2011-03-12

A Little More Education

So very many of you have asked if there is absolutely anything that can be done to help the family being harassed and bullied about the food allergy accommodations their daughter receives at her elementary school here in Florida.  I finally do have contact information for the school and district, as well as state level agencies, where you can let your opinions be heard, as well as a request from Tracey, the mom.

First, the bad news:  other parents have written so many disturbing comments online in response to local news articles, such as threats to put peanut oil on their own child's backpack, that the family has decided it is no longer safe to send their daughter to school.  These protesters have successfully managed to bully a six year old out of school, because of her disability.

Before I set all of you loose, though, I want to give you a word of warning.  I can tell you that personally, my blood is boiling.  The temptation to just breathe fire through the phone line is awfully hard to resist.

Then I remember how the story has played out in the media.  Exaggerations and outright lies have been presented as fact in a "controversy" about "extreme measures" that are "depriving other children of their right to an education."

As hateful as these parents are, they have presented themselves with enough media savvy to make it a story about wanting "compromise" about the accommodations, rather than about a pack of bullies endangering a child's life.

The narrative needs to be fixed.

If you are willing to take the time to send an email or pick up the phone to make a call, remember that the recipient is most likely an innocent school or state employee who has suddenly found him or herself in the middle of a hailstorm.  Remember, you are contacting them as a Deeply Concerned Parent, not a Raving Freaking Lunatic.

Just because you know that you are the good guy, doesn't mean that anyone else does.  So make sure that your words and tone demonstrate that.

These are a few suggestions:

  • Explain your concern for this child's safety and well being.
  • Respectfully ask that, although you understand privacy restrictions, that the school speak up to the media to accurately describe the accommodations this child has received.
  • Ask what anti-bullying measures are in place, and how they intend to protect children from this kind of hatred.

Spring break started yesterday in Volusia County, adding even more to the hit and run nature of this bullying campaign, but here is the contact information:

  • Edgewater Elementary School Principal Linda Moore: 386-426-7300.
  • Volusia County School Superintendent:  386-734-7190.  (Follow prompts for operator and ask for Superintendents Office.)
  • The Florida Department of Education:  850-245-0438.
  • James Holland, Director of Professional Standards:  386-734-7190 ext. 20256.  (This one is to report school misconduct, so make sure you have a Specific Complaint, not a Wild Accusation.)

In the comments of the previous post, Kyra was kind enough to also share the district's email contact information:

  • Principal Lynda Moore: lmoore@volusia.k12.fl.us 
  • Assistant Principal Stephanie Eafford: saeffor@volusia.k12.fl.us 

Finally, here is the request from Tracey.  It appears that in some of the comments by parents in the news stories online, there have been details of her daughter's medical plan, however distorted, that could have only been revealed by a member of the school's staff.  If you are brave enough to go on troll patrol, see if you can find any of these comments.  If you find them, please copy and paste the comment or take a screen shot if you can (in case it is deleted) and email it and the link to the page to me at allergiesmom[at]gmail[dot]com.  I'll sift through the duplicates and make sure that they reach Tracey.

Thank you so much for your compassion and zeal in defense of her daughter.


Update:  Many thanks to the commenter who let me know that the email addresses to the school's principal and assistant principal are no longer able to receive email (stuffed full to bursting with your eloquent correspondence, I'm sure) and provided the following contacts:


Volusia County Schools
Superintendent Dr. Margaret S Smith
200 North Clara Av
P.O. Box 2118
Deland, FL 32720-2118
Email - masmith1@volusia.k12.fl.us

Florida Department of Education
Office of the Commissioner
Dr. Eric J Smith
Turlington Building, Suite 1514
Tallahasse, Florida 32399
Email - Commissioner@fldoe.org



2nd Update:  A local newspaper has taken the time to research the story, speak to the family and school officials, and accurately describe the allergy precautions that are in place in the classroom.  Thank you to the Daytona Beach News Journal for practicing journalism instead of sensationalism!


