Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Yesterday, I saw a segment on television about an elementary school in Florida, where parents are picketing outside the school. They are angry because of accommodations being made in the school for one child, a 6 year old girl with a life threatening allergy to peanuts. They have their children picketing with them, and they are asking this girl to leave school. To withdraw from school because they feel that their own kids are being asked to do too much in the name of keeping this other child safe.
Here's what the kids are being asked to do:
- Wash their hands before entering the classroom and again after lunch
- Wipe their mouths after lunch (originally they were asked to rinse mouths, but this has changed)
- Leave their lunches in a designated place outside the classroom
- Do not bring snacks into the classroom that contain nuts (Lunches aren't affected, because the poor child with the allergy eats alone in the classroom with an aide, at her family's request)
That's it. I saw one mom (in another interview) claim that students were losing 30 minutes of instruction time each day while completing these tasks to care for the one student with the peanut allergy.
I suspect this mother is not aware of the other benefits of hand washing? I have never seen an elementary school class that wasn't instructed to wash their hands multiple times throughout the day, simply to stop the spread of germs. And 30 minutes? No way is that possible. The superintendent said the class has access to two sinks, and we all know that kids do not wash their hands like surgeons scrubbing into the O.R.
If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that our daughter has a peanut allergy, so this topic is near and dear to my heart. Every family handles the risk of peanut contact differently, and every child has had different reactions to exposure. Our daughter's classroom is also nut-free, but she sits with her class at lunch in a special seat that is wiped down extra carefully for her.
For me, though, this story is less about the specifics of the peanut allergy or even the fact that it involves a peanut allergy. It's about compassion. What are these parents teaching their children about caring for their classmates and peers? It's bad enough that they don't have empathy for this poor child, but to picket outside the school and enlist their children's help? Shame on those parents.
A columnist by the name of Joel Stein, who regularly contributes to Time Magazine, recently wrote this article, in which he explains how his own 1 year old son had an anaphylactic reaction to tree nuts not long after he wrote another article mocking kids with nut allergies (and their parents).
Apparently, after the first article he got some scathing e-mails from parents of nut allergic kids, wishing the same affliction on his kids someday. As they say, karma can be a bitch! But seriously, the bigger issue is general compassion and human decency. I wish our daughter didn't have a peanut allergy, but I don't wish it on anyone else, no matter how much I may not like them (or their kid)!
It's about putting yourself in someone else's shoes and feeling what it's like to be them - to live with whatever burden they carry. Whether it's a peanut allergy, a chronic illness, or having a different color skin than everyone else in the class.
Isn't it better to teach your kids to feel for others than to teach them to single that person out and criticize? Or that you should always put yourself first, even at the risk of hurting others?