I wish food issues played no part in our decision to homeschool.
I wish food issues were a non-issue in a multitude of places, but sadly, that is not so.
When you have children with food allergies, considering their safety when outside of your care is a matter of life and death.
However, as strange as it may sound to those parents who either deal with no food allergies or only IgE food allergies, our concerns about our children’s food intolerance’s are greater than our concerns about their IgE allergies.
The Food Allergy World has made terrific efforts to raise awareness of IgE allergies; most people nowadays at least know what an Epi-pen is, even if they aren’t completely well versed in the symptoms of anaphylaxis.
Food intolerance’s, however, have not made such strides.
In my experience, people tend to not take food intolerance’s very seriously. Because the symptoms of a food intolerance are usually delayed and don’t threaten immediate death, it’s easy for people to not worry as much about them.
Anyone who suffers with a food intolerance will earnestly counter that opinion, but trying to convince people of the seriousness of food intolerance’s is difficult. Usually it requires the doubter witnessing a reaction themselves to change their minds. In the meantime, this attitude is very worrying to parents of children with food intolerance’s.
Now, if we were to send our children to public school, we would absolutely sit down with the administrators and teachers to arrange a 504 plan to ensure our kids safety.
After 5 years of living in this world, though, I must admit that Darrel and I are wary of the effectiveness of 504 plans.
While we do hear amazing stories of how good a particular teacher or school is at following the rules of a child’s 504 plan, we also hear far too many stories of 504 plans being completely ignored or only loosely adhered to.
From personal observation, I’ve concluded that the effectiveness of a 504 plan is dependent on the staff at the school.
Certainly there are legal options available to a parent whose child’s 504 plan is being ignored, but who wants to deal with that?
All any parent wants is for assured safety for their child. The lack of import given food intolerances makes Darrel and I concerned that the majority of our children’s food issues will not be treated with the concern they need.
While we might be lucky and find diligent, caring, efficient teachers at the school our children would attend, there is always the chance that we would find ourselves in a constant battle over the guidelines we arranged.
Frankly, I don’t have the time or energy to deal with that.
Sadly, the danger of food allergic/intolerant children attending public school is not limited to the diligence of teachers and administrators. After all, our children would attend public school with other children, and other parents will be involved in many activities for all the children, including our own.
That means our children would be exposed to two other sources of potential danger: food allergy bullying from the other children, and willful disobedience and ignorance of the other parents.
Food allergy bullying is a growing danger to food allergic/intolerant children.
Situations of peers deliberately contaminating a food allergy child’s food or learning space (such as wiping peanut butter on a peanut-allergic child’s desk or trying to shove it in their face) are happening with growing frequency.
In addition to reading about this phenomenon, I’ve personally heard from two mothers whose young children have been forced to change schools or classrooms because of a food allergy bully.
It’s not a pleasant situation. It’s a dangerous, potentially deadly or debilitating situation for food allergy/intolerant children.
As for the parents of the other students, every few months another disgraceful article or blog post is published by a parent who is “fed up” with all these restrictions being placed on the food their kids can bring to school. (Many of the comments on this article are great examples of the attitudes of fellow parents.)
I personally observed a Facebook exchange where a lady whined about not being able to bring cupcakes to class for her sons birthday because a student in his class had allergies.
Every single commenter on her post took her side. Some merely agreed that it was a difficult situation for the rest of the parents and students, and some went so far as to say that they would stand outside the classroom and hand out the cupcakes to all the kids as they left to go home for the day anyway.
Not one person was horrified at the thought that they might actually kill or maim a child in their pursuit of confectionery celebration.
That makes my blood run cold.
Evidence shows that food allergy and food intolerant parents are making great headway in changing the landscape of public schools to be a safe place for all children.
Unfortunately, the end goal has not been achieved, and far too many food allergy/intolerant children are sickened or killed in public schools due to lackadaisical 504 adherence, insane restrictions on carrying Epi-pens outside of the nurses office, cruel classmates and selfish parents.
Darrel and I feel that our children’s food issues are complicated enough that it will be nearly impossible to create a 504 plan that can be easily adhered to (I mean, how easy is it to convince people to take The Meanies seriously?), and are unwilling to risk our children’s health to the other potential dangers public school brings.
I will be perfectly honest about this next point. While concerns about public schools, socialization, and the other concerns I’ll address tomorrow certainly had me leaning towards homeschooling, it was the concerns about food issues that sealed the deal for me.
I can supplement my children’s education if I feel they are not being properly challenged in public school.
I can work diligently to instill our values and ethics in our children, put them in situations where they must deal with people other than their peers, and otherwise mitigate the effects of poor socialization from public schools.
But I cannot eradicate the pain and internal damage caused by exposure to an intolerance, or, if exposed to an IgE allergen, bring my children back to life.
Tomorrow wraps up this series with an explanation of other factors that played into our decision.
Do you worry about your food allergic/intolerant child in public schools? Have your 504 plans been adhered to properly?