[Post also updated to clarify that threats were made to rub peanut oil on another child's backpack, as opposed to it actually happening.  It was *just* a death threat against a six year old child.]


Yet another update:  A Facebook group has been started to support the Bailey family if you'd like to join.    

35 comments:

Colette said...

What a tough tough situation. I really feel for the family and the child. I am sure this is not what they wanted for their five minutes of fame. Thanks so much for your post and helping to put some perspective on this. It's really amazing how things can spiral put of control when emotions are involved.

Lissa said...

Very good post. It's so important that we all remember that we have to come across as the Rational Ones. As satisfying as it might be in the short term to get into a shouting match with these people, it doesn't accomplish what needs to be accomplished. We can vent our anger and indulge our inner pettiness amongst ourselves, but when it comes to communicating with the people who are in a position to FIX this (if there is any way to do that at this point) we have to put on our diplomat hats. I am so unspeakably horrified by what is happening to this family. Let's show these people what's what.

Diane said...

Thank yo for the update and information. I linked your blog to my readers. I hope it helps spread the word. Is there any legal action they can take about the threats? Can FAAN get involved?

Elizabeth Goldenberg said...

I shared your post with the Onespot Allergy Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/OnespotAllergy Conversation on this topic started with my post on Thursday March 10th, which continues today. Thank you for keeping us informed.

_Susan_ said...

Thanks for sharing this, I am posting it on Allergic Living magazine's website forum and Facebeook page.

TheAllergicAngel said...

Shared your story on my blog this morning. MyAngelsAllergies.com http://t.co/kZdOyRs Thank you for helping us keep the allergy community abreast of this situation.

Becky (PeanutAllergyMom) said...

Thanks for the update and for following this story. It breaks my heart that people get so upset and make life miserable for PA families. At the end of the day, the one that suffers the most is the 6-year-old girl. I am linking your post and sharing it with my readers and Facebook fans.

Karen Mahon said...

Last year I met a mother of 3 allergic girls 2 with peanut allergies, one more severe than the other and a daughter with a soy allergy. Parents & Principal of her kids school were reluctant to have a Peanut Aware School & No Peanut or Nut Products Policy. The mom took legal action to have the school become Peanut Aware and a No Peanut/Nut Policy.

When in the US the family found a product that Tasted, Looked, Smelled & had same texture as Peanut butter at Wal-Mart. The father was delighted because he missed having Peanut Butter and even though the product was a soy product it was not a problem for the daughter with a soy allergy she just avoided it.

Severe life threatening allergy to soy is rare she responds with a rash and sometimes hives if she eats soy. Anyway, because the kids were bullied by parents and students and the mom was totally left on her own because she made the school do what was necessary for the safety of her kids she took the Wow! Tastes Just Like Peanut Butter to school because it was locally available and offered it as a peanut butter replacement. It worked. The kids were nolonger bullied, parents would speak to the mother and in general things were back to normal with the added plus of a peanut allergen free school.

The father still will not speak to the parents whom he had no problem with before they refused to give up peanut butter for the safety of his children. But you can understand how hurt they all were. This New Food Staple is available North America Wide and with a request verified and signed by a Superintendant or Principal the company will send samples plus information to the school to help educate and make aware this healthy safe new peanut butter replacement. It was developed to resolve peanut issues in schools.
www.safe4school.com.

Learn Together said...

Thanks for posting the information I will be sure to write, and to remember to appreciate all the kindness and accommodations we receive.

Anonymous said...

This story is so upsetting. I have son who is severly allergic to peanuts and he went through so much bullying in school, by teachers, staff and parents... I met with the principal and told her that if anything happens to my child while he is in school and due to school's ignorance, I would sue the school.

Anonymous said...

Florida does not currently require schools to adapt a specific food allergy policy.

Florida School District
Food Allergy Policies
December 31, 2009
http://www.fldoe.org/fnm/pdf/far.pdf

See page 23...

