School safety

I don’t know anyone with children who wasn’t deeply affected by the tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary in Connecticut. It made me hug my children tighter, thankful it wasn’t my kids, I felt guilty that I was thankful it was someone else’s children, even guiltier for verbalizing it. It prompted me, and thousands of other parents to reevalutate the illusion of safety we have had in sending our children off to school each day. It even prompted me to show up at a PTO meeting for the first time in 5 years to discuss the security at our own elementary school. I felt “ok” with the security at our other schools, but our elementary school has some major problems.

After i left the meeting I really gave some thought to what had been said, what’s being done, and the effects it may have on the children. Right now, my kids feel safe,and the truth is, a motivated killer can get in anywhere. I’m going to include here and exchange I had with another mom in response to the meeting. We are both long winded, so excuse it and know that i’m posting it up because i have a point, I swear.

  • Friend

    OMG its keeping me up at night….for real. im gonna set up a meeting with miss H….was i wrong to ask what other things were gonna be done to the school for security…was I wrong to wonder if the doors and windows would ever be replaced and updated….and this buzzer deal doesn’t even sound like it will be actually fixed to the building….I did a lil research on them and if I am looking at the same thing Miss H mentioned, this is a MOBILE buzzing system and isn’t even a part of the building( I could be wrong tho, it happens once in a while)….it just doesnt seem as though they (admins) are really are doing anything to our building. I see they are updating the HVAC system….yay, but as far as secuitry thats all we get is this mobile buzzing system….I feel like its our turn as a building….to be updated a lil bit at least. Have u been to harris…its a cadilac and us at coverdell are a pinto compared…(building wise) Shoot I bet those are the original doors from the 60’s when the place was built. and this nonsense on how school is just like the movies and walmart and such as far as security, being this is such a sucky world we live in, is really making me mad….not upset mad!! How can our principal compare our schools safety to that of a movie theather….shoot when I think all night long about it….a movie theather is safer than school….cuz IM THERE!!!! Miss H seemed to be a lil deer in the headlight looking when I asked if they were going to be doing anything to the windows and such…am I the only one who thinks we need MORE updates…..I hold high standards I guess….sorry to ramble, HELP lol…it was either you or sarah who got it and since you were at the meeting I thought Id get your advise. I do think a call to miss hill will be happening today….what do you think?? has anyone mentioned anything about it…besides making fun of me. LOLOLOL She really did make me feel like an ass tho….thats why i hate talking at them meetings. gonna take C to school and feed the animals if i dont reply right away.

  • Tara  (ME)

    Hey Friend – good morning! My laptop is having “issues” so I’ve run into the family room to respond…i think this is more than i can type on my phone LOL!!!

    I DO think our building has got to have more updates. There are multiple issues regarding this though, and A (the principal) really can’t do much other than implement building policy. The district is hurting for money in a major way. I don’t have to see a budget to know this because our school and School B,  School C & School D, and perhaps School E but don’t quote me on that one all became Title I schools this year. This means that a minimum of 40% of the students meet the low income standard determined by the free/reduced lunch program. School B is over 60% I believe. So this of course means that the tax base for the district is low. A bond issue for major renovation is the only thing that will be able to fix the big security problems. The best chance to have real security changes will need to come down from our School Board. There may be grants our district can receive, and I’d hope that Dr. M (the superintendent) has a grant writer on top of that.

    Do not feel like an ass at all. If nobody says anything, nothing will ever change – but I think the right person would be the superintendent, followed by perhaps our State Representative.

    I think most parents send their children to school under an illusion of safety. The truth is though, Ms. H is correct, it isn’t any safer than anywhere else we go. We have to heavily weigh whether we want our children to grow up in a police state and what implications both intended and unintended can occur with each additional safety precaution.

    The glass absolutely needs to be replaced. An auto-locking device should be installed on the doors to the building from the breezeway – one that the secretary could instantly lockdown without a key in the event that an intruder shot through/forced his way through the breezeway entrance. If I had my way, the front offices of these schools would be staffed by a principal & assistant with concealed firearms.

    This world is a scary place.

  • Friend

    Whew!!! I needed that….really I did. My mind felt like exploding. I’m still somewhat of a newbie and understand that I should take the building issues to the administration. Im so scared…..I wish they would just rebuild the whole place. Gas staions have more security with those h hidden 911 buttons they have….I guess I was just hoping for more for the kids. And so agree some one in the office should be armed and trained. it wouldn’t be so bad if chloe was my youngest….but all the years ahead of me at coverdell really worry me!!! I do send my kids under the illusion of safety but still hold school up there with church. I guess its just the fact that I’m not there with them like I am at other places. I’ve looked into moving and homeschooling…..already…..I don’t want to do either. We even got a low income grant from oyr church to send our kids there but with 4 even the grants would make it impossible. Im trying to just go with it and not let it bother me but……its not easy. Thank u for that tara…..I needed it.

