This is a hard post to write. Let’s start with the good news: My son wrote a free verse poem that was selected as a winner to be read in a Poetry Cafe that was held in the school library this week. While most of the children wrote about springtime or how beautiful butterflies are, the title of his poem was Doomsday.
Filled with wire and shock power,
This device devises your fate.
After an hour,
You can’t feel.
You’ll never see the light of day,
For all your wishes fade away.
It’s led to your fate.
And all will go dark for you,
On that super certain date.
Of course we were super proud of Jake, and we planned to attend the winners’ poetry presentation this week. We had been told that refreshments would be served, so I called the school a few days ahead of time to inquire about their safety. Jacob has a life threatening allergy to peanuts and all nuts, and our school is peanut and nut safe, so I didn’t anticipate any difficulty with this call.
Here comes the bad news. Since I hadn’t received a return phone call, I called back the day before the event and left another message. I found out at home that evening that the teacher hosting the event had taken Jacob aside to tell him that after the presentation, he’s to go back to his classroom, while the other kids whose parents are there have cookies and juice. She had bought cookies that may contain peanuts and nuts at Costco and proposed that he take a goody bag of non food items back to his classroom.
I called the principal on the morning of the event, and thankfully he returned my call before the start of the school day. I told him exactly what had happened, and he understood my concerns that the peanut and nut safe food policies weren’t being followed by his own teachers, that a shared space would be contaminated, and that Jacob as a prize winner should be accommodated so that he could celebrate with his friends.
Here in Ontario, 90% of our schools are peanut and nut safe, as Jacob’s is supposed to be. We are far beyond tolerating this sort of exclusion and carelessness. The principal has a demo code to take my epipentraining.com course, and at this point in my mind, it’s not a matter of IF he’s going to put the training to use at school, it’s a matter of WHEN. Eventually, unsafe food items provided by the teachers themselves will wind up in an allergic child’s mouth.
I arrived at the poetry reading and was relieved to see that the snack had been changed to items that are peanut and nut safe. Jacob was able to attend not only the poetry reading, but also enjoy a snack and mingling afterwards.
The teacher phoned me the next day. In fact, she had called me back the day prior to the event, but it went right to my voice mail without notification to me. Her message was that Jacob is fine with going back to his class room with a gift bag, and kids from some other grades are leaving too, due to their schedule. She said she hopes the cookies she bought are peanut free, but “you just never know.”
There was some back pedaling during our call. She now says she had a peanut and nut safe option, and that she was proposing to put both types of cookies out and was seeking my approval. She assumed I approved when she didn’t hear back from me. I would never drop the ball like that, but she doesn’t know this about me. Had we connected, we would have discussed items that are peanut and nut safe, and this whole episode would have been avoided. In retrospect, I realize that I should have called the principal, not the teacher organizing the event.
During the call, I told her that cookies that may contain peanuts and nuts are an inappropriate choice given the school’s peanut and nut safety policies, that Jacob would be uncomfortable with that being eaten around him, and he shouldn’t be removed from the celebration his friends are attending when he can easily be accommodated. Imagine if a student were in a wheelchair. Would the celebration be in a room that’s not accessible to him or her? I think not. Removing Jacob from the poetry reading celebration with a consolation prize should never have been proposed, and she apologized. She offered to apologize to Jacob, but I told her he would likely prefer not to be singled out again.
The sad part is that the teachers must have discussed this incident in a negative light. Our older son’s acquaintance came up to him at his high school the next day to say that his Mom teaches at Jacob’s school, that I came to the school, and that I was “bitching” that no food should be served other than at lunch, and “that’s dumb.”
We are floored by this violation of our privacy. I did not say one word that day to the teacher who organized the event: I only spoke to her the next day. I had a brief conversation with the Principal who let me know that he corrected the problem himself and would be following up with the teacher, and I spoke to Jacob’s own teacher, but I didn’t address the food safety issues with him at all. I said nothing at all about food being allowed only at lunch.
Somehow, despite all the mistakes that were made by the teacher, I was the one construed in a negative light to teachers who weren’t even involved in the event, a very positive ceremony was tarnished, and my confidence in the school has been shaken to the core. Time heals all wounds, but this one may take a while…