Lake Forest School District 67 is testing a new Allergen-Free Pilot Snack Program. Many parents reached out to us concerning the policy, so we investigated. We are sharing with you our letter to the 67 School Board and relevant administrators articulating our opposition and laying out our recommendations for improvement.
We invite you to read our letter below and form your own opinion. We also encourage you to share your own thoughts or questions with Dr. Jenny Sterpin, who is administering the program at [email protected].
Dear Dr. Sterpin,
As fathers of students at District 67 schools, we respectfully disagree with the Allergen-Free Pilot Snack Program as currently written and urge District 67 to terminate or revise it as soon as possible.
Outline of the Pilot Program as we understand it:
· Students are allowed to consume only specific snacks pre-approved by the District (see the list)
· Students unable to eat any of the approved snacks for medical reasons may seek an exemption from the school nurse
· Students unable to eat any of the approved snacks for any reason may petition the administration to add their preferred snack to the approved list.
· IL State Board of Education requires each District to review its anaphylaxis and food allergy guidelines every three years.
· District 67 revised its guidelines this summer after soliciting the recommendations of a group of 20-30 community volunteers comprising the Anaphylaxis and Food Allergies Response Plan Committee (see their report and committee composition here)
· This pilot will run for six weeks (August 23 - October 6).
· District says: "will continue to listen closely to our community and will be sending out a parent and staff survey at the end of the pilot to gather collective feedback. At that point, we will determine how best to proceed."
There are two elements to consider when evaluating this new policy: (1) is the District addressing a legitimate concern; and (2) is the District's proposed solution reasonably tailored to addressing the concern.
Legitimate concern? Yes!
Protecting the safety of children on our school campuses is a legitimate concern. We applaud the District and community volunteers on the committee for their time and efforts spent identifying potential allergen related safety threats and developing ways to address them.
Reasonably Tailored Solution? No!
This policy presents a subtle but important policy shift. In the past, the District would identify specific foods that presented an unreasonable safety threat to particular students on campus. For example, nuts have long been prohibited because (presumably) specific students on campus had nut allergies that would put their safety at risk if exposed to nuts.
This new policy dramatically expands the purview by (1) prohibiting all foods except those expressly approved, and (2) imposing food bans regardless of any actual allergies of specific students on campus and without considering less burdensome reasonable alternatives.
The District is beyond its purview to dictate to families what their children must eat. The approved snack list even includes specific brands. It infringes on parents' freedom and choice when determining what snacks their children should consume. Furthermore, pre-approving snacks could disproportionately affect students of diverse cultural backgrounds whose preferred snacks are unknown or identified by the dominant culture making the food-approved list. These burdens on personal choice and cultural diversity should be imposed only when solving actual safety issues, not in the blanket-like manner we see with this policy.
This policy is also a blunt-force solution to what could sometimes be addressed in a more narrowly tailored way. For example, this policy applies even if no students in the classroom or campus have food allergies, creating a situation where the District infringes on parental choice with zero or de minimus safety advantage.
Furthermore, the policy requires no evaluation of the magnitude of the safety risk to particular students on campus with food allergies; certainly, we want to ban nuts on a campus that includes a student with a nut allergy that could cause him or her to seizure or worse. But indeed, a note to classroom parents requesting no wheat products and a little in-classroom discussion with students should suffice to adequately protect a student with mild gluten sensitivity.
We send our children to school to be educated, not dictated as to what they may consume. We've seen too often by our local schools a misunderstanding of the proper role vis a vis our children, and we think it is important to push back when we see overreach.
The District should better respect parental choice and work within its appropriate purview by making the following revisions to its proposed policy:
(1) Return to banning specific foods rather than listing approved foods
(2) Ban foods only when dangerous to specifically identified students in the classroom or on campus.
(3) Require administrators to evaluate food allergies on a case-by-case basis and pursue the least burdensome impositions on parent choice that achieve the legitimate safety needs of the particular students with food allergies.
Thank you for your consideration,
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