Potentially life-threatening allergies affect one in 13 kids under the age of 18. That's around two kids per classroom. No one knows why food allergies are on the rise. But here's a hint: It's not because today's moms think their kids are special snowflakes.
Sure, I'm a little biased when it comes to these arguments. If my son gets a smear of peanut butter on his fingers and licks them while eating, he could die. No big deal. His school has his EpiPen in the office. I'm sure they'd be able to get to it in time and inject him properly and get an ambulance to the school in time to save his life. And I'm sure during all of that they'd find time to call me so I could rush to my son's side while he fights for his life during anaphylactic shock.
No, my son doesn't attend a peanut-free school or classroom. And that's fine. At lunch, he sits alone at the far end of a table with another kid with a life-threatening food allergy. I'm sure they love sitting by themselves every single day, especially now that they're in fourth grade and kids don't point out differences or establish important social relationships during downtime. Maybe they're friends. It doesn't matter, of course.
His cafeteria serves peanut butter every single day. He eats school food because he's very good at reading labels and he says he'll be careful. I trust him. Sure, every day feels like a gamble knowing my child could actually, literally die at school. But I understand the importance of teaching him to be independent and to manage his life-threatening allergy responsibly. It's not like he's in kindergarten anymore. And I'm sure all those moms of tiny kids with allergies don't mind that it's not a peanut-free school either.
Which brings us back to the argument that kids with special needs and disabilities shouldn't be given "special" treatment. Many parents insist that schools don't have to accommodate kids' health issues or special needs. Well, actually, there's a little thing called Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Read up on it. It's pretty straightforward.
Some schools are peanut free. Some aren't. Parents of kids with life-threatening allergies (which can include many other foods) deal. We deal with fear. We deal with parents acting like complete a-holes because their kids somehow cannot get enough protein or calories without having a peanut butter sandwich every day. We deal with our kids' lives, health and safety being the topic of yearly back-to-school flame wars. We deal with the sighs and complaints over removing peanuts from the classroom because we know that those parents who whine have chosen not to consider what it's like to fear for a child's life every day. And that's fine.
But let's make one thing perfectly clear: Complaining about peanut-free schools makes you a jerk. It really does.
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