Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fight Fire With Fire

Dueling Petitions

We now have dueling petitions on this here newfangled Internet, one supporting and the other opposing the nut ban in Amherst Regional Public Schools.  Or I should say "restriction" since the schools did issue a public statement back peddling from the word "ban":

"We are not banning nuts, but rather strongly requesting that everyone abide by the guideline not to bring nuts or nut products into the schools."

So far the newcomer petition supporting the schools has more signatures, 95.  But only 24 of them (25%) are from folks in Amherst while the petition opposing the ban err, restriction has 77 signatures.  But 73 of them (95%) are from Amherst.

Not sure how to count Kurt Geryk, husband of School Superintendent Maria Geryk, as he signed both petitions (man definitely has a future in politics).  

On the original petition opposing the ban Mr. Geryk did mention that ARPS has about a "hundred or so" kids with peanut allergies.  Currently the student population at Amherst K-6 is 1,306 students and Middle and High School hold 1,533 students for a total student population of 2,839.  

Thus 100 students with peanut allergies comes to 3.5% which seems to be statistically high as most experts peg the US average figure for folks with a peanut allergy at 1% or less.


Anonymous said...

How can the schools request students not to bring in foods with nuts, take these foods away from the kids, then claim it's not a ban on nuts? I don't get it.

Walter Graff said...

I question that "100" too. Seems pretty high but doesn't mean statistically we don't have more students afflicted here. If all of the students grew up here and weer treated by the same hospitals and doctors as infants odds are good we could have a higher percentage.

The best way to handle this thing is already done and that's education of the students afflicted by this vaccine related allergy.

The students I know who have the allergy are very cautious and all have their back up epi pens for times when they miss something.

Nothing wrong with educating all the students but the ban nuts as a whole is near impossible. On a recent class trip during lunch some 50 students had all sorts of questionable products.

I don't think parents really respect the rule on some level. And some are outright outraged that they would even have to deny their kids nuts. Classic Amherst (NIMBY)

I know I always try to find nut free products out of respect for the few kids that have the allergy.

It will never be 100% free but overall I think most parents do their best.

Walter Graff said...

Interesting that in the alternate petition they mention a recent case in Massachusetts that now allows food allergies to be listed as a disability. In that case the school responsibility was to offer appropriate education, areas for those students and menus related to the food intolerances.

In Amherst it seems the burden of the responsibility is being placed mostly on the other families who do not have the issue and I think that is why many parents are against it.

When a child is wheelchair bound you build ramps and offer parking to accommodate them. In Amherst they want to take away the steps and force everyone to use ramps and make parking only for those who are disabled.

That is a big factor in why there is so much resistance.

Smile All The Way Thru said...

After reading through the comments on both sides of the petitions, I think people are not listening to each other as much as they need to be. (Shocker?) There's a lot of assumptions of how people feel about this issue based on being for or against the ban. If someone is against the ban, it does not make them unsympathetic to those with the allergy.

Since this has started, I have had to change the way I go grocery shop. My shopping time is now spent picking items up that I think my kids would eat, checking to see if there is any nut warning on the label, if there's no warning or nuts or nut oil in the ingredient list, then I can add it to my cart. My kids have done a huge adjustment to this "ban".

The problem I am finding, is that nuts are in a whole lot of food items in that grocery store. They are a major source of easy to eat, inexpensive, healthy protein.

This is a huge challenge for many families. I have started to bake a lot of the snacks that I now send to school because I can't find enough premade snacks to purchase that are nut free. I'm sure there are many families who don't have the time/energy/ability to be baking homemade snacks each week in order to make sure there are no nuts.

One of my kids is a high schooler and a serious athlete. As a swimmer, he sometimes has 8 practices each week and possibly a meet. There are some morning practices before school, then they go right back to the pool at 3 for another 2 hour practice. Meaning he is actually in the pool for up to 13-15 hours each week. That requires a significant amount of food to fuel those workouts.

Feeding a 16 year old boy is hard in its own way. Add in that kind of workout schedule and the amount they eat is insane. He's probably eating 5000-6000 calories a day, if not more. I try to make those healthy calories. We supplement regular meals with protein shakes and hard boiled eggs a lot. Nuts have been one of our main sources of healthy protein and calories. I was making a mixed nut trail mix and buying healthy protein bars that he could snack on throughout the day. So many of our go to snacks have been excluded as options because of this ban.

