An elementary school’s reaction to one student’s allergy to peanuts has parents complaining about “Nazi-like” peanut police searching their children’s backpacks.
Angry parents packed a parent-teacher meeting last night at Valle Verde Elementary School in Walnut Creek, Calif., to protest the school’s new “peanut reduction policy.”
Under the policy, kindergarten classrooms and a special playground area have been designated “peanut- and tree nut-free zones.” Students and visitors are required to wash their hands. Backpacks and lunch boxes are searched and peanut products are confiscated.
The policy is in response to lobbying by parent Leora Cope, whose 5-year-old son’s allergy is so severe that even peanut butter residue left on the playground monkey bars could send him into anaphylactic shock. Cope’s family demanded the Mt. Diablo school district accommodate their son under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the federal regulation known as Section 504.
The Copes had wanted peanuts banned from the entire school campus. The reduction policy was adopted as a compromise.
The district also hired a health aide to spend 30 hours a week training staff members in the use of an Epipen, an adrenaline injector that assists people who go into anaphylactic shock.
“Everyone’s going to do the best they can to keep him safe, as they would any child,” district spokeswoman Sue Berg told the Contra Costa Times, pointing out that Valle Verde’s policy is less restrictive than others. “There are whole schools that have declared themselves peanut-free.”
But parents questioned why hundreds of children must lose the traditional lunchtime staple over one child’s allergy.
“If their child has such severe allergies, I suggest that they home-school their child,” the local paper quotes parent Carol Gross as saying. “I would like to know what this family does out in the world. They expect over 600 families to conform to their unfortunate situation, not to mention the cost of the already financially suffering school district to have a nurse appointed solely to attend to the needs of one child.”
Some parents are considering keeping their kindergarteners home from school for a day to demonstrate their displeasure over the nut ban.
Parent, Amy Casey, has started a protest petition to promote “dialogue” with the district.
“There have to be reasonable accommodations,” Casey said. “[But] they’re searching my kid’s backpack. There’s no reading specialist, but [they hired] a 30-hour-a-week aide who’s a nurse?”
“What we’re talking about is life or death, not hives,” countered PTA president Kim Moore. “For this year, we have this little person who needs us to take really good care of him, and there’s plenty of case law out there.”