My thoughts on: Food Allergy Guidelines for the Madison Public Schools.
Earlier today Dr. Rossi, the Superintendent of Madison Schools, sent out Food Allergy Guidelines regarding the Madison elementary school's birthday and holiday celebrations. (see letter below) I know that the topic of children's' allergies, and "banning foods" from schools/parties/holidays is a hot button topic for some people. The arguments on both sides can get heated, as do most topics that have clear "sides." I've seen some really ugly fights on social media. I haven't heard any real arguments locally. But I have heard the little comments. The "I can't believe we can't have cupcakes for my kid's birthday because one kid has an allergy." The "Can't they just teach their kid not to eat what they're allergic too?" or "Can't they just make sure the class has a treat they can eat?"
I always sat on the fence... kind of getting both sides... never really standing up on either side. But last Fall I attended a day long workshop to learn about life threatening allergies. As a parent with no allergies in our house I can't tell you how much I learned that I just didn't know. Food allergies? They're really scary. I mean... think about it... they're called LIFE THREATENING ALLERGIES. And, as a parent, you need to assume at least one child in each class has an allergy. (I think it was two years ago that a teacher at our school told me as a class parent that it was the first year EVER in her teaching career that she didn't have at least one child with an allergy in her class.)
If I can share one thing with you of the hundreds of things I took away from that workshop... I would give you this single yes/no question to keep in mind...
Is giving my child a celebration treat in class worth more than another child's life?
My answer will always be no.
While I did like to do Popsicles or Italian ice during the last week of school to celebrate my girls' summer birthdays, I'm glad that we have these clear cut guidelines in place to keep all of our students safe. And honestly... the options that my daughters' teachers have offered as choices in the last few years have been the option my girls' have chosen. (Their favorite has to be making a photo slideshow to show in class to their friends. They LOVE showing photos from baby to now.) The teachers have also done some really sweet things to make their birthday celebrations special. (My favorite had to be the "birthday book" that came home one year with a drawing from each classmate saying something about Zoe. That went in the keeper box.)
As for the holiday celebrations (we only do Halloween and Valentine's Day), our class parents always seem to create such fun events. Food REALLY isn't needed... but the "safe" pre-packaged foods that are allowed are things that kids like (rice crispy treats, Oreos, Italian ice...). When I've attended the class parties the kids have just been most thrilled at special crafts and games, goodie bags with pencils/stickers/trinkets... and parents visiting the classrooms. Seriously... a good game of toilet paper mummy could give hours of giggles!