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Are peanut allergy protections in schools going too far?

March 24, 2011 at 7:06 AM ET

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A group of parents in Edgewater, Fla., have been protesting to have a 6-year-old child removed from elementary school because of her severe allergies.

Hearing the details of the story, you might wonder: Are these parents going a little nuts?

The first-grader, the daughter of Tracey and David Bailey, has a rare, life-threatening peanut allergy and can't have the slightest exposure to someone who has eaten a product containing nuts. As Tracey Bailey told the website clickorlando.com, "We're not talking about she will break out in a rash. We are talking about she will die, stop breathing."

To protect Bailey's daughter, other first-graders have to wash their hands and rinse out their mouths twice a day before entering the classroom. Teachers also use Clorox wipes to clean desks. (Update: The school announced it would ease up on the mouth rinsing requirement.)

All this time spent sanitizing got some parents in such a tizzy, they brought signs to picket at the school last week. They say their kids are spending 30 minutes a day getting clean – time that could be spent on learning. Plus, their kids are missing out on holiday parties in the classroom with outside food. "They shouldn't have to lose out on what they should be able to experience at school," said Carrie Starkey, whose daughter is a classmate.

Watch TODAY video: Child's peanut allergy drives some parents nuts

Parents like Starkey want the Baileys' child to be home-schooled. But since her condition is covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act, the school is mandated to provide her a safe environment. Meanwhile, the Baileys feel bad about the classroom disruptions, but say it's a matter of protecting their daughter.

Parents who have kids with allergies empathize with the Baileys' ordeal of keeping their kid safe. In her popular blog, The Nut Free Mom, Jenny Kales of Chicago weighed in on the story:

The thing about food allergies is that it does require cooperation from others. And many times, people don't want to give it. Food allergies sometimes reveal what we are willing to do for other people. Some generous individuals want to help all they can; some want to hang on tight to their food "rights" and not give an inch. It's tough.

I know that emotions run high when it comes to our children, but I would ask those protesting if they would also protest accommodations made for children with cancer, diabetes or asthma?

Others take issue with the burden these peanut protections are putting on a bunch of 6-year-olds. Writes one commenter on the blog Jezebel:

I totally agree that it is "the obligation of the adults around her to make sure she is protected". Her parents are putting this burden on others though. If your child had such a severe allergy, would you really feel comfortable telling a school-full of children how to eat/drink/live? "Please rinse your mouth out or my kid will DIE". This isn't a run-of-the-mill allergy, if she *breathes* peanut she could die. I can't imagine how difficult this must be for her family, but they need to come to terms with how serious this is and not expect others to look out for their kids' near-constant threat of death.

By following the school's rules for sanitizing, it seems the kids in the classroom are cooperating and willing to help out their classmate. (And they get something out of it, too: the fantastic habit of hand-washing!)

Maybe they don't get to have birthday cupcakes or candy at their class Halloween party. But other then the occasional sugar high, are they really missing out?

--Posted By Kavita Varma-White

What do you think? Are peanut-allergy protections in schools going too far?

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