Monday, September 10, 2007

Schools that get it...and those that don't

Max's school has gone completely peanut and tree nut free this year. Last year it was on a classroom by classroom basis. I think two or three of the classrooms were peanut/tree nut free. Today a letter went home to parents explaining that due to a "larger number of children with life-threatening peanut and tree nut allergies than ever before" the school was adhering a "strict peanut and tree-nut free policy."

We chose Max's school because after meeting the director we could see her passion for Montessori education and for the school she had created. We also felt she "got it" when it came to food allergies. Before Max started classes she had joined FAAN (Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network) and followed their guidelines for creating a safe environment. Despite the glitches we experienced last year, I never felt Max was in any danger, just sometimes left out.

Not all school's "get it". For example I toured our neighborhood public school last year, just to ask the questions. (I honestly was thinking a tuition free year, imagine what that would do to our budget!) Though a public school would need to make necessary accommodations to keep my son safe I could tell by speaking with them that they were pretty set in their ways. Epi-pens were kept locked in the nurse's office as they felt teachers might "loose" them. When someone is going into anaphylatic shock time is of the essence. What if the nurse isn't there? Have they actually done a drill to see how long it takes to unlock the cabinet, find the Epi-pen that goes with the kid having the allergic reaction, run to that classroom/playground/lunchroom? You get the point. I asked if any of the kids carried their own Epi-pen (not that I think my 5 year old is ready for that). The nurse replied "Oh, we had one girl that did for a while. It was such a pain for her to do that though." Pain? And an allergic reaction is a walk in the park? I also asked if they had ever had a nut free table in the cafeteria (as peanut butter and jelly is on the daily lunch menu). The reply was no and they could not see doing it anytime in the future. Oh, they were very nice about sharing all this info but I could see it would be an uphill battle getting them to a point where I felt Max was in a safe environment.

Another Montessori school we toured had a different take on dealing with food allergies. Basically if the child required an Epi-pen the teachers would not serve them ANY food. What does that mean? My child isn't allergic to EVERYTHING. So if you are having carrot sticks for snack my child can't have them? This doesn't even make sense? To me they were saying "We don't deal with food allergies so we will make a policy that causes you to not want your child at our school."

I feel the teachers at Max's school have his best interest at heart. They really don't want anything bad to happen to him. My conundrum is this. It costs a lot of money to send him to this school. When we got the contract last year for kindergarten I about lost my cookies, so to speak, when I saw the price tag. Don't get me wrong I think they are academically great, have a great staff and a beautiful facility but I grew up in a lower middle class family where $25 for a pair of new Nike's was a BIG deal (I'm aging myself here I realize Nike's cost way more than that now.) Wrapping my head around the commas and zeros was mind warping. So I can keep him at this school where he is safe or I can research less expensive alternatives (catholic school) where I don't know where they are in "getting it" or I can push the public school with a 504 plan.

How much is my child's safety worth?

1 comment:

Christine said...

It's a tricky road. So hard, because I've learned that people don't take an interest in food allergies unless someone prompts them to, or it affects someone close to them.

Homeschooling has had such an added benefit, being able to keep an eye on my daughter's intake (for the most part). However, we still have times that we have to plan or really watch (church ... birthday parties, etc.). She has yet to have a life-threatening reaction, but everytime we have a slip-up, and she reacts to something, I always wonder if we're just one step closer.