From what I read there is an actual Act (Kelsey Ryan Act) which addresses the ALLOWANCE of epinephrine autoinjectors.

A concerned friend. said...

Additional Information:

Volusia County Schools
Superintendent Dr. Margaret S Smith
200 North Clara Av
P.O. Box 2118
Deland, FL 32720-2118

Email - masmith1@volusia.k12.fl.us


Florida Department of Education
Office of the Commissioner
Dr. Eric J Smith
Turlington Building, Suite 1514
Tallahasse, Florida 32399

Email - Commissioner@fldoe.org



It seems like the email addresses of the principle and assistant principle are being REJECTED which could mean that their accounts are full or they have been shut down.

Miryam said...

we had to pull a child out of a school that didn't want to offer a number of basic, non-invasive accommodations for a food allergy - accommodations that were standard for MA public schools. Like a sign on the classroom door. Baby wipes at the classroom entrance.

Sometimes, getting a simple, clear message to people is more difficult than you might expect. And more painful than it should be.

Yes, FAAN has a legal help line, and can offer advice. The state board of ed has avenues for appeal, the AG is another option, etc. And absolutely, let's keep the crazy to a minimum: it's hard to educate people, harder in the middle of a PR firestorm - and downright impossible if you don't appear to be very, very reasonable.

But I fear that, at this point, this is one of those battles that may already be lost, given the threats being made. This is so incredibly sad.

Anonymous said...

If the protesting parent had said 'I will shoot your child' the school and police would have become involved immediately to prevent this. Saying 'I will put peanut oil on my child's backpack' is no less serious a threat. I hope Tracey has the time and energy to pursue this kind of very dangerous behavior. What flashed into my memory was a picture of a little black girl being escorted to school past hateful demonstrators by national guard troops in the 1960's.
As the allergic kid's Nana, I am grateful that his school only a couple of hours away takes a much different attitude.

Minivan Mama said...

I will be writing letters and blogging about this tomorrow. Heartbreaking.

_Susan_ said...

I wish good information was provided to all. SUch as:
http://www.allergysafecommunities.ca/pages/default.asp
http://allergicliving.com/index.php/2010/07/02/sabrinas-law-school-allergy-laws-and-policies/
http://allergicliving.com/index.php/category/school-and-allergies-asthma/

Anonymous said...

Someone should consider filing complaints with the U.S.Department of Education Office for civil Rights, which investigates disability discrimination complaints against public schools. The DOE recently sent a letter to the superintendents of every school district in the country regarding the need to confrontbullying and discrimination in their schools. OCR can investigate the unauthoriized disclosure of student information in the context of a disability discrimination complaint. A complaint should also be made to the DOE's branch that investigates complaints regarding violation of student record confidentiality. Finally, there are threats in the community of harming a child, which should be referred toboth local law enforcement for investigation and to the state or county child welfare protection authorities.

Because some parents have threatened the safety of a student, the school should be within its rights to bar the individuals from school property, not just if they picket or demonstrate, but for any purpose. They may tone down their rhetoric when they realize they aren't allowed to attend parent-teacher night, the school play, or other activities because of their own threatening conduct.

Unfortunately, for this family, the damage has likely been done and is irreversible. However, these "protesters" should be taught that they can not bully individuals or district and get away with it. The school must be taught that it can't sit by and claim that this is a community issue that the school can't get involved in. The schol must learn that it has to be proactive, and be protective of its student's rights.

Speedbump Kitchen said...

From the medical and allergy mom perspective here, the thing that came to my mind was "I hope that doctor is dang sure about that diagnosis and his medical advice on how to keep her safe, because it's easy to diagnose and give advice...'good luck, see you in a year' ". The reality is, I spend more time "undiagnosing" kids who were wrongfully diagnosed in the first place by an overzealous doctor ordering blood and skin testing on everything under the sun than I do diagnosing true allergy. The availablity and marketing of RAST testing has made this a huge problem in pediatrics, seriously stressing families out with 50 foods to avoid, and watering down society's understanding of true allergy. The other problem is a lack of evidence-based medicine on school policy. We're just going on feelings here. Has wiping down tables with Clorox or washing out mouths saved lives? Will a peanut-sniffing dog save lives? Until we answer these questions, non-allergy families ( and allergy families as well) will continue to question the necessity of these actions. The physicians in the allergy community really need to step up real research and education instead of hanging these families out to dry on guestimates.

