Wow. At first I really didn't have any words.
Now - I feel fortunate that no one in either my family or my husband's family has a severe peanut allergy. We have gluten intolerance and celiac, but that's the only thing we know of so far. Still, just based on the constant worry of cross-contamination I can feel for some of the precautions that the parents of allergic children are asking the school and students to make.
- Is this girl's allergy really so severe that she cannot eat in the same cafeteria as someone with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? If she can be in the same room, I think it's paranoid and oppressive to make her eat somewhere else. Kids want to be "normal" and part of that is sitting at a table with all their friends. (I realize that some people will be affected by the smell, but to my understanding that's an extremely small segment of the population).
- Asking classmates to avoid snacks and wash their hands before class? The snacks are a no brainer - we certainly weren't allowed to eat in class when I was in school. With childhood obesity what it is, this seems to make sense as well.
- RE: the hand washing, with rampant flu this makes sense regardless of food allergies. If I was the school administration, I'd make everyone do this just because I'd want to avoid the spread of germs. Peanut allergies are almost secondary. If handwashing is too much of a pain, distribute antibacterial hand gel and make everyone clean off their hands. (And re-evaluate exactly why so many people get sick in an academic environment).
- Encouraging students to brush their teeth/rinse their mouths? I'm on the fence - given the astonishing ignorance of their parents this might be the only time in a day they are given the opportunity to brush their teeth. But it does seem a bit excessive to me. It's not like the students are going to be making out in class, and if they are then the school has many more problems than allergy accommodation.
- Hiring a peanut-sniffing dog? Overkill. Come on. This is just asking this girl to be teasing fodder for the rest of her school career - especially if an athletic star is caught with a PayDay in his backpack that he intends to eat after sports practice.
- Make the girl carry an epi-pen on her at all times. In fact, all of her teachers should have a spare as well, just in case.