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.

Peanut Proponents

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.

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64 thoughts on “Discrimination Because of a Peanut Allergy?”

  1. clean hands, clean mouth, clean desk, not only provide peanut-free environment, but also prevent spreading of other conditions such as viral and bacterial infections. I think it’s worth it

    1. Let’s think about this. I bet the same parents who are protesting would feel differently if it was their child. My child has a life-threatening peanut allergy. Our school has similar procedures. The difference is the parents and faculty at our school do everything they can to make our daughter feel normal and to keep her SAFE. Keeping a child home is an extreme measure that isn’t right and does NOTHING to prepare her to live in a world where peanuts are in the foods she may come across. Our philosophy is to do what we can to keep our daughter safe but to spend most of our time helping her learn what SHE needs to do to ensure her safety. We now have a 9-year-old daughter who has no problem telling an adult that she cannot eat something; even when that adult says it’s OK. Who has no problem asking a friend to wash their hands or brush their teeth if they just ate peanut butter. And a child who reads labels and asks questions about the food she eats. Not only that but our child knows how to administer her own Epi-pen if she needs to. Yes it’s important to protect them but it’s equally important to educate them to live in the real-world.

  2. The problem is that the chlorox wipes have chlorine which is a respiratory irritant that will aggravate the asthmatics in the class, which is not good for them.
    What evidence is there that Cholorox wipes inactivate peanut allergens???

    1. I too am against them using Cholorox wipes on the desks everyday. I don’t mind making accommodations for this sick child but by protecting this child, you would be making my child sick. What is wrong with regular soap and water?

  3. Normally, I’d say “accommodate that child’s needs, what’s the problem?” but..this is too much. Get her homeschooled because she’s getting in the way of other children’s success.

  4. When I was a kid, these so-called food allergies were not as prevailant as they are today. Kids today are wimps. Anyway, if this girl’s allergy is so severe, she needs to be homeschooled. It’s not fair to the other kids. Besides, these younger kids aren’t aware that this girl is a freak; wait till she gets to middle and high school…she’ll be picked on and teased for beins so different.

    1. I can’t believe how insistivie and cold you are. Poeple don’t ASK to have these allergies. Their body is rejecting something beyond their deepest desire to be able to not have allergies. I nearly lost my young daughter, to an allergy and can hardly believe there is a person on earth who would refer to a child with allergies as a freak. If we are to accept all the “different” people on earth, then I’m challenged to accept you. Who’s the freak? If you don’t suffer from allergies or any other ailment consider yourself lucky and blessed. Someday you just might. I developed them a few years back. Someday you will understand.

    2. It’s not that allergies didn’t exist when you were a kid, it’s that people were not AWARE of it. Parents are more conscious in keeping their children healthy and safe, explaining why child mortality rates have been on a decline. Just because people were aware of it doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist.

      Sounds more like you’re the freak to me – who in the right mind would call a little girl with a food allergy a freak anyway? Maybe you need to realize that in this country and in this age, we value individuality – being different is not a problem.

      1. No it is BS and you know it kids werent going on the ground choking over flckn’ nuts they are doing it now because of the preserve in it and other junk in processing the bit of food peanut allergies exist if u think they exist nuff said

    3. Struggling to breathe because your body has an involuntary reaction to something you ate is not being a wimp. This is not about getting hives from something you ate; it’s about your throat swelling up so that you cannot breathe.

  5. I believe the parents are missing a golden opportunity to show the children compassion, instead they are teaching them selfishness and segregation. Washing of the hands is only good hygiene, and if a study was done it most likely would prove that instead of losing time in school because of it, it creates more because less children are off school sick. This is life threatening situation. What would you want done if this was your child? If it were my child I would expect the whole school would be nut free – in fact I have worked in that environment for many years and now it is just a life style. Wake up people; teach your children some compassion! Not everyone is perfect like you!!


  6. I am a mother and I also have a peanut allergy mine is not as severe as the little girls. But I don’t think is should be a problem. So what the kids have to wash there hand and rinse there mouths out. If this was your child and you didn’t have the means to stay home and homeschool your child because you had to work you would also want the same for you child. I was at work when i had a bad reaction from something I ordered out. I almost died and I tried to get the resturants that I ordered from to put something on there menu saying that the product has peanut in it.They wouldn’t do it so I don’t go there anymore. I think that if the school can do this so that the child can have the same education that she is entitled to, then they should.
    thank you

  7. I side with the majority – the girl should be home schooled. Why should all the others have to suffer because of her disability? Besides the fact that accidents happen and who would want her death on their hands because they accidentally brought a peanut product into the classroom? I feel for her parents but… she’s their problem, not the communitie’s problem. Classify her as disabled and give the parents a tax break to have her home schooled. She should not be denied an education but her affliction should not be permitted to affect the education of others.

