There have been a lot of blog posts in the allergic community lately about kids bullying allergic classmates.
This calls to mind a post I left on a local message board over the weekend, about being teased. Here’s an excerpt:
being made fun of
Take this for what it’s worth, but being made fun of can be so character-building. I’m not saying it’s something I’d seek out for my kids, but it’s not the end of the world.
I was at least a foot and a half taller than every second grader at my new school, the beginning of second grade. Add to the fact that I had (first) buckteeth and then (worse) a headgear. I was called Radar Head, and openly attacked physically by little boys on the playground that were intimidated by my size.
Amazingly, I quickly made friends and endured the teasing with no lasting damage. I only recently even remembered being called Radar Head. I do remember the teasing a neighbor boy got on the bus for taking up for me! They accused him of being my boyfriend!
Oh, did I mention my mother dressed me funny? Knee socks and tartan skirts and other very feminine clothing, for me, the total tomboy. It was a nightmare.
But I actually enjoyed school a lot, became one of the most popular kids in school, was a cheerleader, etc.
The whole time, I was taller than everyone, and went through not only the headgear, but a functional appliance, braces, etc.
…I think I was the living dictionary of “awkward stage” all through those precious years.
My point being, on this topic, that being teased is something that will happen to most kids (some of us more than others!), and I think we actually grow from the experience.
As the mother of a child with peanut allergy, I have been called “Peanut Lady” in a moment of insensitivity by an administrator at my son’s school. Again…an opportunity for growth on my part, and education for him. (He was immediately apologetic, but how revealing that slip was of his heart, at least at that moment.)
The reason I post this today is because I want to make something crystal clear: teasing is not the same as bullying. Bullying can employ teasing, but name-calling and rough-wrestling (which is probably outlawed now that kids aren’t typically free to skin their knees on the playground) are common parts of child development. Most kids will be on both sides of that experience at some point before they begin adolescence. They had better be!
Bullying takes teasing too far. Bullying takes the wrestling and makes it mean. It is a kid who is three times bigger, and old enough to know better, pushing another kid around. It is the little girl who knows that the special needs child in her school is mildly retarded, who still openly mocks and makes fun of the differently-abled child. Words and actions can be used mildly, or they can be abusive.
Bullying is abusive. Teasing really is not.
If my kid gets called Peanut Boy (not likely at his current school), then that’s teasing, right? But if someone holds a peanut butter and jelly sandwich over his head unawares, that’s not teasing. That’s dangerous. And then we’re getting into bullying issues.
Personally, I think life is too short for bullying amongst adults, but even that occurs. I have experienced it with food allergies, very often. People are sometimes openly resentful that we do not eat nut products (why they take this personally, I will never know), sometimes passive-aggressive about it, testing us and trying to get us to “slip” and eat something that might endanger our nursing child, or via contact, cause a reaction in Sam. Why do they do it?
I can only presume it is for the same reason the playground bully chases a classmate around with a handful of peanuts in his hand: it’s a short-term power trip without thought for the long-term ramifications on others.
Sam models his Nut Free Zone hoodie.
Well, last week we had our first problem at my son’s school. A child mother brought in brownies for a birthday celebration, and even though my son had his own safe cookies to enjoy, another child told him her brownie was safe, and she shared it with him. It did contain peanuts.
The good news was that he did not have an anaphylactic reaction. He got two bumps on his arm. However, I wouldn’t have known about the incident at all if my son hadn’t told me.
What could have happened?
His teacher expressed concern, but the whole thing makes me wonder if we are doing the right thing sending our child to a public school. I don’t think you could ask for a better school than this. It is wonderful.
BUT, they compromised Sam’s safety.
Would it be conscionable to compromise any child’s life? Would it be okay to bring in a poisonous snake if only one child in class could possibly be poisoned by it?
I have been criticized for drawing these parallels, but I challenge you to draw a better one.
My kid was okay this time. But what if there is an increased frequency of incidents in the future, because they know this peanut didn’t kill him? What if he starts getting repetitively accidentally exposed, because no one else in the classroom has to be supervised in this way?
Flat-out, letting an allergic child eat a dangerous food is an act of disregard for that child’s safety.
We have had problems with there being lentils in the room, as well. I just don’t get that they are very concerned about the reality of this stuff being unpredictable and dangerous for Sam.
I’m not an alarmist. I’m a mother striving for a safe learning environment for her child.
I wouldn’t take your child out to sit on the highway for story hour, so PLEASE do not feed my child peanuts. It is the same thing. It is life-threatening, inconsiderate, and unwise.
