The Peanut Table at School: Yay or Nay?

My son is allergic to peanuts. And in a lot of ways, it's been a good thing for our family.

We eat better because of his allergy. Imagine the candy, cookies, and other processed gunk that would be eliminated from your diet if you were trying to avoid nuts.

Also - picture for a moment, the ability to say "no, that might have peanuts" to any questionable item your child may want to eat.

It also made me dig into other nut butters and opened my eyes to all the trans-fat free natural nut butters (including my fave - almond butter!)

The major negatives have been mostly school related. The mere fact that I've been in the school nurses office more times than I've been in his classroom is a major annoyance.

I get calls from the school nurse with updates on expiration dates and requests for full boxes for all medications. There were a zillion release forms, required signatures, and the school policy that he couldn't receive any outside treats (regardless of whether they were peanut free or not.)

Oh yeah, and there was the big picture of my son with the word PEANUT scrawled across his body that hung on the outside of her medicine cabinet. Wow! (In case you're wondering we didn't have a single peanut episode at school.)

I'm not knocking their precautions, but holy overload Batman! I expect the school to provide a basic level of safety, but I also expect my son to be aware and in control of his own situation.

He's been preparing for life with a peanut allergy since he was a baby. We spent plenty of time at the cash register learning which candies were safe and which were not. We perused the bakery section and everywhere in between to point out and practice which foods were safe.

When he was 3 years old, he attended a church class that offered him peanut butter crackers for snack time. He refused and when the teacher tried to force him to eat the snack, my shy and very quiet son yelled and said NO.

I was so proud.

He's survived preschool, VBS, church nurseries, and now kindergarten. As I picked up his medications from the office today, I was handed a huge stack of papers to begin filling out for next year.

I'm torn about whether I should fill out the forms. For one, having the nurse manage my son's medications (all of which were completely unused all year long) is a pain. And second, there's the issue of "the peanut table."

At our school, all peanut allergic children are segregated to a specific "peanut table." I'm not a fan. I don't want him to be forced to sit alone for the next 6 years. He knows not to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and he also knows which candies/cookies most likely contain peanut products. I also doubt he will be trading lunches. He'll probably be one of the few children that brings most of his lunches to school.

And what if someone touches him with peanut hands, or he eats at a poorly washed table that previously touched peanut butter? There's no way to know for sure, but 6 years of experience have taught us that he may develop a few hives. If he eats it, he'll likely vomit, but he'd have to eat enough of it.

Honestly, he's probably come into contact with plenty of peanuts just by riding the bus and touching surfaces at school. And as he's gotten older, I've experimented with letting him eat things that contained trace amounts of peanuts, peanut flour, and peanut oil; not only to test his reaction but boost his immunity.

So this year, I'm toying with the idea of not involving the school. Or at least fighting the "peanut table." I'll still send him to school with medication. I plan on tucking a few benadryl into his back pack. Our state laws permit children with an anaphylactic condition to carry their own medication. And with asthma (which I elected not to involve the school with) and a peanut allergy, he most definitely qualifies.

I'm not sure what we'll do yet, but I've got to decide fairly quickly. I've got mountains of forms to fill out.....


Michelle said...

The idea of a peanut-table is horrible!!!! I understand that the school is concerned about safety but you may as well have him walk around with a bright yellow "NO PEANUTS" shirt everyday! As a former teacher I can tell have a lot to deal with at school, the last thing they need to be is segregated from their friends during lunch. Is this a new idea for the school or have they been doing the "peanut table" for awhile? What do the other parents think?

Carolyn @ My Backyard Eden said...

My kids' preschool had a very strict no peanuts policy. No snacks that contained nuts, or were processed on equipement that had previously processed nuts were allowed.

My kids' elementary school has a peanut-free table. Any kids can sit there if they don't have peanut products in their lunch. Any food that's brought in for class parties has to come with an ingredient list.

My daughter is at Girl Scout Day Camp this week and they are very strict about having absolutely no peanut products.

I'm in kind of a progressive area in Northern California, so we've been dealing with this for years. I don't see a stigma here if a child has an allergy.

Good luck!

Jen@Scrapingirl said...

I think the schools just don't want a lawsuit if something happens to the kids. I have mixed feelings about the whole issue. I don't want the kids feeling left out, but I don't want the other kids not able to eat what they want at a risk of hurting the allergy children. If the schools didn't have a special table, would they make the entire shool peanut free? Many kids wouldn't be able to go, cuz they only eat items with nuts, like mine. :) I don't want anyone feeling left out. But I think you're wise in teaching him what he can and cannot eat. If you don't care if he has a reaction, sign a waiver so he can sit wherever he wants. Good for you!!

liz said...

Honestly, it sounds like you've taught your son pretty well, and if he can carry his own meds, I see no reason to involve the school. I understand they have to cover their backs, but if you choose to go it without their involvement, then they aren't liable and you'll probably feel a ton better. It's good to see a parent actually take responsibility for their child. More people need to follow your example.

Anonymous said...

BAD IDEA! Ive heard of kids targeting kids allergic to peanuts and doing things purposely to harm them because they KNOW they are allergic. The table will alert everyone of their allergy-good and bad!

Becca said...

This school seems to be a bit extreme. Your son sounds very smart and not like he has to be singled out for being allergic. If you feel safe doing it, I would skip the forms!

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