    1. How exactly is teaching a child to have clean hands and mouths and to respect other children’s differences making them suffer exactly?

    2. Les is right…and the handicap kids should stay home too they are too much trouble…and the loud kids too…and the hyperactive kids too….and the ones without money…and the ones……. Where does it end Les?

    3. First of all why should SHE have to suffer from this? Answer that. Look at it from what she sees, she is treated terribly. I’m an 11 year old girl, and I have the same problem, but with every nut. I almost died in Semptember for everyone’s lack of respect for someone with a disablity. I don’t go to anything after school, because I don’t want to make my problem everyone elses, but I do deserve a safe place to learn during the normal school hours. I am going into middle school next month and I am scared. This girl really just wants to be like everyone else and not have everyone constantly being told we are going to BK instead of the place with the peanut sundaes because of Lissi. She just wants to be like everyone else. Maybe you should think about how hard it is for her. Amusement park rides – difficult to do, circus – can’t do, concerts – a big issue – ballgames, carnivals, fairs, museums, malls, – what is it hurting to let her go to school ike everyone else?

  8. In the article I read about this there were a couple items from the list that were not specific to the allergy.

    * The no peanut products in the cafeteria point was incorrect. They do allow PB&J and some other items in the cafeteria.
    * The no snacks rule was a scheduling conflict for first graders only. They had changed the schedule this year and lunch was soon enough that a snack was removed from the schedule.
    * The article also said that teachers were trying to do more crafts instead of junk food for the holidays to bring in the “be healthier-eat healthier” idea.

    While I agree that some of this could just be PR it also seems like reasonable alternate reasons for the items. Take these away from the list and you have a little extra washing and desk cleaning which also seems reasonable for an allergy accommodation. If a Clorox specific product is unacceptable for asthmatics I think it’s reasonable for the school to use an alternative product that is safer.

  9. Do you know what is strange, I have traveled to many schools across the country and in lower middle class schools and poorer schools peanut allergies are not a problem. No peanut free zones or tables. But in schools where affluent mothers and fathers have time to go to the school and draw attention to themselves and their children we have peanut problems. Honestly how much of this is 1. Parents not teaching their children to stay away from peanuts. 2. Parents wanting special attention to satisfy their narsacism. 3. Over reaction and hype.
    How many people have been killed from smelling PBJ on someone’s breath?
    Your child can have an allergy and you can train them to stay away from foods. But when you think you have the right to impose limitations on how I can nourish my child you are just wrong.

    1. you are an Idiot!! If you weren’t so lazy and cheap and only sent your kids to school with pb & j then you would realize that those allergic to peanuts can have a severe even deadly reaction to smelling peanuts or peanut products. Educate your self moron and get your fat kids off Peanut Butter

      1. Hayley, are you trying to cause a reaction? Paul didn’t say his kids only get PBJ, you are reading into his comment and missing the point. I believe his point to be that “sometimes” people create or try to avoid a problem that doesn’t exist in order to get their 15 minutes of fame. Yes, “some” people are severely allergic we know that. In his observation the problem isn’t so prevalent in some areas. Sometimes people just need to use common sense and not put their burden on the rest of us.

    2. Paul, while I respect your observation and understand where you’re coming from, I went to public school in a lower to middle class area and had several classmates with allergies.

      We were always asked to respect and accommodate our classmates needs. It didn’t make them “freaks” as another person declared and it didn’t limit my education.

      If anything, it helped! People are different and sometimes need things to run differently…that could be said for social class, religion and allergies!

      Kids learning to wash their hands and have clean desks can’t really be a bad thing, can it?

  10. It angers me to see parents teaching their kids its okay to discriminate against a child!!! What intolerance!! Additionally, kids SHOULD be washing their hands after lunch EVERY day, and so what if they are also clean their hands ONE more time a day. So what if they’re missing a few minutes of school–what, the kids never go to the bathroom, have to wash their hands after an art or gym activity, or anything else—that’s an excuse for intolerance. These parents should be ashamed of themselves. UGH!!!

  11. The first comment here sums it up. How severe is this allergy? There is a limit to how much a school should bend over backwards to deal with situations like this.

    Take practical attention of course! But trying to cater to every single little difference among people is never going to happen and is one reason taxes are so high and schools so broke. Let’s knock it off!

