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Sam’s Story

At School, It’s Back to Square One

This month, Sam finds herself a teary mess facing an uncertain future. Why? Her son’s food-allergy aware principal is leaving his job.

Readers who’ve been with me since the start of this blog may remember when it was still referred to in ancient journalistic terms as a column (back in the dark ages of 2006).

How fortunate I am as an allergic parent and journalist to have this cathartic outlet for my allergy angst, advice, experience and musings; and even more, to have such an amazing conduit to reach all of you.

Excuse me for waxing nostalgic, but ever since my kids’ beloved principal announced his retirement in early March, then took a leave for a hip replacement three weeks later, I’ve been plummeted backward in time, straight to the early years of my first-born son’s school life.

It seemed like Lucas was the first anaphylactic kid at his school, which gave me new trails to blaze back in 2005 when he was entering junior kindergarten. (Note: in Canada we start kindergarten a year earlier than in the U.S.).

I was a mess. His first teacher was assuring and accessible to begin with, but only willing to go so far in terms of food accommodation or flexibility in her classroom. At some point in our preliminary meetings, she actually suggested home schooling. That just about did me in.

But the principal at the time seemed to better grasp the need to keep Lucas safe from his allergens (peanuts, tree nuts, egg, shellfish, kiwi, poppy, mustard and other) at school.

She understood the brand new (and groundbreaking) Sabrina’s Law, but she up and quit the profession by end of November, leaving us with a series of retired principals to take her place for the remainder of the year. And leaving me to start over and over again.

But with each new acting principal that school year came new ideas, better solutions, greater sensitivity and an ease of communication. I was no longer scared to return to the principal’s office to revise a plan that didn’t seem to be working (like dealing with supply teachers and field trips).

And it wasn’t long before I realized that our Allergy Action Plan could include having me lead the school staff through bi-annual allergy sessions, having EpiPens getting placed throughout the school, the establishment of allergy-awareness policies and communication for the whole school (not just Lucas’ classroom), and so much more.

That was the good part. But Year One was also a treadmill of meetings as issues arose and new principals came in. It was emotionally draining, confusing and beyond time consuming.

Then it came. May 2006. The phone call that changed everything.

Next: A Principal with Anaphylaxis? Great! Er, I mean…

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