Friday, September 6, 2013

Dealing with a Peanut Responsible Classroom

Courtesy of University of Minnesota
Recently, I helped a friend draft a letter to her child's elementary school principal about food restrictions relating to the "peanut responsible" classroom to which her child had been assigned. In short, my friend believed, among other things, it was unfair that her child, if he brought a snack containing nuts to school, would have to sit in the hall during snack time.

I agreed.

Of course, I have compassion for the children and the families of the children who suffer from severe allergies. The son of a very close friend/fraternity brother has a peanut allergy and it’s a colossal burden for my friend and his wife. I’ve seen the lengths they’ve gone to insure their son doesn’t eat foods that he isn’t certain are peanut free. But, they have taken personal responsibility for their child, as I believe should we for ours.

Feel free to use this slightly edited version of the letter should you find yourself and your child, contrary to your wishes, in a peanut responsible/free classroom. Adapt it to your own needs and circumstances.

Dear School Principal:
While I am empathetic to the plight of children afflicted with peanut and other food allergies, I am concerned about my children participating in a “peanut responsible/free” class for a number of reasons.
First, part of my children’s responsibilities is making the lunches for school. This is not only a learning opportunity for my children, but it is also a time saver for me, a single father. Considering all of my other parenting responsibilities and knowing my children are well able to handle making lunches, I will almost certainly not be able to check my children’s lunches each day for nuts before they get on the bus.
Second, nut based snacks are extremely healthy, and contain protein and minerals not commonly found in other foods. Granola bars and other snacks containing nuts are a healthy part of my family’s diet and I’m not willing to eliminate those snacks from my children’s lunches.
Finally, granola bars and other snacks that do not contain nuts are often significantly more expensive. Even if those other snacks did provide the nutritional benefits that peanuts and other nuts do, the additional cost for those snacks would place an unnecessary and unacceptable burden on my family’s budget.
Please note, it is not acceptable for my child to sit in the hallway, segregated from the rest of the class, during snack time. I believe that snack time, like (hopefully) every other minute of the school day, is an opportunity for learning. No child should be subject to that ostracism.
Concluding, I want to reiterate my empathy for children and the families of children who have food allergies. Still, the responsibility for managing those allergies is, frankly, that of the family of the child who has the allergies. It is unfair to burden the other 23 families in the class. As such, please either move my out of the peanut free class or move the child who has the allergy. Thank you.

A Concerned Single Dad

For more information about the peanut responsible/free classroom issue, check out this great blog post from the Ridgewood-GlenRock Patch Blog, "Glen Rock Parents Nuts Over Proposed Peanut Ban" and the Huff Parents Blog, "Food Allergies: Doctors Disagree on Peanut-Free Schools/Classrooms Plus Talk on Bullying."