Food Allergies

How Far Is Too Far When Protecting Students With Food Allergies?

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A Florida elementary school recently caused parent protests after it enforced strict rules in order to protect a 6-year-old student with a severe allergy to peanuts. Students at the school must wash their hands after lunch and snacks, and no outside food is permitted, according to The Week (http://theweek.com/article/index/213437/how-far-should-schools-go-to-pro...).

Parents have taken the drastic step of picketing the school, arguing that the rules disrupt class time, making it more difficult for their children to learn. Some have even said that the child with allergies should be home-schooled. Administers have countered that her food allergy is severe enough to qualify as a disability under the law, and that they are required to make such accommodations for her.

Is it fair to the other students to go this far for a single child? On the one hand, this girl's health is important, obviously. Contact with just a trace of peanut could kill her. Though the new rules might seem "annoying" to other students and parents, they are justified to keep this little girl safe.

Many have argued that requiring students to wash their hands and avoid eating peanuts at school is a small sacrifice that is hardly going too far. Accommodating a first-grader with a severe peanut allergy will take just a few minutes out of other students' day. Plus, it teaches the valuable lesson that kids should help their classmate, rather than ostracizing those with differences.

Others, however, say that home-schooling may be necessary in this situation in order to keep her safe. If such precautions in the school are necessary, her life could be at risk any time another child forgets to wash his or her hands after lunch. If her health is so precarious, home-school might be the safer alternative, and a reasonable solution given that her life is at stake. "What is unreasonable is placing small children in the position of potentially, even if inadvertently, causing the death of a fellow student," says Gig Veres at Gather.com.

What do you think? What measures are appropriate for a school to take in order to protect a student with severe food allergies?

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