Kids With Food Allergies Targets for Bullies
Adults Bully, Too
Study co-author Scott Sicherer, MD, who is chief of the pediatric allergy division at Mount Sinai, says kids aren’t the only ones who bully children with food allergies.
Adults who don’t understand food allergies often added to the stresses of children who have them by singling them out, often in the school setting.
“They may say, 'We’re having a class party, but we can’t have this food or that food because of Billy’s allergies,'” he says.
Morgan Smith’s mom Nicole remembers the PTA meeting where a classmate’s mother announced that she was sick of all the nonsense about peanut allergies and ‘peanut free zones.’
“She said she was bringing peanut butter cookies for field day and she didn’t care what anybody thought about it,” Nicole Smith says. “I just sat back and watched as another parent whose son was in Cub Scouts with mine got up said ‘I can’t believe you would do something that would put other people’s children at risk.’ I didn’t have to say a word.”
Another incident involved a parent who insisted that her fifth grader’s mid-morning snack had to be a Snickers bar, even though all the classrooms were peanut-free.
“The principal told her if that was the case, she had to bring a note from her son’s doctor,” Smith says.
‘Speak Up, Don’t Suffer in Silence’
Smith says she has been fortunate to have school administrators who took food allergies seriously and a son whose personality allowed him to not only survive his early school years but thrive.
The Smiths have lived in the same neighborhood since Morgan was little and he is now friends with the two kids who bullied him in first grade.
He also speaks to younger children about bullying, telling them about the importance of not suffering in silence.
“Especially with food allergies, kids can be shy and antisocial,” he says. “But it is important to make one close friend or two or three. Having people behind you to stand up to a bully is important. When people stand with you the bullying stops.”