  12. These allergies are DEADLY?? Kids should be washing their hands. I don’t read anything here that makes me think this family is asking too much!

  13. Wow, I cannot believe how many selfish people there are in this school and on this board. First, the argument demanding that this girl be home schooled is pointless–as the school pointed out, the girl is covered under ADA and they are required to make accommodations. It’s no different than if a student is in a wheelchair and they have to install ramps. Parents cannot force another parent to home school their child–not everyone is qualified to home school, first of all, and second, if the parents work and cannot stay home, you cannot force them to quit their job. Everyone pays taxes that fund public schools, and every child has a right to a public education under the law. These parents who think it’s too much of a burden on their kids to wash their hands and mouth a couple of times a day (and have time to protest at the school) should maybe channel their energy into something more constructive, like helping out in the classroom so it takes less time for the hand washing and mouth rinsing, if they are so concerned. The problem is, they’re so focused on themselves, they can’t see anything other than what they want. How will they feel when this girl dies in school because they told their child they didn’t have to abide by the rules? Selfish.

  14. A peanut-free table in the cafeteria is fine. Even better would be a food allergy table with the students using it required to bring thier own food and comply with a list of retrictions to protect the others at the table.
    Anything beyond this involves taking too much time away from education for the other kids.

  15. This is just so sad… would these kids be outside holding misspelled picket signs if it were not for their parents? “…happy median”? What? So sad that young ones are being taught to waste their energy on hate and fear fostered by their own parent’s actions and “guidance”.

    Share lunch with her on occasion…don’t isolate her, fear her, hate, her. Regardless of time loss, laws, school mandates, etc… this is a little person being isolated, feared and rejected.

    My only hope is one day those kids outside picking will come to feel some sort of clarity on how unnecessary it was to target another peer…for whatever reason (race, disability, sex, religion, disease).

    1. This has nothing to do with “hating” the little girl, wanting to isolate her, or make her feel bad about herself, or any of that.

      This is about a couple of selfish parents who want everyone around them to cater to their kid’s problem (even if it is “life threatening”).

      Despite the fact that most of the kids at the school do not have a peanut allergy, they’re expected to drop everything to cater to her and her issue (having to go so far as to rinse their mouths out at school, be subjected to searches by peanut sniffing dogs, etc), which is pretty self-centered of the parents.

      1. The kids aren’t being subjected to searches by dogs. A peanut-sniffing dog was brought into the school during spring break while the kids were gone.

  16. I believe that the school and all parents and children should make accomodations for the little girl. Its no different than a child in a wheelchair or a child who is severely autistic. Perhaps, if it is considered a disability then an Educational Assistant could be hired. It is not fair to isolate and osterisize our children because of such a disability.

    1. I disagree with your analogy, because the kids who are not in wheelchairs can still use either the ramps _OR_ the stairs, they are not told, “You can’t use the stairs anymore because the kids in wheelchairs cannot use them, so now all students must use the ramps.”

      In this case, kids who don’t have peanut allergies are told they cannot eat peanuts anymore, they have to wash their hands all day, rinse their mouths out, and one school hired a peanut sniffing dog, which is very extreme.

      If this one girl is this incredibly allergic to peanuts, her parents should remove her from the school if they’re that concerned. By the time she goes off too college, gets a job, etc., she’s going to be surrounded by peanuts the rest of her life; you can’t shelter her from peanuts forever anyway.

      It’s ridiculous that 99% of the population has to cater to the 1% over issues such as this.

      1. Well the fact is it is her right to be there. There are federal laws that ensure her rights. I think it is a shame that people are so ignorant.

      2. Actually, most school districts say that kids w/wheelchairs can use the elevators (if they have them) but that children without the disability cannot. Do you also have a problem with this?

  17. Really? Clean hands and Cleans mouths are great, I agree, but to make it a requirement? What happens if the lesson plan of the days has the kids outside on a nature walk where no facilities are present? Is my child now not allow to be more than 30 minutes from a sink? So who pays for these wipes with which we wipe down desks? Who pays for the Soy oil we must now use in the cafeteria instead of the more cost effective peanut oil? It looks like my property taxes just went up, this sets a terrible precedence! The system in which one persons misfortune is now my financial burden is offensive.

    The girl can have a peanut free house, but all I require of my school is to be race, orientation, and gender neutral if you have some weird request that you are going to force on my child go somewhere else, dont make your problem mine.

    1. Most schools already use soy bean oil due to the fact that it is cheaper than peanut oil. I don’t know where you are getting your prices. Not to mention why would they be using peanut oil, it is only good for deep frying food. Do you want your child to be eating very high fat fried food?

