As our mission states at First United Methodist Preschool, we strive to create an environment for all children to grow and develop physically, cognitively, emotionally socially and spiritually. Along with that mission, we want to create a safe environment for every child who attends the preschool. **The preschool has banned all peanut products at preschool.** Please know that this decision was not made lightly nor quickly, but after careful consideration and counsel.
We are banning all peanut products as we have a child with life-threatening, airway-reactive peanut allergies. Based on recommendations by this child’s doctor, we have chosen to ban all peanuts and peanut products from our campus. This is further confirmed by a food allergy accreditation standard as well, which requires schools to prevent children from coming in contact with the potentially hazardous food.
There is a lot of controversy in the court of public opinion regard excluding nuts and nut products from school campuses due to allergies. Many parents feel that it is too broad of a rule to ban any food item for one particular child; it feels too extreme. Some schools have arranged designated eating areas for children with allergies and/or enact classroom bans of the particular food. They advocate that the child with the allergy must be educated and work to educate those around him/her to keep the allergen away from the child. This method believes that educating the child to manage his/her allergy is the best solution.
Others believe that schools are charged with protecting the health of every child attending, just as we would if a child has a disability or other health diagnosis. They believe that all children have the right to attend schools and have the same childhood experiences as all other children. These types of bans are becoming increasingly common.
In our particular case, we feel that the ban is appropriate for several reasons:
- The child with the allergy has the risk of severe, airway-reactive allergy to peanuts. In this specific case, this ban is proportional to this child’s specific situation.
- We feel that a preschool child should not be charged with maintaining and regulating their environment for such a serious issue, as a school-age child might be able to do. We feel it is age-appropriate for adults to take on this important task.
- Our biggest reason for a school-wide ban is the issue of cross-contamination. As we have shared space in the restrooms, at the playground and in Wesley Hall, it poses a unique threat. If a child has oily peanut butter at mealtime, and then touches the restroom faucet handle or scooter handle, it has now contaminated the surface with the allergen. The likelihood is exponentially greater that this child can ingest the allergen.
- Parents can send pre-packaged nut butters for their child. You may send unopened, sealed packets of sun butter, cashew butter, almond butter, etc. Parents MAY NOT send a nut butter sandwich; only the packet. Our teachers would not be able to tell the difference between the safe or hazardous but butters.
- We need parents to help us to our job. All food is brought from home and packed by parents. Our staff will be aware and monitor snack and lunch items, as they always have but the cooperation of our parents is essential to the success of this policy.
- We are a half-day program. As your children attend only a few hours per day, we feel that peanuts and peanut products can certainly be consumed after school hours, even on the way home from preschool, if you so choose.
We know that this may be surprising — we know that some of your children enjoy peanuts and other peanut products as well. It may be a change for you as a parent when packing lunches (please see our FAQ page on our website for some excellent lunch and snack ideas!). Further, we know that several children who attend preschool have allergies to other foods as well. We have no plans to restrict any other foods, as it would not be proportional in those cases. They are not life-threatening and each can be managed through adult supervision.
Other schools’ experiences with bans tell us that we will not be 100% successful in preventing an allergic reaction in this child. Some products can be contaminated or mislabeled, but we will be going a long way to reduce the risk to a life-threatening episode. We must do everything within our power to protect every child’s health therefore we feel that the ban is appropriate. As one teacher put it so succinctly, this is a life and death matter for this child. Any parent in that scenario would want us to do as much to protect his/her child as well.
We realize that this may be a sensitive issue. I will be available for any further questions or clarifications during the upcoming days. Thank you in advance for your cooperation and vigilance in this serious health matter.
Sandy K. Pennington