Monday, August 27, 2012

The day I wrote a letter to the principal

To make a long story short, Alexander starts Kindergarten on Thursday.  Last week, we recieved the lunch menu.  They serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  Alexander is severely allergic to peanut butter.  As in SEVERELY allergic.  And his school serves the food that can hurt him.  OY!

So, I wrote a letter.  Did I go to far?  I removed the principal's name, as well as the school name.  For what it is worth, I tried to be nice.

Dear Mrs. ,

Our son, Alexander, is joining this fall as a kindergarten student. Our family is very excited to learn more about and become members of the community.

I'm writing because I'm hoping to bend your ear about a particular concern. Alexander is severely allergic to peanut butter. My husband and I have been in contact with the school nurse, who has been wonderful in creating an updated health plan, making sure we have his epi-pen on site, as well as Benadryl in the event that he touches or ingests peanut butter. As at teacher myself, I know I can trust his kindergarten teacher to make sure he will be safe in the classroom. It is my hope we will communicate regarding academics or social issues; not because she had to stick him with an epi-pen. As we prepared Alexander for school, we have discussed that he may need to sit at a sequestered table at lunch due to his allergies. We have prepared him to have friends who eat peanut butter, but they will know about his allergy and hopefully, be considerate of him. Ultimately, we do not want him to have to avoid situations but rather, learn how to work within the boundaries of his allergy. We can’t always be with him and he needs to learn to use his voice. When you meet him, you will soon learn that he does have a voice! After speaking with the two K teachers (who happened to be on campus when we were last week), we were relieved to learn he will be in the classroom for lunches and we will have him bring his own lunch. Fortunately, Alexander is a pretty picky eater so we aren’t worried about him trying new foods. This plan will work for Kindergarten, but what about future years at ?

Our largest concern stems from the lunch menu. Serving peanut butter, a well-known and common allergen, simply doesn’t make sense to us. It is my hope that you could explain the reasoning for serving peanut butter. We know we will have to deal with it. But, we also believe it is a very different scenario in a school where our son tells his close friends who bring their sandwiches from home, when he can identify it, that he can’t have peanut butter versus having the food served to 800 students. When it is served on a large scale, he has no control and thus, no voice. The last thing we want is for him to dread school because he knows he is going to get sick after lunch because someone around him chose peanut butter and jelly for lunch and didn’t tell him. If you aren’t the one who can answer our question (again, as a teacher, I understand that some policies are at a district level), can you please direct me to a person I can contact with my concern? I would really appreciate it.

At the school level, we are also interested in what policy will be in place for recess, when Alexander will be enjoying his time with friends. Friends who probably didn’t wash their hands after eating lunch. I don’t know how many students are allergic to peanut butter at . For all I know, Alexander will be the only one with an allergy. We certainly don’t want him to live in a bubble, nor do we want special attention for him. We just want answers as to how he will be safe. With time, he will become a strong advocate for himself. For now, as his parents and as he learns to advocate for himself, we can’t help but ask the questions, “why peanut butter when there are other options?” and “what is the school going to do to make sure our son is safe?”

Again, we are excited to be a part of the community. It is our neighborhood school and we chose to live here because of the strong schools in the School District.

I’m sorry to take your time as I know the start of the school year is very busy. If it is better to set up a meeting with my husband and I, we would love an opportunity to discuss this further with you. Otherwise, I look forward to your email response.

Thank you,

Michelle and Eric

1 comment:

  1. Honestly, I can't believe they allow peanuts/peanut butter in the school! Schools in my area are totally peanut-free because of possible allergies. I thought this was basically nation-wide but apparently not!


What say ye?