After a near-death, school struggles with mother’s request to become ‘peanut-free’
Parents in Arlington Heights, Illinois are pressing the local school district to create a completely “peanut-free” environment for children who suffer from allergies, the Daily Herald‘s Melissa Silverberg reports.
Melissa Teuscher decided to confront the school district after her daughter, Lucca, had an anaphylactic reaction to peanut allergens in March despite sitting at a “peanut-free” table in the cafeteria during lunch.
“It was just horrifying; my worst nightmare,” Melissa said about learning that her daughter had to be rushed to the hospital after the nurse’s attempt to stop the reaction via an EpiPen failed. Lucca was hospitalized overnight, requiring additional doses of epinephrine and, at times, assisted breathing.
Because school officials were unable to locate the source of Lucca’s attack, Melissa said that she wants “a peanut-free school and, in a dream world, a peanut-free district.”
“The district has been great about not allowing any peanuts in the classroom, but that’s just not enough,” she added. “Children who eat a peanut butter sandwich at lunch open doors, touch play equipment and handle countless communal objects.”
Melissa insisted, however, that she is not demanding the district “police every sandwich.” She said that she and her husband “would just have faith that the community would respect the policy.”
She made her plea at an Arlington Heights Elementary District 25 School Board meeting after Lucca’s attack, but told the Daily Herald that she had yet to hear back.
The district already has policies in place to guarantee peanut-free areas in the lunchroom, as well as peanut-free classrooms. For now, however, Lucca will be eating her lunch in the principal’s office to be absolutely sure she does not come into contact with peanuts.
District Superintendent Lori Bein said that, for the moment, these accommodations are the best they can do.
“We have lots of kids with lots of different allergies in the school district,” she said. “At this point I’d consider anything to help her daughter, and all children, feel safe in school.”
“But we need to talk more about peanut-free schools,” Bein added. “Where do they exist, how does it work, what’s feasible? We’re dedicated, at this point, to doing the research to see what kinds of possibilities exist and then we’ll be able to see what we can do and what works best for all kids.”
Currently, all school-provided meals in Chicago Public Schools are nut-free — but there is nothing preventing parents from sending their children to school with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
The Elgin School District, however, has refused to install a nut-ban, explaining that “exposure to peanut allergen is difficult to control. Food & Nutrition Services of School District U-46 feel a ‘peanut ban’ would only serve to provide a false sense of security for parents and discriminate against the approximate 95 percent of the population who are not allergic.”