy to some other food? Also, what is to prevent a child from coming to school after eating peanut butter toast and not washing his hands and face enough to remove all traces of peanut butter?

I read an article in a parenting magazine once, and one parent said his child had a deadly allergy to dairy. His child’s class was going to have a pizza party, and he asked if something else could be provided for his child. The organizer (teacher?, parent helper?) told him not to worry, they would just scrape the cheese off his child’s slice of pizza. The article advocated teaching the child with allergies the best practices to keep him/herself safe, and creating awareness in the other students about the allergy and what needs to be done to keep the allergic child safe.

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S.B. August 30, 2012 at 3:19 am

IMHO, the OP handled this very well– provided healthy snacks, made sure there were GF options for the girl. And the girl seemed to be on top of her own needs, since she asked politely about the content of the food and made good snack choices, which is more than a lot of 12-year-olds. Hover-mom needs some lessons from her daughter!

BTW, I have one rare allergy, as well as red meat intolerance (if any of you watched House, it was in an episode). Some of my close friends also have serious food allergies. My usual MO is to do a ‘pre-emptive strike’ and volunteer to bring potluck food or do snack duty, since then I know there will be at least one safe item. (When I catered professionally, I always asked if anyone had dietary restrictions– really, I think Hover-mom should have spoken up straight away at the snack committee, and not gone hassling the OP after the fact).

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just sayin' August 30, 2012 at 4:04 am

a few people have mentioned peanut allergies, with some common misconceptions.

peanut allergies are NOT triggered by smell. the compounds that make up the aroma people associate with peanuts contain zero proteins, and allergies are immunological reactions to specific proteins.

in extreme cases, like a peanut shelling factory, actual peanut particles can become airborn and then inhaled. THAT can cause anaphylaxis. if you are sitting close to someone who insists on talking and eating at the same time, and they spew some of their pbj onto you, THAT can cause a reaction.

people who are allergic to peanuts may smell them and have a reaction–but it’s a psychosomatic reaction brought on by their own anxieties.

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Kit August 30, 2012 at 4:12 am

Hey! Great minds think alike! I have made a cache of sweets in a drawer of my celiac son’s teacher, too.

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Kate August 30, 2012 at 5:55 am

My mum has coeliac disease and she would have thanked OP profusely for providing fruit and vegies! It sounds like you went above and beyond the call of duty.

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JS August 30, 2012 at 7:46 am

just sayin’, I’d like to see the factual support for your claim, please.

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Angeldrac August 30, 2012 at 8:23 am

There is a difference between an allergy and an intolerance.
I just want to point this out and encourage people to aquaint themselves with the differences between allergies and intolerances, because it does affect how they should be treated and managed.
ALLERGIES – are the result of and overactive immune system, where the immune system mistakenly overreacts to substances that are usually harmless.
INTOLERANCES – Are an adverse reaction or sensitivity to a food or substance not involving the immune system.
Please read http://www.celiac.com/articles/21847/1/Quite-Simple-Food-Allergies-vs-Food-Intolerance/Page1.html for more info.
It is important that allergies and and intolerances are not confused, and the consequences can differ greatly.

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JD August 30, 2012 at 10:15 am

My husband has type 1 (juvenile) diabetes. He always assumes he’ll have to leave some dishes untouched because they are just too “expensive” to eat, even with his insulin pump. At family get togethers, I often bring a light dessert he can have, while they bring carb loaded creations. My daughter, as early as age five, accepted the fact that she could not eat most of the treats at parties; her allergies weren’t life threatening, but caused a lot of misery for her. I would send food with her to parties and gatherings. It’s clearly a person’s own responsibility to take care of his or her own health. If that means providing one’s own food, then so be it. We’ve lived this way for many years. I can’t imagine blistering a person for not providing special food at a gathering just for my child or my husband!

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RadManCF August 30, 2012 at 11:54 am

@everyone who seems shocked at what I said, my feeling is that perhaps there is a less drastic solution to the problem, for example, providing a seperate lunch area for affected children. I’d assume that a school would have a conference room available. If that is financially unfeasable, ok, then go ahead with a full scale ban. To those who said I’d feel differently if I had an allergic child, I’ll say that I would fully expect someone with an allergic child to overreact out of emotion. Also, public school attendance is not right, but a privlige, at least in the US. A child who causes enough trouble will be expelled in short order.