    2. Did you miss the part that these precautions were set in response to the child’s medical need. Is it that you don’t believe in allergies? Would you feel differently if the child needed a little extra precaution because she was undergoing chemotherapy.

      The child has a right to a free and appropriate public education, just like any other child, and the school seems to have chosen a way to provide her with an education at little additional expense. Sending teachers to her home, or paying for her to attend a nut free private school would probably cost the school system more.

      You seem like someone who is happy to stay home by yourself so maybe you don’t get how cruel it would be to ask the child to miss out on school, and how sad it might be that the children in her class would not get to meet her.

      Though if the children in this town are like their parents the girl’s family should probably just move, they don’t seem like the kind of people it would be fun to get to know.

      1. Why should an entire school of kids be required to change their normal routines and eating habits for ONE kid?

        It seems to me that the parents of the kid with the allergy are being selfish, expecting everyone around them to cater to their family.

    3. So, because your child may not be blind, she should not have to put up with a guide dog in school, or stay to the right/left when going a certain direction, or a child’s walking cane in the hallways because that is what a another child requires? She shouldn’t have to go to a school that has wheelchair access for the same reason, etc. It is the same thing… Just because you cannot SEE the disability does not mean it does not exist! If your daughter had the life-threatening condition I doubt you would be so insensitive…

  18. When I went to elementary school we had a student with peanut allergies. We were told to wash our hands, wipe our desk, and we couldn’t have peanuts. It did not impede an learning, if anything we learned proper hygiene and a vital lessen in tolerance and acceptance of others different from ourselves. Oh, and it did NOT take 30 minutes. I will say we did not have to rinse our mouths but in all seriousness that takes away a minute possibly 2 out of your day. As I remember none of the students in my class did not have a problem washing our hands and desks. Children are not intolerant, it is the parents that teach the children intolerance.

    This disturbs me that there are so many parents that want this child out of the classroom. She has every right to learn with your children and the school has to make a safe environment for her and all other students as well. If the parents think that this impedes their children’s learning then perhaps they should have their kids home schooled. They seem to have more than enough free time with all the protesting they are squeezing into their busy schedules.

  19. This is ridiculous. My daughter is in a peanut free school and does not have the allergy herself. I just started sending her with a peanut free almond butter, Barney Butter. She doesn’t even know it’s not pb and it’s so much healthier for her anyway!! You can get it from their website http://www.barneybutter.com

  20. Wow is all I can say. I’m utterly speechless. I’m not agreeing with all of the schools mandates but they are right. In our case we asked for a nut free classroom and were told NO. They won’t guarantee a nut free lunch,.. and one teacher wanted to put our child out in the hallway if anyone brought nuts or nut products. Great — lets stick the kid outside – exclude them — just because they’re different. Life threatening food allergies are a disability, and has been recognized as one even prior to the ADA changes in 2009. As a public school there is a requirement to provide a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to all students,.. those w/o disabilities automatically receive it. Those with disabilities need a little help from the system, those w/o learning disabilities do too and that’s where food allergies fall, under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Right along with Asthma, Diabetes, etc. It’s no different than providing a wheel chair ramp for a gifted child who is wheel chair bound. The school must provide the same equal access to the education for all students. Some may need accommodations to get it and that is what the school is doing. Are they all right? I can’t answer that, but some most certainly are without question. Does this have to erupt into such a confrontation? What are we exactly teaching our children here?

    1. Allegy mom-this is such a load of crap!!! SOME parents of these allergy kids eat peanut butter in there own homes!!! And SOME parents of these kids are dishonest & twist everything that the school says or tries to do! SOME parents of these kids could easily be looked at as attention seaking and takes more time on ‘their cause’ than their child!

      1. FYI – not everyone who is allergic to nuts/peanuts, or any other food will die from the contact – only those individuals who suffer anaphylaxis will die – and for those folks, each exposure increases the affect of the next exposure – maybe the children of the parents you are referring to do not suffer anaphylactic reactions – P.S. Only those persons with anaphylactic reactions are protected by The Diabilities Act

  21. I am a teacher in a school division that is entirely peanut and nut free. The parents and children understand the risks associated with these allergies and take them quite seriously. I would like to assure you that not having peanut butter for lunch has never prevented a child from achieving success.
    The only person in this story whose freedom is being challenged is that poor little girl. For the tiny inconvenience of having to pack a different sandwich and wash their hands (heaven forbid!), the other students in this school are enabling this girl to live a healthy, happy life, where she doesn’t have to spend every day afraid that she might die at any moment.
    I can’t believe the parent reaction at this school, as our parents are extremely understanding of allergies and other disabilities. It is a shame that these people are fostering hatred and intolerance that will likely be passed on to their children.
    This girl is every bit as deserving of a public education as any other child. If you as a parent are too uptight to have your child associate with a child with a disability, there’s always private schooling. Or perhaps you should homeschool.