“May contain traces of peanuts” “Made in a facility that also processes peanuts.” These are two sentences I hate the most.” The one sentence I love the most, “made in a peanut free facility” Chairperson, honourable judges, ladies and gentlemen and fellow students. I’m going to share with you how a person gets an allergy, what anaphylaxis is and how challenging it is to live with a peanut allergy. Do you like peanuts? Well I sure don’t because to me, they are criminals.
I got my allergy because I was born prone to allergies. I have significantly lower levels of enzyme which breaks down the chemical that causes bronchial spasms. I also have high levels of IgE antibodies that are activated during and allergic reaction. Allergies are hereditary instead of someone just getting it from one parent I got it from both of mine. Because both of my parents are already lacking enzyme to give to me they give me even more IgE antibodies. I got my peanut allergy after I was born. Since I was born prone to allergies that is what started it. When my mom was breast feeding me almost every food made her nauseous but she still needed her proteins so she overdosed on peanut butter and whole peanuts. Since I have low levels of enzyme my kids will have terrible allergies because I have practically none to pass on and way to much IgE to give. Studies show that over sanitized conditions in the west have caused immune systems to overreact to absence of other infections.
What is anaphylaxis? A dictionary defines this as “a term commonly used to denote the immediate transient kind of allergic reaction characterized by a contraction of smooth muscle and dilation of capillaries due to release of pharmacologically active substance classically initiated by the combination of an allergen, mast cell-fixed and cryophilic antibody known as IgE” you might now have understood any of that but in simpler words anaphylaxis is an immediate allergy reaction that completely shuts down every single thing in your body. It is a life-threatening reaction when cells in your respitory system swell causing suffocation, cardiac failure and loss of consciousness. It must be instantly treated with epinephrine to buy you enough time to get to the hospital. Statistics show that 1.5 percent of Canadian kids have deadly peanut allergies and 15 children die a year because their peers at school were eating peanuts around them.
It is extremely challenging to live with a peanut allergy. Just imagine living your whole life knowing you could just touch a door knob and die. Try a little experiment, be me for a week you cant eat anything with any type of nut in it. Each food that you do eat you have to read the ingredients twice to be sure. At the bottom of the list get used to seeing made in a facility that also processes peanuts, and if it does say that sorry you cannot consume. If you accidentally touch peanuts, scrub your hands arms and face for five minutes and air dry. if you smell peanuts cover your mouth and nose and run away until the smell is gone. It is harder than it may look!, And there is always cross-contamination. When you are at your friends house you cant eat anything. If they had peanut butter on the knife and then put the knife in the margarine and you ate it well it is now time to go to the hospital because you are in anaphylactic shock. To sum it up, peanut allergies aren’t just something that the victim takes cautions about but everyone needs to.
In conclusion, 73 percent of people don’t know enough about allergies to be around a person that has severe reactions. Today you heard how people get allergies, what anaphylaxis is and how annoying allergies are. Next time you meet someone with any type of severe allergy show some sympathy for them. If they go into shock get out the epi pen and pull off the grey cap at the tip and jab it in their thigh, believe me it might sound weird but you will be their hero.
Brenaya wrote this speech for school. Thanks for sending it in!
Oh, PS. Sometimes people write to me and say they are having trouble breathing. If you do that, PLEASE go to the emergency room or doctor as before you even finish your email! I would drive you, myself, but oftentimes I get emails from other countries from children saying they are having trouble breathing. As a parent (and a human being) it troubles me to think that you emailed me and then perhaps collapsed.
If you write me once because you are feeling sick, please write me later and tell me you are okay. I worry about anaphylaxis and asthma and what might be happening to you.
This is a good one! Thanks for all the emails
Outrageous, what this newspaper has printed.
It’s bad enough saying that teachers can’t be responsible for the safety of their classrooms.
It’s a civil rights violation to openly say that kids whose safety is taken into consideration are the future addicts and criminals who will be supported by state taxpayers. Absolutely telling about the mentality of the writer. Just…wow.
Thanks, Gina, for the link.
Very, very sad.
The audacity and absolute remorsefulness of damning kids with food allergies to jail cells and rehab clinics is preposterous.
For that matter, how dare anyone reproduce? what right do children with food allergies have to live?
Do your research into the epidemic of food allergies. You might just learn that since major corporations have decided to mass-produce genetically modified foods as a staple of the American diet (something which is illegal in other countries), we are now facing a generational epidemic of first-generation children whose little bodies are recognizing “common” foods as life-threatening substances.