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RadManCF August 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I should also say, I work in construction, as a Millwright. In addition to new construction, we also do overhauls of machinery. If I were to find myself working on a project at a school, while it was in session, and was told I could not bring peanut butter, I would be extremely displeased. PB is really cheap protein. Meat is much more expensive. As a first year apprentice, I only get 55% of the journeyman wage, and so this is enough to make a significant effect on my finances.

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Amanda H. August 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm

I have to say I am a bit with RadManCF, at least partly because while I occasionally hear about those extremely severe peanut allergies (always from here, it seems), I hav never actually *known* someone with such a severe allergy, and I’ve known quite a few with peanut allergies. As Margaret says, what’s to prevent a kid from having peanut butter with their breakfast and then going to their nut-banned school? And to satisfy my curiosity, are these severely-allergic children going to school prepared with their emergency medication? Are their teachers notified?

The way my daughter’s school did it was that the classrooms themselves were declared nut-free, so snacks containing nuts weren’t allowed at class parties and the like, but the cafeteria was open game. Children with nut allergies were advised to either sit away from children with PBJ’s, or if their allergy was *that* severe, to take lunch in the classroom. Hand-washing was a must. I do find the nut-free school declaration to be a bit extreme myself. After all, none of the schools in the district where I grew up were nut-free at all, and not once was there an allergy issue, even with the people I know (including my own sister) who had nut allergies. Maybe I just don’t have a close-enough perspective on things.

As for the mom in the OP, sounds to me like she’s a controlling personality, one of those “my kid’s issues is my crusade” people. I’m sure her daughter answered in complete innocence about the snacks (“oh, there were these great-looking muffins but they had gluten, so I had the fruit instead”) and the mom decided to go on an unasked-for rampage because her daughter couldn’t have the muffins. Nevermind overstepping her bounds.

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Leah August 30, 2012 at 12:40 pm

I went to school with a girl with peanut allergies. Instead of banning all peanut butter, we were taught to do our part. We were taught what an allergy is from kindergarden. She knew to ask if something had peanut butter and parents always made sure there were treats that she could eat, her mother gave us all a long list of safe treats. We did get to eat peanut butter at school, just after we washed our hands and cleaned anything that came in contact with peanut butter.
Some allergies are worse, smell make her feel sick but didn’t start an allergic reaction.
It taught us to do our part and be active in keeping our friend safe.

PS I went to a small school, we all knew each other and our parents knew each other so communicating wasn’t hard to do.

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LonelyHound August 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm

I am confused. You provided fruits and veggies as well as healthy baked goods. Aren’t fruits and veggies gluten free? I wonder if the mom was upset because she thought you were “punishing” her daughter by only bringing her fruits and veggies instead of muffins.

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RadManCF August 30, 2012 at 2:09 pm

@Leah, that is an excellent approach. IMO, a ban on the allergen would be simpler, but would cause a great deal of resentment. What you’re describing is more time consuming, but in the long run will likely be more beneficial to the children. It’s teaching the allergic child that they have a personal responsibility to avoid allergens, and teaches the other children to be mindful of endagering the allergic child, while not depriving them of peanut butter. IMO, its a much better representation of the real world.

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Politrix August 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm

RadManCF,
Public school isn’t a right or a privilege in the U.S. It’s the law. If you choose to home-school your kid, you have to register with the local authorities and have him/her tested periodically to make sure he’s keeping up with the public school kids. Private schools tend to be very expensive and home-schooling only works in a single-income family, so I’m not sure what your point is.
Also, a kid with a life-threatening allergy isn’t “causing problems” — are you seriously suggesting any person who doesn’t conform to your idea of how people should eat ought to be expelled from school?
And, there are many cheap alternative sources of protein other than meat or peanuts — tofu, cheese and beans come to mind first, though I’m sure if you bothered to research it further you’d find other foods as well (also, the price of peanuts –and their by-products — has skyrocketed recently due to droughts and other adverse conditions in the south and midwest, so your claim of peanut butter as a “cheap source of protein” is unfounded.)
Lastly, if overhauling machinery is the type of work that you just can’t seem to handle without the help of a peanut butter sandwich, IMHO you should either take iron supplements or find another type of job.

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RadManCF August 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm

@Politrix, when I say that public school is a privilege, I mean that a child that causes enough trouble will be expelled. By this I primarally mean disorderly and violent kids. I don’t object to making reasonable accomodations to kids with special health problems; I think a lot of this arguement is due to differences in opinion in what is reasonable. Also, with regards to my work, being well fed is vital to working safely. If you aren’t well fed, you may become fatigued on the job. That puts you, and everyone else on your crew in danger. The need to eat to gain sufficient energy to make it through the day isn’t unique to me. In my experience, the lunches eaten by construction workers tend to be much larger than those eaten by office workers, for the simple reason that construction workers expend a great deal more energy.

