WATCH ABOVE: A preview for 16×9’s “No Milk Allowed.”
Students at one Catholic elementary school in Hamilton, Ont., have been told not to bring any dairy to school. No milk. No yogurt. No cheese.
That is because of one student, Elodie Glover, and her mother Lynne. Seven-year-old Elodie has potentially life-threatening allergies to dairy and egg.
“It’s terrifying being the mother of a child with such severe allergies,” said Lynne Glover.
Those allergies have prompted Lynne to take what some have called “drastic measures” to keep her daughter safe and educate those around her.
Lynne wants all allergens treated the same, like peanuts or tree nuts. It’s been almost a decade since peanut butter sandwiches were banned from lunch bags. Now, milk is the food on people’s radar.
That is partly because food allergies in children have tripled in the last twenty years and milk is the most common childhood allergy, affecting up to three per cent of kids.
When Lynne enrolled Elodie in kindergarten at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic School in 2011 she says she asked the school if they would protect Elodie.
“I was told every child has a right to a public education and we will do everything it takes to keep her safe,” said the mother of five.
WATCH BELOW: Lynne Glover’s seven year old daughter, Elodie, has a life-threatening allergy to dairy. After Elodie suffered multiple reactions at school, Lynne took Elodie out of class and filed a human rights complaint claiming the school board discriminated against her daughter.
It is the children susceptible to anaphylaxis that are at the most risk; a potentially fatal reaction that can occur within minutes of ingestion.
“The reason it happens very quickly is because these people are so allergic that their immune system reacts quickly and their multi-system allergic reaction happens suddenly and explosively,” says Dr. Gordon Sussman, who has been treating allergies since the 1980s.
There is no cure but it can be treated with Epi Pen. Life with allergies becomes about managing risk and being vigilant, said Lynne.
Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Elementary School does have a policy for students with severe allergies, a mandatory requirement after 13-year-old Sabrina Shannon died after accidentally consuming dairy at a school in Pembroke, Ontario in 2003.
At Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Elementary School Epi Pens are nearby, teachers are trained in allergy awareness, signs are posted outside classrooms and announcements are made in the school newsletter asking parents to avoid bringing allergens.
But allergens were still available at school functions, distributed in the milk club, the breakfast club and allowed in the classroom.
Elodie would eat at a separate table or in a separate room. Lynne said the segregation was taking a toll on the young girl. “Every child likes to go out and socialize with their friends,” she said.
Seven-year-old Elodie Glover has potentially life-threatening allergies to dairy and egg. 16×9
Seven-year-old Elodie Glover has potentially life-threatening allergies to dairy and egg.
Lynne says the school was discriminating against her daughter. She filed a human rights complaint last year, saying Elodie’s right to an education was being violated. Lynne pulled Elodie out of class.
The school denies any discrimination.
“…A lot of people feel and say these parents are unrealistic,” says human rights specialist Maurice Brenner. “What they want are assurances that these school boards will put in place initiatives up to the point of undue hardship. That’s what the human rights code says.”
After a lengthy negotiation and mediation period, a partial settlement was reached just days before Elodie was supposed to start Grade 2. Dairy will not be allowed in Elodie’s classroom.
While Lynne is pleased with the outcome, other parents are not. They say that milk is important for nutrition and the school did enough to keep Elodie safe.
But Lynne says she is asking for Elodie, and other children with severe allergies, to be respected. She is asking for a little empathy.
“What if it was your child?”
16×9’s “No Milk Allowed” airs this Saturday at 7pm.
16×9 will be hosting a live chat about school children and allergies. Weigh in on the discussion from 8PM-10PM ET this Saturday.