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strawberrygm

My First Issue With The School

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I am in my first issue with the school regarding my daughter and celiac, and am looking forward to your advice on this situation.

Last school year was our first to deal with this, and rather than have the school supply her with meals, I worked out a system that worked wonderful for myself, my daughter, her teachers, and was verbally approved with the county school nutritionist.

I sent her meals to school with her, and she was allowed access to the teachers fridge and microwave. She was excused from class 5 min prior to the end of class to prepare her meal. This plan carried over with us into middle school this school year, and all last fall. Now she is in a different class before lunch for 9 weeks. This current teacher yesterday refused to allow her to leave early due to a guest speaker in the classroom. I called the school after school had dismissed and talked with the teacher. She admitted to not allowing her to leave, and said that this guest speaker would be in the class 2 days a week and that she would not allow my daughter to leave on the days he was there. I was shocked. I wanted to go to the school first thing this morning and have a meeting with the principal, but my hubby convinced me to wait, to give her time for it to happen more than once, so we would have more of a leg to stand on with our complaint.

(they do serve salad at the school, so my daughter was able to eat, but who wants a salad every day? especially when its cold!?)

Again today, my daughter asked at the beginning of class to go early today, and was told no. The guest speaker wasnt even there today, he was home sick with the stomach virus!!!!

Teacher claims that they already leave 2-5 minutes earlier than the class is scheduled to be in the lunch lines, so she thinks my daughter should have time then. During those 2-5 minutes the students go across the school, put their books in their lockers, go to the restroom, wash hands, and then go straight into the lunch lines. My daughter says they are not standing in the hall for any extra time.

She cannot be late after lunch, she goes directly to locker, restroom, and class. As well as the fact that another group is coming in to lunch.

I have never had an issue with the schools, have never had to go to the school for any type of complaints at all. My daughter has never been in trouble.

I have printed out this awesome sheet explaining cross contamination issues in shared kitchens: http://www.gluten.net/downloads/print/gluten-free%20Kitchen.pdf

I have a short letter from the doc confirming her diagnosis.

Hubby wants to wait until Monday to go speak to the principal. I dont see what 1 more day is gonna matter, but I will if I have to because I need him there to keep me calm.

We only have to deal with this teacher for 9 weeks, this year, I am not sure if she will have her again in the next 2 years at this school or not. But we cannot let them run over us now, or it will never stop.

We do not have a 504 in place.

If the principal refuses to force the teacher to allow my daughter the extra time to prepare her meals (i do not think she should have to eat a cold meal everyday when she is taking her lunch due to health reasons, not a "school food is yucky" preference), then I will have to have them prepare her meals, and I will not cut any slack in her having her own dedicated area.

Our county is in the process of building 2 new elementary schools, 1 of which my boys will attend within the next 2 years, and in 3 years my daughter will move to the high school, so we are talking about the school board having to build at least 3 dedicated gluten-free safe kitchens simply because this teacher and principal want to be hard headed.

I welcome your advice on this issue~!!!

Thank you so much!!!

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I wanted to add that I also called the county school nutritionist yesterday to see if I should get a letter from her confirming our verbal agreement, but she said that since the cafeteria staff was not involved in the storage or prep of her meals, that it wasn't under her radar. It is just the principal and teachers involved at this point.

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Why not just pack her a cold lunch or put something hot in a thermos? My son takes his lunch to school everyday, in a lunchbox with an icepack or a thermos that I heated with hot water before putting in his lunch. He eats with all the kids, and more importantly, he does not need to have special accomodations, and does not miss out on anything.

I do not feel it is a school's responsibility to give a child time out of class to prepare a hot meal, when it can be sent from home. Just my two cents.

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I respectfully disagree with Wolicki. If a child needs five minutes to prepare food, I think that is reasonable. No one wants a cold meal every day. However, since the teacher doesn't have a problem with it the other three days, for two days she could have meals that do not need prep, so as not to make a big stink when they are trying to work with you. Just my thoughts, of course.

But you will have to fight this as she gets older. She will have to fight it, because people don't get it. Good luck.

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Maybe you are demanding too much? When I went to school, everyone had cold lunches. There wasn't a facility to provide food and there weren't any microwaves. I didn't even consider asking for microwave privileges for my children. They already brought their own (cold) lunches before diagnosis, and after diagnosis, my son continued to do so.

Sometimes you need to choose your battles. Is this one that you need to fight?

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Why not just pack her a cold lunch or put something hot in a thermos? My son takes his lunch to school everyday, in a lunchbox with an icepack or a thermos that I heated with hot water before putting in his lunch. He eats with all the kids, and more importantly, he does not need to have special accomodations, and does not miss out on anything.

I do not feel it is a school's responsibility to give a child time out of class to prepare a hot meal, when it can be sent from home. Just my two cents.

