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David Baxter PhD

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Deadly allergy excludes most sandwiches from Grade 1 class
Monday, September 10, 2007
CBC News, Ottawa

Bread containing wheat, as well as sandwich fillings and snacks such as cheese, peanut butter and egg salad, can all cause a deadly allergic reaction for a Grade One child at an Ottawa elementary school, leaving parents of classmates wondering what they can pack their kids for lunch.

Parents of students in the class, at Woodroffe Avenue Public School in Ottawa's Westboro neighbourhood, received a letter on the first day of school last week informing them that that a child in the class has a life-threatening allergy to eggs, wheat, milk, peanuts and nuts, and "the only way to ensure a safe environment" for the child is to keep those out of the classroom.

"Even a small amount can kill," the letter read in bold and italics.

Dianne Blackburn, whose daughter Alice Stewart-Blackburn is in the class, said she empathizes with the parents of the child with deadly allergies, but she wishes the school had offered some suggestions about what can be packed for other children in the class.

She said she received a list of sample lunch box items from the school last year, but now most of those are no longer allowed.

"I need some other options. I need some help here," she said.

The letter told parents they could contact the school office for more information, so Blackburn called the vice-principal about the letter early last week and was told the school would have a staff meeting about the policy that afternoon.

Instead of hearing back about the policy, she said she and other parents received a notice on Friday inviting them to take part in a pizza and milk program.

"I'm pretty sure most pizzas include flour in their dough, and certainly milk does contain milk," said Blackburn, who added that she was "perplexed."

Policy not designed for multiple allergies
The school's principal declined to be interviewed Monday on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning.

Ottawa school board trustee Pam Fitzgerald, whose son has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts, said there is a guiding policy about allergies for all schools, but it's not designed for a wide range of allergies like the ones that the child at Woodroffe suffers from.

"This is falling outside the realm of what the policy was originally developed to address," she told Ottawa Morning.

She added that the school has an obligation to help out parents like Blackburn, and it may need to work out a reasonable solution such as keeping separate tables for children with deadly reactions or ensuring the child with deadly allergies doesn't eat at school.
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