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December 1, 2021

Student’s allergy raises difficult questions

The presence of a student with a potentially fatal latex allergy
in the Gilroy Unified School District raises some difficult
The presence of a student with a potentially fatal latex allergy in the Gilroy Unified School District raises some difficult questions.

School officials are following federal law by making accommodations that allow the girl to attend public school in a safe environment. The student, who will be a sixth-grader at Solorsano Middle School this fall, has previously attended San Ysidro and Del Buono elementary schools successfully.

But middle school, with its frequent classroom changes and larger student population, will pose additional challenges for the student, her family, fellow classmates and school faculty and staff.

Solorsano officials have asked parents to take precautions to prevent problems, just like administrators at San Ysidro and Del Buono did in the past.

But some parents are distressed by the list they’ve received. They’ve been asked, for example, to use latex-free erasers and bandages and warned that latex balloons and bananas, which contain natural latex, are banned.

“I understand her rights, you know, but I’m also trying to understand our child’s rights, too, to have as much education as they’re getting without having to do a bunch of extra things,” one parent told reporter Lori Stuenkel.

To us, it’s a matter of weighing an accommodation’s cost and inconvenience against the allergic child’s right to a public education.

When we place the inconvenience of no bananas and balloons on one side of the scale, and the value of the allergic child’s education on the other side, it’s an easy call. Of course, the family is right to ask the school community to make these minor changes so that their daughter can go to school like every other child.

And we hope those who are asked to make these small sacrifices do so with a spirit of gratefulness that they don’t have to deal with a life-or-death allergy, rather than a spirit of perturbed inconvenience.

As the accommodations become more expensive and intrusive, the scale becomes more difficult to read. At what price point or level of inconvenience does the accommodation become unreasonable? At what point do the interests of the many outweigh the interest of one?

We don’t have the answers to these questions. We suspect that as schools grapple with the collision of rights and limited resources, the answer will eventually be found in a court of law, perhaps even the Supreme Court.

Until then, we’re glad to see that GUSD officials are willing to make reasonable accommodations so the allergic child in question can obtain a public education in a normal environment. And we’re hopeful the Solorsano community will follow the example of cooperation set San Ysidro and Del Buono families, faculty and staff.

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