This has always been, and always will be, about the bottom line. Market the natural foods as the more expensive “organic” and let the individuals whose little bodies reject the “junk” stuff pay the price.
In ten years we’ve gotten to a ratio of 6% of kids pre-K age being deathly allergic. What will it be in another ten? 16%? 26%? How many kids have to face a lifetime of fighting for their lives in kitchens across America before we stop villianizing innocent children and their well-meaning unsuspecting families (the majority of whom have no history of food allergies whatsoever), and demand a response that ends this epidemic?
This article is reprehensible.
You want to know who should be in the jail cells? The people who did this to our kids. This is not genetic evolution. This is an appalling negligence of responsibility on the part of the food producers and the FDA.
According to Gina, I missed a TV show featuring food allergies. A child died of peanut allergy in a classroom scenario–I’M GLAD I MISSED IT. However, I do hope the show spread some awareness. Here is a statement from FAAN about peanut allergy, food allergy, reactions, etc:
Boston Legal: It’s not about who is liable
The fictional Boston Legal episode which aired on Tuesday, January 16 th on ABC featured a peanut-allergic child who died after accepting candy brought in from home by a classmate. Unbeknownst to the child, the candy contained traces of peanuts. The teacher was on her cell phone with her back to the class when the reaction began.
When the teacher turned to face the class, she recognized the reaction was occurring and quickly administered epinephrine. Unfortunately, the child died (within 20 seconds of ingestion). The family sued the teacher and lost. The fictional defense lawyers contended that teachers are over-worked, there are a lack of school nurses to care for students, the family had the means to hire a “shadow nurse or aide” for the child and didn’t, and that they could have sent the child to private school where there is a lower student to teacher ratio and didn’t.
The show accurately depicted the fear and constant vigilance individuals with food allergies live with day in and day out. Hopefully, the lucky viewers who do not have food allergies have a better appreciation for food allergies and will understand when someone says that even trace amounts of an allergy-causing food can be fatal—that they are not kidding.
The show has generated outrage and fear in parents of children with food allergies throughout the country. It also misrepresented a few key facts, which have caused great concern for families raising children with food allergies.
The time sequence presented was designed to be dramatic. It achieved that but was misleading. Fatalities don’t occur 20 seconds after ingestion. Epinephrine, the medication of choice for handling a severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis, works quickly and patients often respond within minutes.
The lawyers on the show suggested that the family should have sent their child to a private school in order to receive the best care. This argument, however, ignores the fact that federal law grants every child the right to receive free public education. What is more, there is no data to support the notion that children are somehow “safer” in a private school setting.
The lawyers on the show also stated that the family should have hired a nurse to follow the student around and keep the child safe because teachers can’t be expected to keep children safe. This show unfairly depicted how teachers handle food allergies in the classroom. Millions of school-age children with food allergies are kept safe because of the systems in place by teachers, parents, and students working together.
If you have a child with a food allergy:
- Talk to your child’s doctor and be sure you know what symptoms to look for during a reaction and what action to take. Share this information with anyone who is caring for your child.
- Speak to your school principal about any concerns for keeping your child safe. Be sure systems are in place to recognize and treat allergic reactions quickly—quick response is key.
- Remember that the real power lies within the child. Role play various situations, stress not sharing food with others, and suggest the use of FAAN’s Be A PAL: Protect A Life from food allergies program to educate classmates and friends.
- Let the show’s producers and the network know what it’s like to live with a food allergy. Send a copy of your letter to FAAN.
David E. Kelly Productions
David Kelly, Executive Producer
1600 Rosecrans Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 ABC Audience Relations Department
courtesy Karen Blue:
Children already coping with life-threatening allergies face a new threat in the school playground – being bullied with foods that are potentially deadly.
Click here for the rest of the story.
I heard a story on This American Life about an American family that broke up over playground teasing and bullying, paired with harassment from a teacher. Dad ended up moving out. The stress was too much. They were Islamic and this was post-9/11.
Sometimes it is difficult to process how much pain and suffering human beings are capable of causing one another. Why does one difference, or weakness, or human frailty elicit such base responses in others?
I do not get it.
I mean, I wasn’t brought up in the best home–even I don’t GET this.
It is not okay to play “kill the beast” on the playground.
Have you all taken the quiz yet? I highly encourage you to send it to everyone you know! It’s so quick, and teaches you about the flash-news state of allergies in the US.