Harold Meyerson, editor-at-large of The American Prospect.
Keep allergens in classrooms
With the start of the new school year, classrooms all over the country have no doubt been declared nut-free zones. As the parent of a child in elementary school, I’m familiar with the warnings: “Please, no nuts due to allergies!” As the mother of a child with severe allergies, I’d like to suggest a different approach: Don’t restrict allergens at all.
School, even elementary school, is a place of preparation. By that I mean not just academics but also learning to behave as a member of a community. And my 6-year-old’s community is not always going to be allergen-free.
I take her health seriously. I also realize that she will not always have me there to watch what she touches or eats.
It is important to teach her to function in a world filled with things that make her very sick. It is unrealistic to think that, years from now, my child will be able to tell her co-workers they cannot eat flour in the office. Although well-intentioned, making classrooms allergen-free zones doesn’t teach children how to make safe choices or otherwise manage their health.
Rather than placing restrictions on entire populations of students, let’s have open conversations about food allergies. Children with allergies should be armed with the skills to navigate our complex world. I want the adults in my child’s life to listen to her needs and then trust her to make the appropriate decisions to keep herself healthy.
Linda Hooper-Bui, special to The Washington Post