  • Tara (me)

    I know a handful if people who do homeschool their children. On of my bffs does, she lives on a nearby street just a couple blocks from here. I am sure she would talk to you about how she does it and still balances life and giving her kids a social life. Our kids are all friends

    You know, every day for 6 years I have worried about sending Dorothy to school because if her life threatening allergies. I have worried that something will happen despite all the precautions we have in place, that someone will disregard them, that she will take a chance, that the epi pens wouldn’t be enough. Fear is a funny thing because I worry now, but I have had to balance my fears with making sure she can lead a normal, wonderful life. If something happened today, and I never saw my girl again, I know I have done everything I could do to keep her safe within my power. That’s all I can do. It’s the same with the security thing in a way, I feel like there are more things I want done but I have to hope that what they have, what they are doing will be enough.

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The final follow-up to the Halloween saga

well, I did think it was over, but nope, not quite. I thought a call from the principal would be enough. Apparently I was wrong because the next morning I got this.

You are going overboard with your attitude. Mary Goodson has already taken the game on. I said if you wanted to send in treats that is fine. Donuts are great. What seems to be the problem? I know about Dorothy and her allergies. I EMAILED ONLY TO MAKE SURE I HAD EVERYTHING UNDER CONTROL.. I have already talked to Annette and sent her an email yesterday morning.

You have blown this way out of proportion.

Such compassion! I replied…

But you didn’t. The doughnuts were unsafe, you said from the get go that they were unsafe and you knew she couldn’t have them. Do you not understand that just touching something can kill my daughter? Do you know what it is like to watch your child almost die and have epinephrine be the only thing that can save her life and that not be a guarantee? The party is supposed to be 100% safe for her, it was not. I offered solutions not critisism. When you fear sending your child to a party because someone doesn’t understand her disability, talk to me about going over board. Until then, I feel harrassed by your aggressive attitudte towards me. I’m sorry you can’t control the food, this is WHY WE HAVE A 504 PLAN. IT IS A DISABILITY. IT ISN’T ENOUGH TO MAKE HER SOMETHING DIFFERENT IT NEEDS TO BE THE SAME FOR THIS PARTY.

Email my husband in regards to what actually will be served other than the doughnuts. Mr.THEMAN@hisoffice.com

Of course, she ignored my request that she send further communication to John. I’ll take a moment here to say that our school is NOT tree nut free, only Dorothy’s classroom and classroom parties – this is outlined in her 504, school functions do not have to be nut free.

I said that I was getting them from IGA. I have always gotten them from IGA, For the Grandparents Breakfast, for the Dad’s breakfast. I did not know about IGA. That is why I emailed you first RIGHT!!!!

I was checking with you……….

followed by this changed attitude email…again, to me…I never did respond to her.

Tara:

I am done with this. If you want to bring the donuts, please do. Mary Goodson said she would take care of the game, I am reading a storie. If you want to put the craft together for the kids, I can drop the supplies off at your house.

This is a party for the kids and this is absolutely ridiculious. I have never had any problems like this before since I have been involved in these things and I have a 19 year old and I refuse to go through anything like this again. I just emailed you to make sure that Dorothy was going to be able to have a safe party just like everyone else. These conversations got out of control. I am sorry.

Let me know if you want to put the craft together.

I told John she could take her craft and shove it up her ass.

Our principal got more involved and sent this.

It seems as if there are some hurt feelings among the two of you and I want to see if I can help a little. You are both caring mothers that just want the best for your children and the other children in class.

This is where I think we are:
Mrs. Bitch is planning the party in terms of activities, games, etc. We certainly appreciate this.
Mrs. Tara does not wish to plan the party. She just needs to approve the food items. This is something that is written into a special plan developed for her child because of her allergies.

How about this…Bitch please send me a list of the food you are thinking of serving and putting in treat bags (it might help if they are chosen from the list Mrs. Tara provided). Then I will check to make sure that everyone in the class can eat these items.

If donuts are still in the plan, they do need to come from a nut free bakery and Mrs. Tara can pick them up. I see this as the extent of her role in this party.

Perhaps instead of contacting each other, I can be the go between on this matter. My hopes are that we can resolve this as a group before the Winter Party.

I’ll consider that good.

Thank you all for your positive thoughts on this and for your concern about my daughter! I wish she could be surrounded with such wonderful people all the time!

Party planning update…this is a doozy

Rather than paraphrase, I’ll just include the emails intact.

