Help Keep Kids Safe in Schools with Anaphylaxis Allergies

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At this point, I feel I am left with no other option than to plea to strangers on social media (where I am not particularly active) as a concerned Mom simply trying to spread the word and create impactful change. I am a proud Mom of three children all of whom attend public elementary school in the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB). My youngest child has an anaphylaxis allergy to peanuts. In this current school year, 2017/2018, my children’s ‘Nut Free’ school has had two major fundraisers that contained both peanuts and tree nuts. Not “may contain” but rather, “contained”. For the second fundraiser, a flyer came home stating it was “A New Fundraiser”. As if to say in 2018, after all the talk and education surrounding anaphylaxis allergies, (specifically, the peanut allergy), “A New Fundraiser” containing that very allergen was established and then distributed in her school-- this alone boggles my mind! This is why I am requesting that you share my family’s story with anyone you believe might be able to help my quest for positive change within the TVDSB.
The TVDSB states it is their “best practice” not to fundraise with any products that contain nuts. However, this “best practice” has now failed my daughter twice this year. I then learned of a Fundraising Policy that was to be voted on on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, so I immediately contacted Board members and asked them if “no fundraising with Peanut or Tree Nut products” was included in this document? This is especially important for elementary schools that are to be Nut Free or ‘Aware’ as the new saying goes. I requested if this statement or philosophy was not already on the document, that it be added. The Board advised me that the Policy would state “Fundraising activities that infringe upon the medical needs of a student(s)/staff member(s) with a medically documented allergen should not be undertaken.” This line allowed me to breathe a little easier as I felt like progress was finally being made. Little did I know that ‘should not’ and ‘will not’ hold two very different meanings. At the May Board meeting I quickly learned just how naïve I was. It was requested by one Trustee to change the wording from ‘should not’ to ‘will not’ but alas was decided the statement could not be amended, as there are many non-life-threatening allergies to consider as well. One example of a non-life-threatening allergy that was given was a wheat allergy. A (in my mind, insensitive) comment was made by the Chair about how many potential parents would be emailing in if pizza lunches were cancelled. That is when it hit me-- even School Board Trustees considered this to be an appropriate time to insert ‘humour’, which right away diminishes the severity of an anaphylactic reaction. Was he trying to compare (hypothetical) upset parents over the potential loss of a pizza lunch to that of concerned parents with children who have a life-threatening allergy where the potential is loss of life? The comment was in very poor taste.

The difference between the treatment of an allergy and the treatment of an anaphylaxis allergy is truly significant. I know this personally as my family has both types. For a ‘typical’ allergic reaction, the remedies are Kleenex, washing hands and face, and possibly Benadryl. The remedies for an anaphylactic allergic reaction are administering their epi-pen (possibly two), an immediate 911 call and rushing to the hospital to have medical professionals assist those in distress as soon as possible. Every single time an individual is exposed to the allergen that causes an anaphylactic reaction, that individual is at greater risk the next time for a reaction of greater severity--this is a fact and in no way a joking matter. As unpleased as I was with the comment and conversation around allergies at the May Board Meeting it only confirmed and amplified my concern. This is exactly why anaphylactic allergies need to be handled differently within the school environment and cannot simply be lumped together on the General School Fundraising document.

On May 24, 2018 (two days after their May Board Meeting) I wrote an email to the Board expressing my concern over the conversation that took place regarding allergies and fundraising. Additionally, I requested information on how I could get the Fundraising Policy put back on the agenda. I received a response in a record breaking 13 minutes where I was basically told my email would be passed along to their policy working committee for future consideration and that ‘discretion’ is preferred in policy so not to limit the potential of other non-life-threatening allergies. It appears the policy was made vague because the Board does not intend to follow their own policy from inception for a non-life-threatening allergy. If that is the case then why not have a meaningful statement that can actually protect the life of a child with a life-threatening allergy? It took the Chair only 13 minutes to respond to my email where I remarked on his comments during their May Board meeting but I am still waiting for someone at the Board to respond to my question about how a policy could be put back on the agenda. On June 21, 2018, (27 days later and after another follow-up attempt on my part) I was contacted and informed that there is no time frame required before a policy can be reviewed. However, I was never actually informed how a policy gets put back on the Board’s Council agenda which is the question I originally asked. I was simply informed that the Fundraising Policy was not on the TVDSB’s June agenda nor did they plan to put it on it. I was also told that they did not plan to put it back on any upcoming agenda and that when it is reviewed in three years it will only be reviewed by their Equity and Inclusion Committee.

It is because of the above that I ask for help with my quest in having the General School Fundraising – 4005a put back on the TVDSB Council agenda. It is my goal to have a second bullet point under section 6.4 Safety addressing anaphylaxis allergies. It would be as follows:

2) Fundraising activities that infringe upon the medical needs of a student(s)/staff member(s) with a medically documented anaphylaxis allergen will not/shall not be undertaken

My family’s story and what’s been happening goes much deeper than what I have written here today, this is merely one tiny snap shot. The correspondence I have received from the Board addressing my concerns have come days, weeks and even months later. Safety of ALL students should be a priority. Adding the proper wording into the Fundraising document will help keep children with anaphylaxis allergies safe at schools. I am hoping that if enough signatures are gathered the Board will make the needed changes to their Fundraising policy. Please sign this petition to help get the General School Fundraising – 4005a put back on an upcoming TVDSB’s Council Agenda Meeting. Thank-you!