Addressing Allergies in Schools

At Nashoba and Beyond

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Katie Coen, Editor

Allergies.  An unpleasant medical condition that many people suffer from all year round. A recent event  in Pennsylvania about student allergies has prompted many to discuss the impact of allergies in schools and has raised a number of questions. To keep students safe, should students with allergies have a different lunch room setting? Should all students be forced to wash their hands after lunch? What should Nashoba do?

At a high school in Pennsylvania, three young teens are now facing criminal charges for exposing another girl to a known serious allergen for that student. The young teen has a life-threatening allergy to pineapple, which the girls were aware of. One of the students allegedly rubbed pineapple juice on her hands and gave the girl with the allergy a high five. The two teens are now facing charges in juvenile court with a felony charge of aggravated assault and criminal conspiracy, among other offenses.

Although the case in Pennsylvania is extreme, it does bring to light the seriousness of allergies in a public setting. Due to the gradual increase of allergies to many in our country and subsequently in our school, eating in classrooms has been banned at Nashoba for the safety of those affected. As you walk through the hallways, some teachers have signs on their doors asking for a “Food-Free” classroom. Nashoba thankfully hasn’t had any recent issues with allergies, even though there are life threatening allergies in the building.

According to the “Voluntary Guidelines for Managing Food Allergies”, there are five major things that can be done at a school to protect all with allergies.

  1. Ensure the daily management of food allergies in individual children.
  2. Prepare for food allergy emergencies.
  3. Provide professional development on food allergies for staff members.
  4. Educate children and family members about food allergies.
  5. Create and maintain a healthy and safe educational environment.

There are many studies regarding the changing landscape of allergies within our country. According to a recent report by NPR from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates, many more children are being diagnosed with a variety of allergies. “Allergies affect approximately 50 million of Americans, causing reactions from the minor to the life-threatening. According to the latest statistics, 8 percent of children under age 18 have a food allergy, which translates to about 1 to 2 per classroom, says Michael Pistiner, pediatric allergist for HVMA in Boston.”

With those statistics in mind, there has been talk about creating special schools or lunch periods for kids with allergies, BUT because allergies are considered a disability according to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act, which passed through Congress in 1990), separation and discrimination against anyone with a disability is illegal in our country. Although some might think that this could help those with allergies, If this kind of segregation between kids that have allergies and kids that don’t occurred, there could be many civil court cases.

Next time you take out your peanut butter sandwich at lunch, be aware of the people around you, and wash your hands often. Let’s keep Nashoba a safe environment for everyone!