You Be the Judge: Should Parent Have Let Son Pass Out Treats Even Though One Classmate Couldn’t Partake?


Every parent of a child with a restrictive diet, like those who have food allergies or celiac disease, knows how difficult it is to navigate food in the classroom. While some schools ban classroom snacks outright, and some work to accommodate all students, still others have no rules in place.

Which brings us to this installment of our “You Be the Judge” series, where we present a food allergy-related scenario and invite you to educate others by sharing your opinions and expertise.

A woman turning to reddit for feedback described her dilemma in a post entitled: “AITA for allowing my child to bring in souvenir snacks for his class despite knowing this would exclude one of the kids?

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We’ve referred to “AITA” before, where this story was recently posted. AITA is short for “Am I the A-Hole,” a subreddit (discussion group) that provides a medium where people question their behavior and readers vote.

Here is her post:

I recently went on a holiday to Japan with my son (7) and whilst we were there he tried some delicious biscuits which he really wanted to buy and share with his classmates once he got back.

Obviously I was happy to purchase some additional and found it really sweet he wanted to share with everyone.

I didn’t think about it at the time of purchase since we were mid holiday in a different country, however when we were back and I was packing my son’s bag for his first day back at school I suddenly remembered that he has one classmate, let’s call him Joe, who has a gluten allergy and wouldn’t be able to eat these biscuits.

But it was too late for me to do anything about this, it was late and shops were closed so I wouldn’t be able to buy an alternative plus they wouldn’t be from Japan anyway and would be from the local supermarket.

I also wouldn’t have had time to pick any up in the morning because i work full time.

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She went on to say:

Son was happy bringing them to school and said everyone also enjoyed them.

However I got an angry phone call from Joe’s mum saying that I shouldn’t have let my son bring in those biscuits knowing that her son would be excluded.

She said that I should cater to allergies especially children’s allergies, which I would understand if it was say for example peanut allergy which is life threatening, but should gluten intolerance be treated with the same extreme caution?

I’m not sure if I was the [a**hole] for still allowing my son to bring in the biscuits despite me knowing one kid wouldn’t be able to have any?

Even though her story seems straightforward, a number of questions remain. Could she have waited to send the cookies in until she discussed the issue with Joe’s mom? Was she obligated to? Would giving Joe’s mom notice have allowed her to send a safe snack in with her son, making him feel less excluded? Should an intolerance be treated any differently than an allergy?

So now we turn to you, our readers — knowledgeable in all things food allergy and celiac — and ask you to render your opinion: Is the mom at fault here or was Joe’s mom expecting too much?

You be the judge and sound off in the comments section below. And for context, please tell us what you’ve done when faced with similar circumstances.

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  1. My formerly highly allergic son is now 37. He’s grown out of most of his allergies, all but peanuts and tree nuts. When he was in elementary school, I kept snacks he could eat at the school, asked the teacher to let me know if there would be a birthday celebrated with cupcakes, and would make sure he had his version of cupcakes with enough to share with others. It’s just what you do when you have an allergic child. When your child is allergic to milk, eggs, nuts, white potato, etc. you just go the extra mile for them, and the teacher can keep appropriate treats set aside for them. It helps the child not feel left out.

    • She could have waited 1 more day to take the snacks to her son’s school, which would have allowed her to go pick up a treat for the gluten allergy child. Yes, it was disrespectful of her to exclude that child.

  2. Yes, she is a a-hole. You don’t exclude a child for any reason if you don’t have to. Plenty of work-arounds here.
    I had this happen in my mum’s group when my son was about 4 or 5. One mum turned up at a play date and made this big fuss about baking Easter cookies with her daughter, then got her daughter to hand out a beautifully wrapped cookie to each child individually. Then the mum turned to me and said that they weren’t safe for my TN son. I had to frantically search in my bag for some sort of treat for my son while all the other kids were excitedly unwrapping and eating their cookie.

  3. Yes she is! Think of this way. What if one of the students was permanently in a wheelchair. Her seven year old son wanted to have a party and invited all of his classmates but the only way into her home was a flight of stairs. Would you make sure you had some strong people to carry that kid up the flight or would you leave him out because of his disability? She had a number of excuses as to why she let her son exclude this child. It isn’t ignorance or the lack of resources this is just being selfish. This is why schools have rules that invitations can’t be distributed in class unless you are inviting the entire class. She missed a huge opportunity to teach her son to include people. I don’t care how old you are it never feels good when your excluded and even though it is only a cookie it says to the child who had the gluten allergy”you don’t matter”.

  4. Just a delay in distribution and a heads up to the allergy mom so she could bring her child something safe would’ve been considerate.
    A-hole is a bit extreme, inconsiderate is more like it.

  5. I struggle with this majorly because she said it was “just a gluten allergy” (which, hello all allergies can be life threatening) & then also referred to it as an “intolerance” which it is not, per her earlier sentence. This is maybe where she should teach inclusion to her kid, “hey, Joe can’t have these. Let’s wait to take them until tomorrow after I call Joe’s mom and find a solution for him.” Kindness takes 30 seconds. As a mom of a child with 4 life threatening allergies, I don’t expect everyone to completely stop their lives on my daughters behalf, but I expect a 24 hour notice so I can make sure she has something special to snack on too.