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Cat Whisperer August 30, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I want to comment on the exchange involving RadManCF’s comment, which seems to have triggered a great deal of discussion.

When my daugher was in middle school, I was on a parent-administration committee, and had a chance to get to know the principal at my daughter’s school and the superintendent of the district the school was in. There were reports on, and discussion of, some issues that involved the “reasonable accomodation” issue.

Because the courts have deemed that equal access to public education is a right for all children, the schools are required to make “reasonable accomodation” for children who have special needs. (I believe that in America, “special needs” is defined to some extent by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the case law that has grown from this Act.) So when a parent presents to the school district that they have a child who needs “reasonable accomodation” for a condition in order to have access to public education, the school has a legal obligation to provide that “reasonable accomodation.”

But “reasonable accomodation” doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Basically, it’s like everything else in this world: it’s probably going to cost money.

Most schools have some budget for “special needs” accomodation, and schools can sometimes get more money through special grants from the state or the Federal government, and sometimes from non-profit private organizations; but depending on the size of the school district and the specific circumstances involved, accomodation of “special needs” can work a very real hardship on the budget of the school or district involved, particularly if it’s a small district in a place that’s economically disadvantaged.

This is the problem when “reasonable accomodation” is construed to mean “what the parents of the child or children involved demand, without regard for cost.” At some point, accomodating the special needs of one child may mean taking away resources that are needed by every other child in the school.

This came up while I was on the parent-administrative committee. A case involved a child whose parents were not satisfied with the “reasonable accomodation” the school proposed to provide to meet their child’s needs. The Superintendent didn’t discuss any specifics of the case because of confidentiality issues, and I don’t think any of us wanted to know. But the budgetary reality had to be dealt with: what the parents wanted as “reasonable accomodation” was going to cost the district on the order of $25,000 per year over and above all money available for “reasonable accomodation” from every other source. Which meant that in a school district where the unexpected breakdown of a copying machine and the $1,200 expense to buy a new one meant putting an aide on half-time instead of full time for the remainder of the year, $25,000 was going to have to be taken from other sources to give these parents what they needed.

Some people have made the comment about “minor inconvenience” vs. “saving the life of a child” with regard to peanut-free schools. Okay….but keeping the school free from peanuts may mean contracting with a school lunch provider at a significantly higher cost. It may mean hiring a consultant for the district for risk assessment and mitigation. It may mean paying for special training of teachers and aides. It may mean paying for special medical coverage in the event that the child does come into contact with peanuts and experiences a medical emergency.

This isn’t a matter of “minor inconvenience,” it’s an expense and the school has to find the money. And if they can’t get the money any other way and the school district’s legal people tell the school they have no choice because the parents of the student have hired a lawyer and are threatening legal action which would cost three times as much, that money is going to be taken away from the other students, the ones who don’t have peanut allergies.

In the specific case we were made aware of, the school was contemplating eliminating the music program from elementary schools in the district in order to come up with the money.

At what point do you decide that “reasonable accomodation” isn’t reasonable, and who gets to decide? Please don’t give me declarations that you have to do everything that’s possible to eliminate any possibility of peanut exposure, because “everything that’s possible” is orders of magnitude different from “reasonable accomodation,” both in risk mitigation and in cost. Do you accede to what the parents are demanding, even if objective consultants and respected medical authorities tell you it isn’t necessary? Who gets to decide what’s “reasonable”?

RadManCF has a valid point. These things aren’t theoretical, they’re real, and putting them into action has a tangible cost and could require more than “minor inconvenience.” There deserves to be some rational debate that isn’t based on emotion and recognizes that there is no such thing as perfect safety and that providing “reasonable accomodation” for one child may mean that a bunch of other children lose their music program or access to a teacher’s aide or the school eliminates a field trip to a museum or support for a sports program or something. Those are the realities of trying to accomodate kids who have special needs in the public schools.

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travestine August 30, 2012 at 4:30 pm

@Just Sayin': I’m not sure where you got your information, but I can assure you, my reaction to breathing the dust and pollen from hazelnut trees is very real, and discovered not because I knew the trees were there BEFORE I encountered them, but as I was grabbing for my epi pen and inhaler.