Room parent:

No the candy does not have tree nuts in it. I will not send a list home because I have everything I need now and the parents gave the party money, they don’t need to be nickeled and dimed to death. I will take care of it.

What about drinks is there something specific that Dorothy can not have?

My response:

Okay. I”m not trying to be a pain here, I promise. Our action plan provides that the snacks be coordinated with me, so that they are appropriate for Dorothy. The classroom is supposed to be tree nut free, and party time really presents additional issues. I have always planned the parties (and I”m definately glad someone else volunteered, though I must have missed the sign-up or I would have volunteered for at least one of them), so food was never an issue.

Parents ALWAYS send extra stuff in, even if they have been asked not to because they want to help, so I will work with Mrs. Wallut to find out how she wants to handle that if the snacks are not okay.

For drinks she is allergic to mango. There aren’t too many things that actually contain it, but some of the Tampico stuff does have it. Fruit punch, capri-suns, Koolaid, apple juice are perfect.

Thanks again.

Her reply…

You know what. I suggest next time you make sure to sign up for these parties. I know there where at least 2 forms that went out and a meeting was held last week. I am sorry that you have missed those but since you have I have signed up for the parties. I am again, not asking for anything and will not. If parents want to send something in that is there choice and it will be noted on my flyer. I know nothing of having to go through you for food issues, I know that I need to follow certain rules and I have. I have contact you, I have asked what Dorothy can and can’t have. Food as never been an issue, I have been asking you to make sure everything is covered. (Just like all of the breakfasts)

This is my party and I will work with Mrs. Wallut what I have planned. If there is something she does not like or something she wants changed I will do that. To many hands in the fire is too confusing for everyone. That is what a headroom parent is for.

Again, if you have problem with this I suggest you make sure you are headroom parent next year.

and finally my response

I shouldn’t have to volunteer to run a party to keep my daughter safe. I volunteered to assist with the party and a packet was sent home from Mrs. Schiffer. I don’t want to plan the party, I was discussing food with you as is outlined in our ADA 504 document, which is a legally binding document. The packet that was sent by the PTO said to talk to the teacher about allergies, which I assume you did. I don’t care how you plan the party, I volunteered to help. I had thought that all help would be welcomed.

Good luck, I hope that your party runs smoothly

At this point, the principal called my back. She assured me that I am not in the wrong here, that this room mom MUST COORDINATE SNACKS AND TREATS with me and that she would call the room mother. She also has spoken to the teacher to let her know to be more assertive, that it is her JOB to keep Dorothy safe and the classroom nut free.

Here we go again, Halloween Party

I’m frustrated today. This is the first party that either the teacher or I haven’t planned. I sent an email to the lady planning it two weeks ago reminding her that the party needed to be TREE NUT free, along with a list of over 200 acceptable snacks. She responded to me letting me know that she was, “well aware of Dorothy’s allergies.” Well, geez, lady. I’m glad you are AWARE of her allergies, but this didn’t answer my question, nor did it give me a warm and fuzzy vibe. Dorothy’s classroom is supposed to be tree nut free. She is supposed to feel safe in her classroom, this is why we have a 504 plan.

I get this email today:

Tara:

I am getting ready to get stuff for the Treat Bags and need some idea’s to make one for Dorothy. Could you please give me some ideas. Also, we will be having donuts from IGA. I know she can not eat these but when we had the Grandparents Breakfast I had gotten her the Hostess Muffins (Minis) is that still OK and which kind does she like best?

Thanks!

My response:

Is there a possiblity that her bag and snacks could not be different? The classroom is supposed to be the one *safe* place for her in the building that doesn’t contain any nuts, her 504 plan even limits what kind of lotion her teacher can use. Paul’s Doughnuts, down off of Elm near New Town, is tree nut free and is a safe doughnut for her to eat, in fact, I will volunteer right now to provide all of the doughnuts 🙂 As for the treat bags, safe snacks are mini hershey bars, nerds, sprees, skittles, whoppers, fruit snacks, fruit roll ups, Hostess snacks (Ding Dongs, HoHo’s, Twinkies, unfortunately now all the mini muffins are no longer tree nut free), twizzlers, and smarties. For the bags for everyone, I have jelly bracelets, spiders and pencils…lmk if you want me to just send those in the day of or what. Did you want me to plan a game or two?

Thanks!

…and I’m not surprised, here is the response:

Game is taken care of. The kids were getting candy and I just wanted to make sure that I had Dorothy covered. Mrs. Gxxxx has sent in treat bags and pencils, if you would like to send in the bracelets that would be great. If you want to take care of the donuts that is fine also. I was not going to use the party money, just saving it for the Christmas party or Valentines Day party so if you need to be paid back let me know.

