My daughter's school registration was today and since we're new to the school this year, old Mom had some butterflies herself. A new school means a new set of challenges for food-allergic families.
I know that many allergic families are petrified when school begins--especially if it's the first time their child has been gone all day, such as in First Grade. I know I felt that way. The thing to do is communicate early and often. For example, our new school sets up meetings with the District Nurse for food-allergic families to discuss their emergency plans. That is a wonderful idea that I think should happen everywhere. Failing that, an individual phone meeting could accomplish the same thing. Be good to your District Nurses--they're one of your best allies!
I've read a lot of comments and gotten several e-mails from moms who have battled with their elementary schools on the issue of food allergy safety and I'm always sorry to hear about those incidences. I've had the same types of struggles and my best advice is to calmly state your case to however many people are necessary, however many times are necessary. For example, I ended up having to contact the superintendent of my former school district in order ensure that my daughter's food allergy would be recognized by all the staff and teachers. I would always start with your child's teacher and/or school principal but if you don't get any help, go to the next level.
My other advice for food-allergic families is to develop a thick skin: you're going to need it! I'm always amazed at the number of food-related activities that one encounters throughout the school year. We can't participate in Market Day, buy Fannie May candies for the school candy sale, eat the "boxed dinners" provided for Back-to-School Night, etc. And just today I heard a mom next to me in line who was joking with the nurse "no my kid doesn't have any allergies--only to textbooks, hah, hah." I'm sure she didn't mean to be offensive, but I thought, "lady, you don't know the half of it."
If you feel that don't have the support you need from your school, try to band together with other allergic families to get your needs met. And please read the FAAN (Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network) website for tips on dealing with schools. It's a wonderful resource -- in the past, I've even directed school staff towards that site and it seems to have really helped educate them.
It's not always easy, but making your school "safe enough" can be done. Hang in there and let me know how it goes.