I took an alternate route home from a family rural property, not knowing it was an area known for its hazelnut tree farms. As I approached and drove through, my throat and tongue began to swell and I began to have trouble breathing. Fortunately, I had the items I needed and could help myself. It was then that I saw the first sign advertising a hazelnut tree farm. Now, if I know I will be in the area, I take an antihistamine well in advance and keep my epi pen and inhaler handy.

Severe allergies definitely can be triggered by airborne exposure. Hence hayfever, pet allergies and the like.

And to the person who asked about eating a PB&J at home and not washing their hands. I once gave my niece a hive because I had eaten PB, used my lip gloss at home and then gave her a kiss hours later – after eating another meal, but using the same lip gloss again – I felt terrible.

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Jess August 30, 2012 at 10:07 pm

@Cat Whisperer

Wow things must be simpler here is Australia, they just say to parents ‘to reduce risk please dont send your child to school with a peanut butter sandwiches’ the parents say ‘ok we will put vegemite on instead’ and all is well. They are not saying the school will ELIMINATE risk, it is to REDUCE risk and it does not cost a cent. The parents of a child with the allergy cannot sue because the school has not said they will make it peanut free, its just a common sense approach to reduce risk….

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Cat Whisperer August 31, 2012 at 12:45 am

Jess, America is the land of opportunity– for litigation. If a parent doesn’t like what the school offers as “reasonable accomodation” for their condition, they can get themselves a lawyer and threaten to sue the district for failure to make what they consider reasonable accomodation.

At that point, the school district has to try to figure out what they do, and what the costs of doing it will be, and where the money comes from. And if the school district’s legal advisor tells them that litigating the issue will cost more than giving the parents what they want, the district will likely either cave completely to what the parents want, or will try to negotiate a settlement of some kind.

What burns me up is that you get people using the emotional argument that has appeared in this threat: that when you’re talking about the life of a child, no inconvenience or cost is too much. Even if there are objective respected authorities on the subject who can produce data that what the parents are asking is not reasonable, or has no validity, the parents can go to litigation.

I’ve seen news items of parents demanding reasonable accomodation to involve hiring a full-time trained aide for a single student with special needs, at a cost in excess of $80,000 a year over and above normal expenses for a special needs student, because they didn’t want their child in a “special education” class for children with disabilities– they wanted their child “mainstreamed” in a normal classroom. And they turned down the public school’s offer to pay full tuition for the child to attend a private school for kids with disabilities because that wasn’t what they wanted.

When my daughter was in public school, the issue of allergies and how far the school has to go to protect the child came up. And on the specific issue of peanut allergies, there were parents who at least initially wanted the district to change the contractors they used to provide the school’s lunch program, because the contractor the district used could not guarantee that every meal or snack item they provided was completely free from peanuts or cross-contamination from peanuts. The district got bids for a contractor who could provide certified peanut-free meals and snacks, and it would have raised the costs of providing lunches for the schools significantly (>$100,000 year for the district). There were also costs for training all teachers, aides and cafeteria workers on providing an environment free from peanut and related allergens.

This is not just “inconvenient,” it’s expensive. It was also questionable about whether the measures the parents wanted were actually necessary or had real value-added in protecting their child from potential exposure. The school had medical consultants who provided data on the matter, and it really didn’t look as if the extreme measures that were being demanded actually were worth the cost to provide them, in terms of what was possible in risk mitigation.

The issue was, the parents didn’t want to discuss what was reasonable. They went directly to the “how can you weigh the cost of a child’s life” argument in demanding something that, realistically, they weren’t actually even providing for their child at home. Ultimately that was the argument that made the parents back down, they realized that they weren’t providing the kind of environment at home that they were demanding the school provide, and the school expressed a willingness to litigate the matter. The parents realized that if they wanted the school to do what they were asking, they’d have to provide a comparable environment at home, and they didn’t want the expense or hassle of going to the extremes they wanted the school to go to.

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RadManCF August 31, 2012 at 8:57 am

@Cat Whisperer, thanks for sharing those stories. That is exactly the kind of thing I worry about,

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just sayin' August 31, 2012 at 9:12 am

@JS: with the exception of a few random fluff pieces, every single reputable search result says the same thing, whether it’s from a medical journal or even just random health websites. actual peanut particles have to be ingested or breathed in. i didn’t include any links to articles or websites because a simple google search for “peanut allergy smell” produces over 100,000 search results all saying the same thing.

