The meeting about The Food Allergy Incident….

This morning I met with our school’s principal and superintendent to discuss the aforementioned food allergy incident. We opened John’s 504 and discussed the ways in which the situation could have been prevented. First and foremost, I wanted them to be aware that I don’t like to directly place blame on one individual but rather that a mistake occurred, and that new precautions needed to be in place. We added some new criteria for John’s 504 Plan that ensures (hopefully) no food will be served to John unless it is approved by me. As I like to say to John’s school, “The buck stops with me”. No school wants the liability of having to decode hidden food allergens in food labels, and nor should they. The best advocate for our children is really us, as their parents.

Once we hammered out that situation I revisited the prospect of changing the Birthday Treat Policy. I felt that the food allergy incident was a wake up call to once and for all start moving in a direction that ultimately creates a healthier and safer environment for not only our food allergic children, but for all children (including those with diabetes, celiac, etc.). I specifically only target the Birthday Treat issue because it is the most logical next step. Many teachers in our school already celebrate birthdays in a non food manner, but it should really be a policy district wide. Once and for all it would eliminate any gray areas of “Can we?” or “Can’t we?”, and adds another layer of protection in the classroom for those with food allergies. It also promotes a healthier environment.

I reiterated to the administration that a No Food Birthday Treat  Policy would most likely be heralded by most parents because it is overall a healthier choice. In today’s environment when we are battling epidemic numbers of childhood obesity it can only be a good thing. This policy I proposed only applies to Birthday Treats, because quite frankly it is the only policy that can be mandated at this time. A general No Food policy is unrealistic and I have to admit there are times when certain celebrations can add to our children’s education experience (like my daughter’s 3rd grade Heritage Celebration). This policy also wouldn’t ban food from holiday parties. Per John’s 504 Plan, I will be able to retain control over the food that comes into my son’s classroom, so I will be able to continue to do what I have always done; bring in all the treats for those parties. I always bring in a treat from my book and fresh fruit kabobs or veggie trays. As a side note, the kids LOVE the fresh fruit and the trays are always cleared.

The response from my principal and superintendent was overwhelmingly positive and they were eager to do all they could to help make the Birthday Treat Policy a reality. I think we all agreed that the policy written two years ago probably needs to be update to reflect our changing environment. And they agreed that this type of policy change is tangible. They will meet with their administration council at the end of this month to discuss the issue. I am very hopeful that we could see a No Birthday Treat Policy in the near future. I will keep you all posted.

Thanks so much to all of you who posted your comments and suggestions. I always learn so much from your experiences as well, and take them with wherever I go to advocate.

14 Responses

  1. Thank you so much for sharing about this. I have a couple of year to go before my peanut/tree nut/egg allergic child enters regular school, but this is all wonderful information for me to have. He begins pre-school next year and they are really on board having already had similar children. Reading your posts gives me so much hope. Not to mention all of your wonderful recipes.

    Thanks again.

  2. Kelly–just wanted to let you know that River Forest schools adopted a food-free Birthday treat policy about a year ago. I don’t have children with food allergies but I am very aware and concerned about other children’s allergies. It is so nice to simplify it and have the kids celebrate other ways (for example, a parent coming in to read a book and join in singing Happy Birthday!). So much simpler and worry-free all around. I am hopeful your district will do the same.

  3. Pingback: "Food Allergy Mama" Writes About Son's School Allergy Incident

  4. That’s GREAT that they are so receptive! I’m crossing my fingers that it happens. I had a conversation with my dd’s principal today about having a meeting with her, dd’s teacher, school nurse, and cafeteria aids prior to next school year. I am going to be asking for a food free classroom unless I bake the goodies. I’m hoping my meeting goes as well as yours.

    I am SO impressed by people like Ellen who commented above, that she is so allergy aware and reads blogs like yours. That’s a dream come true to parents of FA kids!! That’s way more than some relatives would do.

    I also inquired about whether we could possibly arrange for there to be another allergic child in dd’s class. I think that would help a lot with some of the social aspects of FA to have a “buddy” so that the focus is not on “Mary” all the time: ie, We have to wash our hands because of “Mary.” We can’t bring in treats because of “Mary” etc…I know I would appreciate having a parent ally in the classroom, someone to trade off on attending field trips, baking etc….At first mention I could tell the principal thought that was a loaded request (privacy or discrimination issues???) but after I made my case she said they’d see what they could do. Contact some of the other FA parents for their input. So, as a FA parent, how would you feel about this?

    • I think that is a great idea Kim, and certainly one worth looking into. It would be great to trade off with food allergy baking, etc. and even for the social emotional aspect too. Let me know how your meeting goes!

  5. I’m so glad that they are receptive to changing the policy! Way to go with your persistant self!

    And Kim- as a food allergy mom, I would LOVE to have another FA child in our classroom. It would make my DD feel less isolated and less excluded. I often tell the school they can give my info to anyone who wants it. Not that they will, but I still offer.

  6. Wow. I confess I was surprised when I got to the part of your post where you tell that the school was in favor of no birthday treats! Phew. That helps a lot!

    The No Birthday Treats occurs in some classes at the elementary school here but not all. I’ll try to help things along when my 5 y.o. gets there in September.

    • You and me both sister! I was surprised too, but at the same time, what I am proposing isn’t that big of a deal, right? There will still be food at holiday parties, grade level parties, etc. My upped 504 Plan should help with those food celebrations. I know you’ll do a fabulous job in September with your school Jennifer! :)

  7. I just discovered your blog and subscribed. This week we had a sobering allergist appointment where we confirmed that our 18-month old is allergic to tree nuts, wheat, egg, dairy, and (if that’s not enough) sesame. I’m so grateful for blogs like yours that make me feel like I’ll be prepared when the time comes to send him off to school.

    • Lynn, I am so sorry to hear about your allergist appointment, and your toddler’s diagnosis. I remember that day well. Know that there are lots of resources and support groups, as well as tons of wonderful blogging allergy moms (see my links) who can provide very helpful information. I wish there were blogs when my own son was diagnosed years ago…it seemed like such a lonely journey at the time. Now I feel there is a lot more information and help so I have no doubt you’ll find the support. Also, in any of my recipes subsitute your flour of choice for the wheat. Thanks so much for your comment!

  8. Wow, good for you. I am impressed by your persistence. My own FA/celiac son starts kindergarten in the fall, and I’m still figuring out what issues I need to pursue with the school. It will be a learning process for all of us, I’m sure. The school has already implemented a “no-food” policy for birthdays, which is fantastic.

    I agree, it would be nice to have at least one other FA kid in the same class. I know they are out there, and wouldn’t it be great if my son knew some other kids with similar issues.

  9. Kelly this is a wonderful site-thank you. My soon to be 4 yr old son has peanut & egg allergies. I am very thankful we are in a preschool that has a “No-food birthday treat” policy, as well as being a peanut free environment. These were both implemented well before we started attending. It’s wonderful being there, but as you and other moms write, going into the “school system” is scary. My son will go to kindergarten in a couple of years and I am already starting research as to who/where, etc. to get the ball rolling to have a “No food birthday treat” policy. Thank you for sharing your journey, as it has given me a couple of ideas.

    Kari

  10. Kelly, I’m just catching up on the blog – life has kept me behind the times – but I am thrilled to read this update! PLEASE keep us all updated on the progress your district makes… and any negative backlash you may or may not (hopefully NOT) get from other parents. It continues to amaze me the visceral emotional responses we get from non-allergic parents who are somehow personally offended by our efforts to keep our kids safe!

    Praying you live in a more enlightened district… :)

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