Nicolette Brink is a blogger who likes to light what she calls "firecrackers" to get her readers to think. Her latest blog post "12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay" takes on school district policies that prohibit kids from bringing peanuts to school in order to protect kids with allergies. Her interpretation is that these policies elevate the needs of a few "special case" kids over the rest, and that the kids without allergies should have their peanut privileges protected. She makes several points, some sorta reasonable, others not so much.
Her argument is essentially this: Peanuts are amazing and healthy and my kids have the right to eat whatever they want to thankyouverymuch because they are healthy and athletic and amazing and if your kid is such a weakling that they can't be around peanuts then you need to homeschool.
There's a lot more, but that's essentially it. And while her Ayn Rand-meets-The-Hunger-Games vision of the school lunchroom seems like a glib pushback against petty school policy making, she seems to forget that food allergies are a real danger and that about 300,000 kids under the age of 18 go to the emergency room every year as a result of a reaction to a food allergy. And teenagers and young adults are the most likely to die from food allergy–related anaphylaxis.
Is your kid's right to trail mix really more important than someone else's kid dying? Survey says: nope.
More from The Stir: When Kids With Food Allergies Are Treated Like Outcasts at School
Sure, the world isn't peanut-free. But again, these are kids. Let's just all agree that healthy kids are in everyone's best interest and work together to keep them safe. K? Kids are silly and don't pay attention and share lunches and have food fights and stuff happens.
Like when 13-year-old Natalie Giorgi ate a Rice Krispie treat she didn't realize had peanut butter and later died as a result of her allergy. Or when 7-year-old Ammaria Johnson died at school after she was given a peanut by another student who didn't know about her allergy.
These are children's lives, not some symbolic stand against political correctness.
Brink also spends a lot of time worrying about what peanut-free school district policies will teach kids. She says no peanuts at school teaches kids without allergies that they're not as important as kids with allergies.
"Again, this is teaching our normal healthy children that their natural rights have to be set aside for a select few who have a special need," Brink writes.
Which is ridiculous.
Aside from the fact that she continually wants to label which kids are "normal" and "healthy," which is completely gross, it's interesting that she doesn't see the benefit of teaching kids to look out for each other and that making small sacrifices to keep someone else safe is good, noble even. She could explain that peanuts are poisonous to some of our friends at school and that if this helps keep everyone safe, then we all win. Or she could just keep complaining about being inconvenienced by a few vulnerable kids.
Teaching kids empathy, flexibility, compromise, and compassion are far more important than raising some little tyrant trained to resent every instance when someone less fortunate needs a little help.
But most appalling is Brink's suggestion that kids who don't meet her arbitrary criteria for fitness should be denied a public school education and be homeschooled instead. Our country is founded on the principle that everyone gets to have access to a public education -- regardless of who you are, where you come from, or disability. We just all decided that educated kids are just an American public good. Kinda like not bringing toxic food into the school that could kill someone's baby.
Finally, Brink's attack on schools for these policies is completely ridiculous. Schools are about safety first. While Brink rants about the injustice of her kids being denied peanut butter, schools are just trying to keep all the kids alive for the day and get them home to their parents. Take it easy.
She's right about one thing, though; schools aren't like real life. They're supposed to be a little kinder and gentler with our babies as they grow up. Schools and teachers are there for education first, sure. But they also tie shoes and button sweaters and hold little hands. School is place where we should take a little extra time to care for our kids. And peanuts are a small price to pay to make sure everyone's baby is safe.
Image via Connie Ma/Flickr