Okay, so apparently the candy is unsafe for Dorothy. Apparently the PLANNER lady failed to tell people about the need for the food to be tree nut free, and really doesn’t give a shit if she takes tree nuts into the classroom, but she wants Dorothy to be, “taken care of.” Well, taken care of means INCLUDING her in the damn party, INCLUDING her in the snack. It does not mean giving her something special. There is absolutely no reason that this should be an issue – none.

I just sent an email to the teacher asking how she plans to handle this, and an email to the planner lady asking if she will be asking for specific foods to be sent in from the list I provided. I know Dorothy will encounter nuts (the human variety – like this woman, and the kind from trees) but she is in 2nd grade, at this point I don’t think she is prepared emotionally for being singled out during a party. She already wants to stay home due to a certain amount of anxiety about nut-encounters, singling her out during a party will only succeed in exacerbating her anxiety.

Oh…and why didn’t I volunteer to plan this party? Well, I despise most of the women on the PTO, so I don’t go to the meetings, and the lady planning this party was the president last year, so she just automatically signed herself up.

Some alone time with the Dot

I took Dorothy out for an evening with Mommy while our boys went to the racetrack to see the drags, and maggie stayed with grandma. We had a great dinner together and she got to talk without competition from her very talkative brothers. She told me that she wants to go to a bunch of countries and buy necklaces, maybe even outer space. She has a loose tooth. She really, really wants to sit AT the same table as her friends this year. The answer this year is still no. It made her eyes water up, but I told her that I want her to be safe. I’ve mentioned this before, but she doesn’t remember her anaphylaxis, I do. She remembers getting hives as a 6 year old, but not the ER trip where they administered epinephirine before even admitting her or filling out paper when she was 22 months. We talked a lot about how it is no fun being different or special, how she just wants to be like everyone else and not have food allergies. The waitress gave her a balloon. She wanted to bring it home, but opted to release it because Liam is allergic to latex and she wouldn’t want Dustin to have a can of nuts in his room. She’s starting to get it….time…time will add maturity, which will help.

We ended our night by watching High School Musical. She asked if I’d watch #2 & #3 with her soon. I think we have a movie night planne.

Could I have a break?

The Doughnuts with Dad was a no-go. That had been my big thought. It was soon replaced when I saw a tube of my good lipgloss sticking out of Dorothy’s pocket. Did she ask to use it? No. Was she trying to hide it? Yes. Does this qualify as stealing? You betcha. Did she read the label? Was it safe?

I’ll start by saying that I don’t keep anything in the house that is unsafe for Dorothy. Not Tresemme shampoo, not Hershey Kisses (recently contain shea, not Puff’s Plus tissues, not Burt’s Bees diaper cream, Tom’s anti-sting stick, not a can of nuts, nothing. Dorothy cannot take that for granted though. She has GOT to read labels, because sometimes ingredients change or different sizes contain different things, like Reeses Peanut Butter cups and Reeses Peanut Butter Eggs. And, our house isn’t the only place she goes, especially now as she gets a little older she will be spending more time at friends’ homes, and every day she gets older is another step towards her eventual independence. She’s going to have to learn to manage her own allergies effectively, educate others, and keep safe, I won’t be able to do it forever.

Well, no, Dorothy did not read the label on my lipgloss, nor had it occured to her to do so. I talked to her about how borrowing things without asking is the same as stealing. She is unplugged for 48 hours to ponder the stealing. Punishment for diregarding her personal safety is another issue though. I made her watch “When Food Kills”. If you haven’t seen it, there is a link on the right hand side of my blog. I also had her give me all of her lipglosses, lipsticks, chapsticks and makeup. I don’t know when I’ll return them. I just don’t know how to impress upon her that dead is forever and that while we have EpiPen’s that they aren’t a guarantee if a reaction is strong enough.

Here I am struggling to keep her innocent and a child as long as possible, but she has to carry the burden of a very adult issue. I am the only person in our family who has seen Dorothy in the midst of a full on anaphylactic reaction. The memory is as fresh in my mind as it was the day it happened. Within seconds of consuming 1/4 of a cashew she began coughing, then facial swelling, hives, vomiting, diarhea and then she became limp. When I carried her into the ER, I was carrying a very swollen, unresponsive 22 month old. She has had 2 contact reactions since that time, but I don’t know that she remembers those. I know she trusts me and that she knows that the reaction to tree nuts can be bad, but she doesn’t KNOW. She hasn’t seen it. She was just a baby then. I don’t want to ever see my little girl like that again, so I am vigilant about education for myself, her and anyone who has contact with her, but what if that’s not enough? She didn’t even think to read the label on a lipgloss….