@travestine: BREATHING dust and pollen is different than SMELLING hazelnuts. dust and pollen are actual particles, and akin to the examples i listed above, in which actual particles that contain proteins that cause anaphylaxis are ingested or breathed in.

i’m not saying that peanut free schools is a bad idea–children are not very careful, and there are a thousand ways that a child who brings a peanut butter sandwich for lunch could wind up accidentally contaminating something that a severely allergic child could then come into contact with, and have an allergic reaction. i’m just pointing out that in these discussions that accuracy is still important, and i’m very glad that others have pointed out also that there is a difference between allergies and intolerances for that same reason.

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RadManCF August 31, 2012 at 9:22 am

@Cat Whisperer, thanks for sharing those stories. They highlight several of the issues I worry about. To me the biggest is the reliance on emotional arguments. They do an excellent job of obscuring facts and logic. One important fact that I think is missed is that in all types of risk management, risks aren’t necesarily eliminated, just reduced to low probabilities. If you were to graph the risk reduced as a function of efforts taken to reduce the risk, you would have a graph that increases initially, and then ease into a plateau. Expending effort to reduce the risk beyond that point is pointless.

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noname August 31, 2012 at 9:31 am

“Also, with regards to my work, being well fed is vital to working safely. If you aren’t well fed, you may become fatigued on the job. That puts you, and everyone else on your crew in danger. The need to eat to gain sufficient energy to make it through the day isn’t unique to me. In my experience, the lunches eaten by construction workers tend to be much larger than those eaten by office workers, for the simple reason that construction workers expend a great deal more energy.”

Which has precisly what to do with peanut butter sandwiches?

1. Yes, people need to be well-fed when doing precise work.

2. Yes, people doing manual work will need more food than office workers.
They will also need different food from office workers: a lot of carbs for the physical part, plus some brain food for the concentration.

Carb food is not a lousy sandwich with some peanut butter for protein: it would be a big bowl of pasta, a dish of potatoes, beans, rice, with a sauce to provide vitamins, minerals etc. for the brain.

This is – more approriate for physical work; cheap for low-paid workers; more filling than just a sandwich.

If you aren’t allowed a long lunchbreak; can’t leave the work-site; don’t have a cheap snack bar nearby or no opportunity to cook and therefore want to claim that you must eat a sandwich because you can’t eat warm food – I point you to the Henkelmann (http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henkelmann) used by coal miners and steel workers for decades to eat hot lunch. It’s a metal container filled with hot water to keep the food warm. With today’s technology in thermos containers, modern ones will be even better.

Oh, and a hint: people outside the US do heavy work, too, and are not paid well, but still manage to survive and be well-fed without ever touching peanut butter at all, because it’s not common and so not usually bought. Imagine that!

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Felisd August 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Every time the peanut-free environment in schools issue comes up, I always wonder: what happens to those kids with the deathly peanut allergies after they graduate from school? I wonder this when I work in my office, sometimes while eating a peanut-butter sandwich for lunch while working through my lunch break, marking up shop drawings by hand which it suddenly occurs to me will be handled by at least two or more other people either at my office, or at the offices of the architect, the offices of the contractor or on site.

Do these allergies lessen with time? Is that why there is less of a concern after the kids graduate from school? Or will this become an issue later on as these kids graduate and we will suddenly find that any public environment will have a similar peanut ban?

Not saying that I necessarily disagree an all-school bans on peanuts – though it has caused inconvenience in the past when my step-daughter went through a phase where she would literally refuse any food other than peanut-butter sandwiches at mealtimes unless it was a dessert food. It made packing lunches for her for camp/school and ensuring she would eat *something* *ANYTHING* healthy extremely difficult to say the least.

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Library Diva August 31, 2012 at 2:50 pm

I think this whole allergy debate highlights how damaging the original mom truly is. It’s because of parents like her that an “allergy backlash” exists. I had a co-worker with a peanut allergy, and he always seemed ashamed of it. He always apologized for having to ask whether or not there were peanuts in the snacks people would frequently bring for the office. Once, he went to a Mexican restauarant with two of my co-workers and ate some mole sauce, not knowing that it contained peanuts. One of my co-workers told me later that he was even apologizing to them as they drove him to the drugstore to get some Benadryl.

In this story, I feel very sorry for the daughter. She’s old enough to pick up on the fact that she’ll be getting a weird vibe from her teachers and her friends’ parents, and to wonder why they don’t seem to like her at first, probably not knowing that her mom terrorized them before she even had a chance to get to know them.