Ann said...

Tracy - My heart goes out to you! I have had quite a battle with our local school district as well but, we are finally in a much better place. I worked with a local legal firm that specializes in disability rights(http://www.equipforequality.org/) and was able to get changes made. It was free of charge.. I hope you can find a similar group there. My daughter is airborne to dairy and eggs and anaphylactic to more.

We have also dealt with kids bullying my kids and did file a police report after two neighbors chased my two peanut allergic kids with a bowl full of peanuts. If it happens again there will be legal action taken. Not sure if a restraining order would be applicable for you??

I am very thankful for our allergy alert service dog. At the very least, he provides me with the ability to see behind the scenes everyday and see possible pitfalls. He has been incredible at finding random things that you would not normally consider to be an issue! My daughter's class does still have parties and snacks in the classroom but, the class is free of dairy, eggs, peanuts, treenuts and peas. The kids do each use wet wipes as they enter the classroom. I think it is one of the healthiest classes in the school! All 900 students of the school use hand sanitizer throughout the day before entering any room. This was not put in place for my child or for allergies but because of H1N1 I think.

If I can help in any way, let me know! I will be praying for you and I hope that your daughter can safely return to school! So sad when a "bubble" child is forced back into the bubble by ignorance and hate.

Anonymous said...

Speedbump, I agree on your points. Also, I think we have to trust that parents have a better knowledge of what will cause a reaction in his/her own child based on their reaction history & the fact there are with them 24/7. Accommodations need to be determined with input from both parents and allergist to be appropriate. I don't know, but I'm guessing that this family's physician has written these accommodations based on what they know causes her to react. The mouth rinsing is not something I've heard of in schools, but I can't judge without knowing more. I read a lot of literature that says it's highly unlikely for allergic children to react to (fill in the blank), and yet mine does and I know of others who do. Based on medical literature, my child shouldn't need certain accommodations, yet she does or she will have reactions. If we all got accommodations based on literature alone, many of us would be sending our kids to school w/inadequate accommodations. Without parents and allergists working together, I think there can be a risk of asking for more than is needed (schoolwide bans) and UNDER accommodating. Accommodations must be unique to the individual. From my experience, I think many FA children are underaccommodated because parents are afraid of this type of backlash, and schools in my experience are not forthcoming in offering 504's over IHCP's.
Kim

Renae said...

I am a mother of three children, two biological and one adopted. All have food allergies. My two year old has over 30 food allergies, discovered after going to 12 different specialists and then being sent to Boston to confirm that it was actually possible. Some are life threatening. He also has a life threatening allergy to adhesives. This was discovered during a routine surgery as he wore heart monitor stickers.

In the past two months we have been TRYING to find a preschool for him. The safest bet was the special education preschool open to the community that my other son attends.

Their first response was absolutely "NO!" It wasn't fair to the other children attending. They'd have to change a whole classroom and more. It would be too dangerous. Thankfully, our pediatrician joined our fight. It helped that he is the medical director of the school. Still, after meetings and his counsel, our son is only permitted to attend preschool not full time, not part time, but for only one hour two times a week on a trial basis only. If it proves unsafe, he will be asked to leave.

We've been told at the elementary school level that they will most likely provide a tutor for him at home because it will be unsafe for him to go to school.

I feel for this family more than words can describe. We have received much harassment and persecution in our community as we've tried to make church a safe place for us to attend when our son became a toddler.

