A Florida elementary school was picketed by parents for making sweeping changes in support of a little girl with a severe peanut allergy. According to Fox News, students at Edgewater Elementary in Volusia County “must now wash their hands and rinse out their mouths before they can walk into their classroom, desks must be regularly wiped down with Clorox wipes, snacks are no longer allowed in class” and “even outside food is no longer permitted for holiday parties.” Given how obsessed schools across the country have become with trying to prevent allergic reactions and stopping the spread of germs, those rules don’t sound too extraordinary to me. (Except maybe the rinsing of mouths thing. That one sounds almost cultish, actually.)
The student’s father says, “We’ve fought very hard to put certain things in place to keep her alive in school. She’s already a cast-out. She can’t do things that most kids can do.” For this one student, exposure to peanuts would cause her to be terribly ill, so the question remains: should public school students be forced to undergo such rigorous procedures before entering the classroom, or is it incumbent upon the family of a student with such severe allergies to school them at home?
Dr. Richard Wachs, an allergist and pediatrician, says the requests that have been put into place by the school are not unreasonable. But signs at the parent protest asked, “What’s next? Where does it stop?” and “Clorox wipes approved by school board! For our children’s FACES!” Wachs told Fox News that schools have to be careful when it comes to banning food products due to a student allergy because it can “create a false sense of security,” allowing (for example) peanut products to slip in and leaving a school unprepared to deal with an allergic reaction. Wachs also said some children have developed milk and egg allergies, and it won’t be possible for schools to accommodate that type of allergy by banning those food products.
Creating a peanut-free zone is always a hot-button issue, especially for the parents of children with peanut allergies. Back in August, Wrigley Field reserved the centerfield Batter’s Eye skybox during one game for those with peanut allergies, making it a peanut-free zone. The airline industry – famous for serving their oft-mocked tiny bags of peanuts – even thought of banning the product from flights. It’s strange to me that one little legume can cause as much anxiety among the general population as gay marriage does, but so it is.
So what do you think? Did this school go too far in helping one student? Is your child’s school a peanut-free zone? If so, does it bother you? If not, do you think it should be?