I have always insisted on them being responsible to wash their hands prior to and after eating anything. I haven't found enough safe solutions to make up for what his food needs are. I do completely understand he is not the normal child in terms of food intake needs. They're just only so many eggs one child should eat in a day.

For our family, it has been a huge adjustment, and to be honest, one that we have not adjusted well to, but we are trying because it is the right thing to do in this situation, not continue to send them with nut containing items and say they aren't.

I completely understand and appreciate why parents are so afraid of their child being exposed to nuts if they are seriously allergic.

If I had a child who was allergic to anything at that level, I would want to protect them at all costs as well. Would I rely on a school system to do that for me? That I can't say for certain, because I'm not in that position. My inclination would be no and that it would be unrealistic to ask for that.

I do feel that at the elementary level, I am more understanding of this ban as it is hard to rely on kids to protect themselves. At the middle and high school levels, they know what they're doing and how to protect themselves in the outside world at that point.

Smile All The Way Thru said...

On another note, there should absolutely be no safe feeling whatsoever for families of kids with nut allergies in those buildings. None. The ban only covers the school day and after school programs. Basically the times when the kids are there. It does not cover the rest of the day, or other events held within those buildings.

I do find it irresponsible to impose this ban, then not follow through with every single other event that happens in those buildings. I don't know if all the affected families understand that those buildings are used after hours for other purposes but they should and understand that their child may possibly come in contact with nut oil on surfaces the next day.

I don't know what the right solution to all of this is. I do feel like the school dept opened the door to any other family who has a child with severe food allergies, to request a ban on those as well and how could the school dept say no now? They can't. At least not ethically as far as I can tell.

Everything I have said here is a realistic view of this ban. I am completely sympathetic to the 100 or so of those with these health issues. While saying that, I also understand this ban effects thousands of others and their families.

Anonymous said...

Some times you feel like a Nut! Some times you Don't!

Anonymous said...

Some of the non-Amherst (but still local) signatures on the petition in favor of the nut ban are from people with children in the Amherst or Amherst regional schools. Frequent commenter on this blog Walter Graff is one such example.

The petition in favor of the ban just started yesterday. The petition against the ban has been around about a week I think.

Nancy R. said...

It's important to note that that the petition in support of the nut ban has been around for only a day or so, whereas the petition against the nut ban has been around for almost two weeks, and the number of people supporting the ban far exceeds the number of people who oppose it. And while it's true that many of the supporters are not from Amherst, 9 our of 10 of the last people to sign the petition in support of the ban are Amherst residents. Again, this petition has only been around for a day or so -- as more Amherst residents are hearing about it, more Amherst signatures are coming in.

It's also important to note that some of the non-Amherst signatures on the petition in support of the ban are from people who have kids in the Amherst schools but who don't live in Amherst proper. They may have choiced into Amherst, or it may be a two-household family.

It's interesting to note that families who know a child with allergies to nuts and whose children are friends with a child with nut allergies are much more likely to support the ban on nuts. Friendship breeds compassion.

Anonymous said...

Smile: my understanding is that people are not following the ban at the high school or middle school so I think it will be OK if you stop tying yourself into a pretzel and carry on with food for your kids as you did before the ban.

Anonymous said...

It is also important to note that parents in Amherst often will not publicly state their opinion once the pitchforks start coming out. Why does everything have to turn into a battle?

Tom McBride said...

I would agree, anybody that signs both petitions has a future in politics. And speaking of, I can think of a figure in town hall that has been signing both petitions for the past few years, and has come out WAY ahead.

Anonymous said...

The problem here may be that almost no one knew about the nut ban. My family is one of the 100 and we had no idea that a nut ban was being talked about. Cut out of the process but dealing with the decision, people are upset and taking positions. This seems like typical Amherst--poor process which creates confusion and anger.

How about a do-over to reconsider the effects on everyone- allergic kids, athletes, poor families, kids with eating disorders, etc? Ask parents, kids, school nurses and other health professional what they think and see if a better solution can be found.