    1. In wholehearted disagreement with you. There comes a point when Cloroxing the desks, employing peanut-sniffing dogs, and banning peanut butter for EVERYONE becomes too high a cost. I’m sorry. The parents are being really selfish imposing this on everyone. You are allowed to your own opinion, of course, but I don’t want my children raised in a “peanut free zone”. It is exposure to different germs, etc. that makes children grow up with strong immune systems. I also think some verification of the father’s claims about the severity of the allergy are in order.

    2. well said! I have a peanut allergy my self and I would hate not to be able to go to school. Everyone in my school is very understanding and it isn’t just me with a nut allergy.

      1. I think you guys need to learn some lessons about compassion! I dont see any issue in accommodating for the little girl whose life could be in danger. Put yourself in the girl’s parent’s shoes and imagine! Its a shame that so many people can be selfish and think only for them and not for people with disabilities. Yes – food allergies is a hidden disability and the society (including YOU) needs to be compassionate and accomodate them to lead a normal life!

  22. As much as I sympathize with the parents of the child with a peanut allergy, I don’t agree with the school policy of rinsing of the mouth. If you son/daughter is that allergic to peanuts, then you need to take precautions to protect them. Don’t they know that schools are incubators? What’s next? What about the kids that have bad reactions to mold? Celiac kids?

  23. I have not known anyone with this allergy so I have a few questions. (Please don’t hate on me.)

    1. Do people with peanut allergies also have other nut allergies?

    2. If a child was to bring to school something with peanuts in it and the girl died, can the parents of the “offending” child be criminally charged (negligence/abuse) since this is an ADA situation? Can the girl’s parents successfully sue the “offending” child’s parents?

    3. How does a child with severe/fatal peanut allergy handle high school? I know candy bars aren’t healthy but they are part of high school life and it is hard to control everything a teenager will bring to school. Do the schools check the kids’ purses and bookbags?

    Thank you in advance to those who respond.

    1. 1. Some people have more than one allergy. Peanuts aren’t nuts, despite their name, so someone allergic to peanut protein isn’t automatically allergic to other nuts’ proteins.

      2. I don’t think so. Government organizations and businesses are required to create a fair playing field under the ADA, but individuals are not. The kids at this school are only required to be peanut-free at school, not at home.

      3. A lot of kids outgrow their allergies. This girl may not have the peanut allergy in a few years or it might lessen so that it’s not fatal any more. My kid goes to a peanut-free school and nobody has ever searched her bag. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen anywhere.

  24. Aren’t we missing one point here? If this child can maybe die from just smelling peanuts, then aren’t the parents actually putting thier child in harms way by allowing her to go to public school where people may have eaten something with peanuts and gotten some of the crumbs on their clothing before entering the school? For normal allergies this might work fine, the washing hands and rinsing mouths but children are not the tidiest of eater, and I’m sure some of the kids do eat peanuts and peanut products.

    I hate to say it but for this one little girl I think she should be kept in a better environment where her parents have more control of her surroundins. Just for her safety.

  25. Fight this please, it is hysteria (spelling), My kids attend Grand Bend Public school in Ontario Canada, Last year the band food GROUPS were peanuts, milk, eggs and chicken, This year they dropped the ban on eggs and chicken because that student moved out of the district.
    My thoughts, put an appropriate warning up “THIS SCHOOL MAY CONTAIN PEANUTS OR TRACES OF PEANUTS.”
    Good luck Parents

  26. (1) My first reaction: This is ridiculous. What kind of weak species have we become?

    (2) My second reaction: It’s selfish and dangerous of the parents of this girl to impose these restrictions on everyone. These parents should remove their child from this dangerous environment and let everyone else get on with their lives. They are being very selfish!

    (3) Washing hands is all good. Washing mouths? Come on. Cloroxing desks? Edging on ridiculous. Banning all peanut products and having a peanut sniffing dog in the building? Utterly absurd. Hysteria. I would even go so far as to ask: has anyone verified the father’s claim that it’s fatal to his daughter?

  27. Cmon the peanut butter sandwich is the only sandwich which actually gets better after four hours in the sun.Folding to satisfy the exception is part of the reason people fly airplanes into our buildings.


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