There are occasionally "hot button" issues in the news that I can see both sides of. In these cases, it's up to me and myself to establish a dialogue and hash things out. I give you, Matt vs Matt.
In Viola, Arkansas, a debate is heating up, after a student had his peanut butter and jelly sandwich confiscated at lunchtime. The school has a no-peanut-products policy due to a few students with allergies, so the teacher helped the little boy get a new lunch and sent home a note explaining the situation to his mom.
That note didn't go over well, apparently. Soon after the incident, a 'School Nut Ban Discussion' group was launched on Facebook by parents conflicted over the policy.
Some parents believe allergy-free students shouldn't have to cater to a few kids' health sensitivities, particularly if it means cutting out healthy or low-cost snacks packed in their own child's lunchbox.
The mom who packed the confiscated PB&J sandwich thinks kids with allergies should learn "how to manage the problem" rather than live inside a "bubble," according to a local news report.
Other parents of special needs kids feel like they're playing second fiddle to those with allergies. "There are some autistic children that will only eat a PB&J sandwich or nothing at all," one parent opposing the ban argued on Facebook.
According to the Viola District Superintendent John May, this is the first push-back on a policy in place in his school for some time.
"The policy is in place to protect those with a severe, life threatening problem," May told Area Wide News, a Missouri-based news site. "Until we figure out something else, it would be foolish to drop the policy."
Matt: As the parent of a child who is currently allergic to a whole bunch of different foods, I kind of understand school peanut bans. When I was a younger man, I remember being quite irritated with peanut-free policies. I still remember the first time I got on a plane and was given pretzels instead of the honey-roasted peanuts I'd been given since childhood. It was, pardon my French, complete bullshit. I'm not allergic to peanuts, so give me some peanuts. I promise I won't accidentally drop any in an allergic child's mouth. Then I spent four hours in an emergency room with my daughter who was having an allergic reaction to something she'd eaten. It wasn't peanuts -- we still don't know exactly what triggered it -- but it was scary. We now carry an EpiPen with us wherever we go. I don't want to see my daughter struggle to breath like that ever again.
Matt: Dude, I was there, and, yes, it was scary, but you did get a popsicle. That was pretty cool, right? Listen, I don't want my daughter to be exposed to things that could give her hives or cause her throat to swell shut or anything like that either, but get real. Banning peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from schools? Tell me, Matt, what did your mom pack for you for lunch 95% of your time in school? I'm talking elementary through high school.
Matt: I don't really see how that...
Matt: Just answer the question.
Matt: Peanut butter and jelly.
Matt: Exactly! Peanut butter and jelly is a staple of the American diet. Not only that, but it's quick and easy to prepare. And let's not forget our past, Matthew. You weren't always a pop-culture blog bigwig with your own house and car and vacation home in Costa Rica...
Matt: I have a vacation home in Costa Rica?!
Matt: ...you were once a poor schmuck living in a moldy apartment with a temp job and a rampant fast food habit. You didn't have much money after rent and McDonald's cheese burgers, did you? You did, however, have enough money for a jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly though. And I don't know how often you look down from your golden tower, but times is tough right now, and peanut butter and jelly is sometimes the best option for many American families.
Matt: That's a fair point. But food allergies are real and some of them are quite deadly. There is still hope that Quinn will grow out of her food allergies, and I hope she does, because coconut milk ice cream tastes terrible...
Matt: You are not wrong there.
Matt: ...but as far as the parents of the special needs children mentioned in the Yahoo article, the picky autistic kids who will only eat one thing, I sympathize with their dilemma, but I would classify kids with severe food allergies as having special needs as well, special dietary needs anyway. So, if schools are expected to make autistic kids comfortable -- and they should be -- kids with food allergies should get the same consideration.
Matt: So, what do you propose, genius?
Matt: You don't have to be such a jerk, Matt.
Matt: Well, what, do you think all children with peanut allergies should be segregated from the rest of the student body at lunchtime? That's a great idea. Let's make a bunch of kids feel like horrible freaks just because they can't crack a bag of Planters in the cafeteria.
Matt: Segregating kids doesn't sound like a terrible idea to me, but I'm an adult, an adult who has done his time in school and realizes that none of that stuff matters in the real world. But to a kid, yeah, that'd be tough, being told they can't sit with their friends and talk about, I don't know, last night's episode of ALF or something. That's still a show kids watch, right?
Matt: However, being separate from the peanut-eaters will ensure that those with peanut allergies won't die at school, so, you know...
Matt: That's a little extreme. Listen, my daughter's daycare has her EpiPen at the ready just in case something happens and I'm sure a lot of these kids have them too. If Little Johnny accidentally inhales some peanut dust or trips and falls face first into a peanut butter sandwich, his teacher stabs him in the leg with the EpiPen and, bam, he's fine. The entire lunch room doesn't have to suffer because one kid is allergic to nuts.
Matt: It isn't one kid though, Matt. There are a whole bunch of kids with peanut allergies. I don't know why--I never knew anyone with a peanut allergy when I was growing up--but there is. Every child has the right to a comfortable, safe school environment, and if that means enjoy a handful of peanuts at home, so be it.
Matt: Well, I need a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to be comfortable, so there.
Matt: I guess we'll have to agree to disagree.
Matt: We're fun, aren't we?