Allergies & Fairness

June 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Schools have increasingly made a priority of the inclusion of kids with a wide range of physical, psychological, and learning conditions into the “normal” classroom. This development in the past 10-15 years has been laudable in that students’ can see the value in their peers while they learn together rather than having kids with learning disabilities, autism, or physical challenges shunted off to another room.

Roughly 4% of school-age kids have a known food allergy. How far should schools go to accomodate this sub-set of students? Naturally, schools have an obligation to protect all of their kids from some dangers and should try to assist those that have some problems that may prevent effective learning in the classroom environment. When it comes to students who are allergic to foods like nuts, dairy, gluten, or shellfish many schools have an effective plan in place. Many schools require health records and medications to be submitted to the nurse. If an allergic reaction or other dangerous situation occurred the nurse and/or other trained staff can respond with an epinephrine auto-injector or provide other kinds of rapid care. These above scenarios are the most likely outcome of the vast majority of food allergen scares.

Unlike attempts to make it easier to educate a wide range of kids within the classroom setting, students with allergies may otherwise be “normal”. Given the budget-cutting common in schools, we can’t realistically expect administrators to address each and every one of the multitude of conditions their students may have. If we have no choice to but to ask what is the cut-off point, than a health matter which shouldn’t have an effect on learning is a good place to start. It’s nice that some schools have the ability to accomodate kids who have allergies, but for the small numbers who do have them it seems unfair to have the the availability of foods to the whole student body limited.

For kids with allergies- and their parents- ultimately they must learn to manage their health matter as best they can without an expectation that in many settings others will forego some foods because of someone else’s sensitivity. Some food allergies dissipate with age. Like other health conditions their peers might have, learning to deal with allergies is simply a part of growing up and learning personal responsibility.

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