Published March 15, 2011
Despite protests by angry parents, a school in Florida is standing behind its decision to implement new regulations to protect a first grade student suffering from a severe peanut allergy.
Students at Edgewater Elementary are required to wash their hands and rinse their mouths out before entering the classroom each morning and after lunch. Teachers, who monitor the daily rinsing, must also ensure that desks are being continually wiped down with Clorox wipes. The school has banned all peanut products, eliminated snacks in the classroom and prevented outside food at holiday parties. And last week a peanut-sniffing dog was brought into the school.
District spokeswoman Nancy Wait of Volusia County Schools said the school is legally obligated to take these safety precautions because of the Federal Disabilities Act.
“It would be the same thing as putting a handicap ramp for a student that is physically disabled. The only difference with this is that is affects other students,” she told FoxNews.com.
But some parents are saying it is taking away from their children’s learning time.
“On average, it’s probably taking a good 30 minutes out of the day. That’s my child’s education. Thirty minutes could be a while subject,” Carrie Starkey told FoxNews.com.
On Thursday she and other parents protested outside the school, picketing with signs that said, “Our Kids Have Rights Too.”
Experts say the school may have gone too far and that there are easier ways to protect the child.
“I have never seen anything like this,” said allergist Dr. Scott Sicherer with the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network or FAAN, an organization that monitors national food allergy issues. “There are many guidelines on how to manage food allergies in schools… things like no food sharing. There are plenty of relatively simple things the school could put in place that aren’t burdensome,” said Sicherer.
But David Bailey, the father of girl with life threatening food allergy, says that if his daughter even smells peanuts, her reaction could be fatal. "We've fought very hard to put certain things in place… to keep her alive… in school," he told MyFoxOrlando. "She's already a cast-out. She can't do things that most kids can do."
While the school’s actions may seem drastic and invasive the school says it must protect the health of the student.
“It may seem like an inconvenience but this student registered her disability at the beginning of the school year and we have to do these things to give her a safe learning environment,” said Wait. Since the protest was held last week, parents will be looking for some sort of compromise from the school administration.
“We understand that they need to protect this girl, but these measures are just extreme. Procedures need to be set in place, but not procedures that will take away from our children’s education,” said Starkey.