I agree. Im 14 and im in my last year of middle school. Lunch hasnt been a problem at all for me, just the really good smelling Otis Spunkmeyer cookies they bake twice a week! I usually bring salad with dressing in a seperate container. Or I make a sandiwch using bobs red mill homemade wonderful bread(REALLY good). I bring leftover rice(good cold) mixed with beans. I'll bring cold lentils or quinoa(im a vegetarian and dairy free so i eat some different foods). I do take hot lunch sometimes in a thermos. All you do is pour hot water in the thermos, pour it out, heat up the food, then put it in. We do this at 6 am and when I get to lunch at 11:10 is still super hot. This works great for noodles, soup, chili, etc.

I never leave early for my lunch, just when the bell rings and I have lots of time, but your daughters school might be different. Hopefully you figure it out soon. Even the kids at our school who have severe peanut allergys dont get accomodated!

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Why not just pack her a cold lunch or put something hot in a thermos? My son takes his lunch to school everyday, in a lunchbox with an icepack or a thermos that I heated with hot water before putting in his lunch. He eats with all the kids, and more importantly, he does not need to have special accomodations, and does not miss out on anything.

I do not feel it is a school's responsibility to give a child time out of class to prepare a hot meal, when it can be sent from home. Just my two cents.

I agree. We do the same and many, many parents whose children who aren't on special diets do the same for a variety of reasons, economic, personal value choices or cultural. There are many countries where it's standard practice to bring along foods that are prepared in the morning and not heated up at lunchtime and there are safe ways to do it. It doesn't have to be a burden or major time-consuming effort. If you haven't already, check out bentos. Lunchinabox.net is a great resource for ideas. Kids can adapt. Many foods that are well seasoned taste just fine at room temp.

I think accomodations for students who have special needs are great if they are available and we all should be greatful to those who make it happen. But I don't think that it's a right to have a hot meal everyday.

We would all love to have the same choices as everyone else. But "everyone else" doesn't always have all the choices we like to think that they do either. We lived in an area where, in the public school, hot lunch cost $4-$5 per day for elementary students. We couldn't afford that so it wasn't an option for us or many others.

If you had a plan set up and the meal was geared toward warming up those particular days(when the special guest was there) and she wasn't given time to prepare her food, resulting in her not having a lunch to eat, then that was wrong.

Please don't take this post as being argumentative or placing judgement on your choices. I'm just presenting a different perspective.

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Maybe you are demanding too much? When I went to school, everyone had cold lunches. There wasn't a facility to provide food and there weren't any microwaves. I didn't even consider asking for microwave privileges for my children. They already brought their own (cold) lunches before diagnosis, and after diagnosis, my son continued to do so.

Sometimes you need to choose your battles. Is this one that you need to fight?

Yes, it's true about schools and facilities. We live in an area now where all the schools have cafeterias and kitchens to prepare food and meals are very affordable and it was thay way when I was growing up but not long ago we lived in another area of the country for 7 years where it was common to have no cafeterias or kitchens that were equipped for preparing food. All of it was trucked in in hot boxes everyday, for those who could afford it. The kids were even lucky to have a well lit place to eat because the schools kept no janitor on staff so it took days to change a burn out light, and that was in a desireable school district!

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We do the thermos and ice pack sort of lunches daily. Our school has microwaves for the middle schoolers, but my son prefers to have the thermos because it's faster. The other kids who aren't on special diets have to choose to either wait for the microwaves or bring their food in a thermos.

I wouldn't make this a big deal. Sure it was nice when it lasted, but it isn't critical. And there will come a time when leaving early from class will mean she's missing something - notes for a test, taking a long test, etc.

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I think it is more that you are upset that you thought this was all worked out, you had a plan in place that worked well, had an agreement with the school, and they broke their promise. I would be upset too. I think it is more about trust. Of course you can buy a thermos or a bento box, but that was not what you agreed to and that was not the arrangement you had in place for quite some time. You sent your daughter with her lunch with the understanding that she could heat it up at lunch time. If they needed to change this because of a visitor, the teacher could have sent a nice note home to you explaining the special situation and I am sure you would have packed a lunch that wouldn't need to be heated or refrigerated that day or dealt with it in some other reasonable way.

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I think that calling principal is a good idea ... I really don't see what the big deal is about leaving a few minutes early to heat up a lunch! But, maybe the compromise is that she brings a lunch on the days that doesn't need heating when there is a guest speaker and is allowed to leave early the other days. My sons don't have access to a microwave and I wish they did! Every now and again he brings a hot lunch and the thermos doesn't keep it hot for very long.

Good luck to you!!

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I respectfully disagree with Wolicki. If a child needs five minutes to prepare food, I think that is reasonable. No one wants a cold meal every day. However, since the teacher doesn't have a problem with it the other three days, for two days she could have meals that do not need prep, so as not to make a big stink when they are trying to work with you. Just my thoughts, of course.

But you will have to fight this as she gets older. She will have to fight it, because people don't get it. Good luck.

If you're going to meet with the principal and teacher about this, you may as well start proceedings for a 504. That way, you can agree to certain standards and the documentation will be there if a teacher decides to deviate.