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Norrina September 3, 2012 at 10:02 am

In my last year of law school, we had a student enroll with a peanut and tree nut allergy. All students were asked to refrain from eating any foods on campus that contained nuts OR were manufactured in a facility that processed nuts. While I appreciate that the school wanted to look out for the safety of this student, this request meant that about 90% of my usual high-protein choices (trail mix and snack bars) were no longer acceptable. For a while I brought a lot of hard boiled eggs and string cheese, but when I did a modified allergen diet to see if I was allergic to dairy or gluten, my own dietary needs came into stark conflict with this other student’s allergy. I ended up bringing my Larabars (made only of unsweetened fruits, nuts and spice, they were the only snack bar I could find that we’re certain not to contain a food I was supposed t be avoiding), and eating them outside.

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Cheryl Sublett September 4, 2012 at 8:58 am

I do not know what has happened in the past couple of decades but kids seem to be allergic to everything to where fruits and veggies maybe the only snacks a person can provide due to gluten, peanut, dairy and ect. allergies. The “chair person” in this story needed to be removed or at least be informed that since fruits and veggies are provided then anything else will be left up to the mother of the child. The chid didn’t do anything wrong nor can she help her condition but the mother could at least be reasonable in that 99% of the kids may not have her child’s allergy and recongize the unfortunanlty the majority wins and she must provide the special food for her kid. Parents get to “my kid is special and therefore you must cater to them” mentality.

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Lola September 4, 2012 at 9:22 am

I’m fully on board with nut-free schools, and in fact, my daughter attends one. I’m capable of providing her with snacks that do not involve nuts, and even though she adores pistachios, she’s OK with only having them outside of school where they cannot cause potentially life-threatening effects in other children. I prefer that she learn the value of compassion and being a good citizen over having a specific kind of a snack.

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BobbyCanuck September 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm

The kid with allergies, is her life worth more than mine? As an immigrant family, with no dad, and a mom working three min. wage jobs to keep a roof over our heads. I had to make my own lunches from a very young age, I think I ate PBJ sandwiches everyday from grades 2-6 (I got my own paper route at that time, and could start affording other things to eat). Had it not been for PBJ I do not think I would have survived.

Refute PB as a cheap form of protein all you want, that is just symantics.

I am not suggesting we go back to Sparta, just saying sooner or later individuals (yes, that includes kids old enough to think, old enough to go to school) need to consider thier own actions before asking society to make wholesale changes in order to accommadate thier needs.

The whole school being aware that little Suzie could die if exposed to PB, well just makes her a canditate for mean girl exposure to PB, kids can be very cruel to each other

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SunnyDi September 6, 2012 at 12:10 am

I help out at my daughter’s school’s Running Club. We are the only school in the district that provides a snack after the run. I can’t tell you the number of complaints we get that ‘Little Johnny doesn’t like that. Do you have anything else?’ or ‘Little Suzie doesn’t like that color popsicle and will need a different color.’ REALLY? This isn’t a restaurant and the kids are going right home after! And, most of the complaints come from parents who don’t even help out! Ever! They just complain about the food. We have even been YELLED at for not switching out a popsicle flavor/color or not offering a few options for treats! These are PREFERENCES not allergy issues! The entitlement of some parents boggles the mind!

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Enna September 6, 2012 at 10:12 am

If the teenager in question helped herself to the fruit and veg then maybe it wasn’t contaimnated? I’m sure she wouldn’t have eaten the healthy snacks a second time round if they were. It’s one thing a parent warning someone prvoiding food about a food allergery – just in case a mix-up happens but to insist and list what is provided is silly.

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erica September 9, 2012 at 2:56 pm

I am with the majority here.
I DO have a problem with those with severe peanut allergies being in a public school and expecting for it to bann peanut products. I understand. Their child’s allergy may be severe, life threatening and quite scary BUT….
My kid is just as important as that one. My kid WILL have peanut butter toast for breakfast AT HOME and while I make sure he washes his hands after he eats what if …..just ONCE…he touches the guiderail getting on the bus and gets peanut oil on it. What if that child boards AFTER he does and touches the same rail.
What if he sits next to my kid on the bus and my kid breathes his peanut breath on him?
See what I’m saying?
If a child is deathly severely allergic then I wonder about whether they belong in public situations where their environment can not entirely be controlled. I would do that for my child.
And my child does have an issue with Gluten…not deathly, not severe…but enough that we monitor what he eats and try to limit what we can. If my son were deathly allergic to peanuts you bet I would be homeschooling. I certainly wouldn’t expect the world to accomidate his needs.

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