My husband and I have started a support organization called Fun Without Food, for families of children with special dietary needs of all kinds, not just allergies. It was our goal to provide a local support group for parents and host activities without food once a month for the families, especially during "FOOD" holidays that prove so difficult.

After much harassment and persecution from people involved at the facility that we held the events, we've had to cancel activities and support groups because we can't keep people safe anymore.

Now all of our support is web based. You can find us at www.funwithoutfood.blogspot.com We've only changed to web based recently, but if you scroll down there are some great posts. My husband is a mental health counselor and has contributed as well!

Good luck to this family! I only hope that persecution doesn't heighten and affect the safety of their home.

Jennifer is Always Sick said...

Can they find out who posted the threat about sending their children to school with peanut oil on their backpacks? That's a threat to a child's life, and I'm sure there is some kind of charges brought against whoever said it, if it was a parent or teacher at the school.

This poor family. I'm glad they are pulling her out of school. She doesn't need to be in an environment where people will treat her this way, and she'll be safer at home. It stinks that it came to this, but it's for the best.

Where is that "Mean People Suck" t-shirt when you need it?

OhayoBento said...

Wow. A parent actually put peanut oil in their child's backpack fully knowing that it could kill this little girl. How is that legal? I'm speechless.

aixelsyd13 said...

Excellent follow-up, and excellent call for eloquent action!

I'm anxious to see how this plays out at the school, and if any positive attention will come to the school & news station after the fact.

Poker Chick said...

Is there any update on this?

Anonymous said...

FAAN and FAI are working with the school. There is a statement on the FAAN website. And, this from FOX news

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/03/15/amid-protest-florida-school-stands-tough-new-peanut-allergy-regulations/?test=faces

Kim

Anonymous said...

what happens if a child accidentally exposes the allergic child to peanuts/residue? it seems to be placing a lot of responsibility on children who may not understand the graveness of opening a candy bar next to their classmates. there just seems to be too many variables in a public school environment to protect this student's safety.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. H:
 
Commissioner of Education Dr. Eric Smith asked our office to respond to your electronic mail (e-mail) message dated March 15, 2011. We appreciate your concerns and share your goal to promote a safe learning environment.
 
The Florida Legislature enacted legislation amending Section 1002.20, Florida Statutes (F.S.). The provisions of this legislation are specified in subsection (3)(i). This law specifies that a public school student who has life-threatening allergies may carry an epinephrine auto-injector and administer epinephrine by auto-injector while in school or participating in school-sponsored activities, including transit to and from school or school-sponsored activities, if the school has been provided with parental and physician authorization.
 
In accordance with this legislation, the State Board of Education, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Health, has adopted Rule 6A-6.0251, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), regarding the use of epinephrine auto-injectors in Florida schools. Due to the increasing number of students who have life-threatening allergies, an interagency task force has developed a technical assistance paper (TAP) to address implementation of this law. This TAP is available at http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/y2006-7.pdf. In addition, the Florida Department of Education has prepared a report of Florida school district policies related to childhood food allergies that is available at http://www.fldoe.org/FNM/pdf/far.pdf.
 
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. If you need further assistance regarding this response, please contact Ms. Dianne Mennitt, School Nurse Consultant, at dianne.mennitt@fldoe.org or (850) 245-7851.
 
Sincerely,
 
Bambi J. Lockman, Chief
Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services
 
BJL/dm
 
cc:       Dr. Barbara Bush blbush@volusia.k12.fl.us
Cathy Ferguson cafergus@volusia.k12.fl.us
Dianne Mennitt dmennitt@usf.edu
 

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. H:
 
Commissioner of Education Dr. Eric Smith asked our office to respond to your electronic mail (e-mail) message dated March 15, 2011. We appreciate your concerns and share your goal to promote a safe learning environment.
 
The Florida Legislature enacted legislation amending Section 1002.20, Florida Statutes (F.S.). The provisions of this legislation are specified in subsection (3)(i). This law specifies that a public school student who has life-threatening allergies may carry an epinephrine auto-injector and administer epinephrine by auto-injector while in school or participating in school-sponsored activities, including transit to and from school or school-sponsored activities, if the school has been provided with parental and physician authorization.
 
