Allergy Alert Zone?
It was 2:28 pm on a Monday afternoon and school was out for the day when quite unexpectedly we receive an email from our son’s teacher. In the email, the teacher indicated that the students would be eating lunch in the classroom the very next day to ensure they have time to cover a lesson on money. We immediately emailed our son’s teacher and asked her to remind the parents that the classroom is nut free. (Peanut & tree nut free). Around 5 pm, his teacher acknowledges our email and sends out a communication to remind parents that all lunches must be peanut free. What about tree nuts? We then specifically asked for a reminder around tree nuts but that never happened. It is very apparent to us that there is definitely a misconception around foods labeled peanut free are tree nut free or completely nut free. This has come up several times at birthday parties and now at school. We then reached out to the principal and school nurse to address our concerns about eating in the classroom as the parents were not given proper notice to ensure lunch brought to school the next day was nut free. Lunch did happen in the classroom and my son had to sit by himself to ensure his safety? Was this a punishment for having food allergies? It seems like there had to have been a better solution.
Later we spoke to the principal and she reiterated the following processes at school:
Communication – Room parents notified of any food allergies in classroom, school communicates when there are events/parties that have food or changes in lunch locations
Cafeteria – We have identified special tables that have allergy alert signage (currently, indicates nut-free table), sponges & buckets marked for those tables only
Classroom – Allergy alert signs (currently, states nut-free zone) next to classroom doors, teachers are made aware, proactive with cleaning measures when lunch takes place in classroom and adjust seating when needed
Staff – Training is provided to all teachers and staff in the proper use of the Epipen and AED by a school nurse
After our conversation with the principal, we feel like we have taken a step backward as she has admitted that the school is not nut-free and therefore, they can not offer a nut-free classroom or a nut-free table in the cafeteria which they had agreed to provide over the past couple of years. Both the signs on classroom doors and on the cafeteria tables are actually a misrepresentation of fact as the school will not enforce nut-free as a policy but treat it as a request or suggestion. Instead of the classroom and specific cafeteria tables being labeled as nut-free, the signage will now read Allergy Alert Zone. What exactly does this mean? How is this being proactive to ensure the safety “all” of our children who are entitled to a free public education by law? Oddly enough, our county school system has made the conscious decision to serve only nut-free foods in the school cafeteria. We have to think that there was a rationale behind why this decision was made as a preponderance of evidence has shown that the most severe allergic reactions are caused by nuts. As we continue to discuss our concerns and partner with school administration, our hope is that in taking this step backward that we can actually take a step forward to achieve a true nut-free environment … or at least in our son’s classroom.