Discrimination Because of a Peanut Allergy?
A Florida first-grader with an extreme, life-threatening peanut allergy is at the center of a controversy over whether schools should take measures to accommodate children with allergies or if those children should be homeschooled.
School Precautions for Peanut Allergies
The girl has a peanut allergy so severe that even smelling a peanut could produce a fatal reaction, according to her father, David Bailey. The Baileys spoke to school administrators before the school year began and the procedures were set in place at the school to protect the girl. Precautions at the school include:
- Children must wash their hands in the morning and after lunch
- Children must rinse their mouths with water in the morning and after lunch
- Teachers in the girl’s classrooms wipe down desks with Clorox wipes
- No peanuts or peanut products in the school cafeteria
- No snacks in the classroom and no outside food at holiday parties
Because the girl’s allergy is so severe, it qualifies as a disability under the Federal Disabilities Act. The school is approaching the situation the way they would for any other disability – by providing a safe learning environment for the girl.
Parents of other children at the school say the procedures are taking away from their children’s education. Several picketed outside the school a few weeks ago with signs that said, “Our Kids Have Rights, Too.”
Carrie Starkey, one of the parents who protested, said, “On average, it’s probably taking a good 30 minutes out of the day. That’s my child’s education. Thirty minutes could be a whole subject.” She went on to say that the measures are too extreme.
Many parents have suggested that the girl be homeschooled so that their kids would no longer be required to wash their hands twice a day. The time would be better used, they say, on educational activities.
What Do You Think?
In my experience chaperoning schoolkids on field trips, I’d guess that thirty minutes to get a classroom full of kids to wash their hands twice a day plus rinse their mouths is probably accurate. I just don’t see a problem with the requirements. The kids have clean hands, clean mouths, and clean desks.
What do you think? Has the school gone too far by requiring kids without peanut allergies to stay peanut-free during the school day? Should the girl with the peanut allergy be required to be homeschooled?
Image by Steven Snodgrass, used with Creative Commons license.