In accordance with this legislation, the State Board of Education, in cooperation with the Florida Department of Health, has adopted Rule 6A-6.0251, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.), regarding the use of epinephrine auto-injectors in Florida schools. Due to the increasing number of students who have life-threatening allergies, an interagency task force has developed a technical assistance paper (TAP) to address implementation of this law. This TAP is available at http://www.fldoe.org/ese/pdf/y2006-7.pdf. In addition, the Florida Department of Education has prepared a report of Florida school district policies related to childhood food allergies that is available at http://www.fldoe.org/FNM/pdf/far.pdf.
 
Thank you for taking the time to contact us. If you need further assistance regarding this response, please contact Ms. Dianne Mennitt, School Nurse Consultant, at dianne.mennitt@fldoe.org or (850) 245-7851.
 
Sincerely,
 
Bambi J. Lockman, Chief
Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services
 
BJL/dm
 
cc:       Dr. Barbara Bush blbush@volusia.k12.fl.us
Cathy Ferguson cafergus@volusia.k12.fl.us
Dianne Mennitt dmennitt@usf.edu
 

Jennifer is Always Sick - Severe Peanut Allergy Kills !! said...

Surprisingly, the national media is giving this some attention now as well. That's when you know the $#%* has hit the fan.

And a teen girl is now in a coma for accidentally eating cereal containing nuts and peanuts, and the media is still covering that unfortunate incident with the teen girl who died as the result of peanut contaminated chinese food - the parents are suing the restaurant.

I am beginning to understand some of the opposing viewpoints. Is it possible to keep this girl safe at school, even with all of these safeguards in place? I'm not convinced she can be kept safe with such severe allergies. However, the reaction from the parents is unacceptable and heartless. You don't protest a 1st grade girl.

Anonymous said...

@Jennifer- I see it this way,

#1 The school was negligent in ordering chinese food for a class with multiple peanut allergies. They have the duty of care. Get rid of unsafe food IN the classroom, and keep allergic children safe. #2 Epi pens at school for all allergic children with training to staff on how to identify the symptoms of anaphylaxis. Both were missing in the school death in Chicago. I can only wonder if they downplayed her allergy to avoid the type of backlash that accommodations can sometimes bring.

Tammy said...

I feel their pain. My kindergarten child was bullied out of kindergarten after two months by the school administrators who forced him to sit alone at a desk for lunch and parties, made him a target for bullying and refuse to put any 504 accommodations for him in writing.

The Prudent Patron said...

Thank you for writing this. I shared it on my site's Facebook page as well as my personal page.

Monica Stewart said...

I am not surprised as we are in our second year and second situation with the Volusia County Schools. We have lived here 2 years. Our first year was a bullying situation in which my daughter was attacked after being threatened by a class bully. We were not called by the school nurse or the Vice Principal who handled the situation. The child 's parents were not notified as was proven by our police report. When we asked the VP why she did not contact us she said, "Frankly I had more important things to attend to." After complaining to the area superintendent the VP was reassigned this year. The child is still at the school which we felt should not be the case after attacking another child. We are now in a legal battle with the county because we have a gifted child with a disability that the county refuses to accommodate or acknowledge, teachers who have lied and been disrespectful and an ESE office that is disregarding my son's rights. All of this on the heels of a drunken Volusia County school psychologist disregarding the safety of her own child. I say it is time for the residents of Volusia County to call for the resignation of Margaret Smith and other county school officials who are allowing these travesties. Sadly, not much can be done for the idiots who protest protecting an allergic child. My guess is that they were educated in Volusia County. Enough said....I wish Fox News would call me.

Anonymous said...

Good post and Smart Blog
Thanks for your good information and i hope to subscribe and visit my blog STD Symptoms and more Gonorrhea Symptoms and Signs thanks again admin