I do agree with others that thermoses and cooler packs work well for lunches. I send a hot lunch in for my daughter 3+ times a week (the rest are cold). I just boil some water in a teapot while preparing her lunch, pour the hot water into a metal thermos (the plastic ones suck). Then heat the food in the microwave, dump the water out and dry, then add the hot meal.

However, with that being said, I still think that this issue needs to be brought forth in the schools. Hot meals are provided free or at a reduced cost for those with financial difficulties. In all honesty, I don't see why a child with a medically diagnosed food issue should not have a hot lunch available to them as well. It is a form of discrimination because your child is not allowed equal access to services provided at the school.

That being said, it seems simpler to allow access to a microwave than to fund the cost of providing an allergen-friendly meal.

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I'm not going to weigh in on the hot/cold debate. I'm not even sure how I feel about it. I will share my thoughts as someone who comes from a teaching family and who worked special education k-8 for years. If you and the school agree 5 minutes early to microwave is the plan, then I strongly suggest your daughter have a 504 plan. She will have many teachers through the years and some are more sensitive than others. Additionally, I wonder if the problem may be stemming from the location of the microwave. Teachers are pretty protective of their kid free time (and for good reason) even with "good" kids. An option may be to provide a microwave that your daughter can use outside of the teachers lounge(office, resource room, home ec, favorite teacher). Now, if this guest teacher or special presenters were only in class 1 day a month or so, I could see asking your daughter to make other arrangements those days. 2 days a week is not acceptable to deny a person access to something the school and parent have agreed a child needs. In regards to the current situation, I wouldn't let it go on to build evidence. I would get a written statement of yes or no for a request for 5 day a week permission to leave class and then meet with the principal and whomever arranges 504 plans (nurse, social worker, 504 coordinator). In Michigan, each school is required to designate someone as the 504 coordinator. Ask.

You know, I am going to weigh in on the hot/cold debate. Your daughter is not likely to get enough calories from daily salads alone. I would worry about CC anyway. An appropriately heated building would not require hot foods for maintaining body heat. That said, I would have a hard time finding food to keep myself properly nourished without a microwave/refrigerator at least some days with my additional dietary restrictons. I could do it though. Probably at higher expense. I've also learned to like lots of "hot" foods cold. I'm not sure there is a right/wrong answer here or a one size fits all answer. I would probably lean toward the one that keeps your daughter with enough nutrition and that keeps her feeling as much like her peers as possible.

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thank you all so much for your responses!!!

my hubby and i went today and spoke with the principal. he was exceptionally nice.

yesterday, the teacher in question, and 2 or 3 others, watched as my daughter left the class with the others, stopped at a friends locker, then at her locker, then to the bathroom, then down to the fridge and grabbed part of her meal. a teacher asked her then if she was going to heat up her meal. she told him she didnt have time. then she went and got in the very back of the line (where else, lol) and got a baked potato.

so, it sounds like she does have time, barely, if she uses her time wisely. apparantly she is not.

ugh!

principal said we will continue to watch her for a while, see how the timing goes, see if warming her meal makes her not have enough lunch time, etc. and if it turns out that she really does have to have the extra 5 minutes, we will make sure it happens.

he also said that the next 9 weeks when she goes to a different class before lunch, that the teacher in that class is very, "oooh, you need to leave? ok..5 minutes, why not 10?" very easy going.

hubby and i waited until daughter was about to change classes, and we talked to her in the halls, just us. told her that it appeared she hadnt used her time wisely, and to please do so. make it a point to warm her lunch up. if it makes her late for next class, we will address it then. explained to her that the principal was super nice and very willing to work with us, but she also has to do her part.

sooooo, we'll see where it goes from here.

i'm not trying to be difficult, i just want her to have what she medically needs.

again, thank you all for your comments, all of them. its the lovely part about forums such as these, you get to see things from a completely different persepective. that helps us all to learn and grow.

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From what I am learning about 504s and school systems. You may want to talk about a 504 to document your current agreement with the school. You may also want to talk with the Principal about the changing needs of your child through middle school and high school. There may be a reason to set the 504 rules in place now becasue of what will be happening in her schedule next year, etc. Leaving early may not always be an option in some information crammed classes. However, if your school is big enough, arranging for your child to have study hall or a more relaxed atmosphere class before lunch might help significantly.

My kids are young, but they only get home lunch. It is rarely hot. But we dont eat a boring sandwich every day either. Chips and dip, salads, sandwiches, crackers with meat and cheese, etc. I pack whatever the kids like as long as there is a protein, a veg, a carb, and some fruit (most times).

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My son has been on the 504 plan for about 1 1/2 years, and so far its smooth. They have to comply with the 504-its federal-not a local right/law. Im going to another I.E.T. meeting w/ the school friday-he's been at a new school for only a couple of months-and basically-they know nothing about celiac or how serious it is-they are ignorant-i however,am teaching them! Pave the way for others-just do it with a smile! 504 is the way to go.

Blessings, Tam

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