    • I completely agree with you! She called it an allergy first, then decided it was an intolerance. That irritates me so much when other people think a food allergy is not as serious as it actually is. Just because there are people who are gluten sensitive, does not all of a sudden mean that all gluten allergies are just minor sensitivities.

      She knowingly excluded the child and didn’t seem to care. Yes, she is the a-hole.

  6. No excuses for leaving other kids out intentionally. She knew and should have said to her son- we aren’t going to leave Joe or anyone out. So let’s share these with your mates at Boy Scouts, basketball, church or another group/activity where all the kids could partake.

    I don’t like the idea of alternatives in this scenario. I personally get tired of always having to come up with an alternative for my daughter with egg and dairy allergies especially when another parent sends stuff on a whim. She still feels left out. When you think, “oh it’s just once.” That’s also what the other 22 children’s parents say….for the allergy parent that’s an extra 23x this school year that I’m having to find an alternative. It’s exhausting.

    • I do agree with you on the “sending alternates” exhaustion. My daughter is almost 3, so sending a safe cupcake I’ve pulled out of the freezer keeps her happy enough but I realize that this is changing as she gets older. She’s realizing now she is “different” and it’s hard.

  7. I actually don’t think she’s the a-hole. I was the allergy kid growing up, and I always felt bad when a fuss was made over me. Not to mention it was expected that I would profusely thank whomever went out of their way for me, and most of the time I was so nervous that they had still gotten me something I couldn’t have that it just REALLY wasn’t worth it. I can tell a lot of these comments have never actually been the allergy kid. Please keep in mind that many of us WANT to be left alone and not feel like a burden. A simple acknowledgement (“sorry I know you can’t have this”) is usually enough for many of us.

    • I am sorry you were made to feel that way. These emotions are a product of people raising the issue around you. If they had thought carefully to simply bring a non food treat it wouldn’t have been an issue and you would have felt included with zero attention being focused on you. That is inclusion and you state the effects of not being included so well.

  8. Definitely a tough situation because there is so much to consider.
    I’m a school educator and I’ve seen many work arounds. Kids who are restricted, sometimes leave a container of safe snacks at school so that they can be included where there are birthday or holiday treats that they can’t have. We’ve sometimes let the birthday child have their special snack, and have the rest sent home for parents to make the decision if it’s a questionable snack. I also think this is a situation where it’s okay to lie, just a little. She mentioned not having time to pick something else up and that it wouldn’t have been from Japan, however, if she had the time and picked up a safe snack for Joe, at 7, he honestly wouldn’t have known it wasn’t from Japan. Also, life isn’t fair. Although we never WANT anyone to feel left out, it is a part of life. Joe’s mom could use that as a learning lesson to express feelings and spend some special time with him after school to have a safe treat. I don’t think it’s a situation that would require an angry call. I could understand the call if they had given it to Joe, knowing he couldn’t have it.

    • I think Joe already knows that life isn’t fair otherwise he wouldn’t have an allergy. Why does a seven year old need that information reinforced by being left out? My daughter’s elementary school has a buddy bench. Students from k to 4th could sit on the bench at recess if they were feeling upset for any reason and hopefully a buddy would come and sit with them to make them feel better. I would hope no one would walk up to that child and say, “life isn’t fear” get over it.

  9. But it was too late for me to do anything about this, it was late and shops were closed so I wouldn’t be able to buy an alternative plus they wouldn’t be from Japan anyway and would be from the local supermarket.

    Too late for what? This wasn’t an assignment that he was being graded on. Seven-year-old children could care less about having something from Japan and they weren’t expecting them anyway. C’mon, really? Do better.

  10. My teenage daughter is the allergy kid. She had so much anxiety around food that she would refuse any desserts offered. She trusted very few people when it came to treats.
    At the beginning of the school year when she was in elementary, she and I would pick out a box of individually wrapped treats the teacher would hold on to. Honestly, she felt like she was getting the best deal since we made a point to get something super special and she always looked forward to it. Unfortunately, allergies are a life long struggle and she will have to question everything her entire life. AMIA, I’ve raised her knowing this. By 8 self carried her 2 injectors, she could read labels, ask questions and decide the risk herself with me or my husband always to back her up. Life is not easy for people food allergies, it’s terrifying. She never expected a cupcake in school or be able to have a slice of cake at a birthday party. We always planned ahead. But I do understand that I am an allergy mom and am always assessing risk and making sure I’m prepared. Parents who are not allergy parents might not think about potential risks for other kids. And this is ok!!

  11. It’s not this lady’s job to take care of Joe. It’s Joe’s parent’s responsibility! He should have safe snacks waiting for him at school for instances just like this. Because, let’s be real, this is not going to be the only time something like this happens.
    Sure she could have waited and gotten something for Joe, but his snack would still be different. Just like any disability, the reality is that food allergic kids are different. No, they shouldn’t be left out, but that’s not her responsibility. And if some well meaning parent brought treats in for my son’s class and brought something special for him, even at seven years old (he’s 12 now), he would have said no thank you because my mom has not approved that treat. Don’t get me wrong, the gesture would be greatly appreciated; and I would reach out to thank that parent. But the truth is I don’t trust others to correctly read food labels for my child. We’re not doing our food allergy kids any favors by trying to hide the fact that they are different. They need to know and need to be taught to vocalize their allergies and their needs!

  12. I’m an allergy parent, and I think it depends on the policy of the classroom and if safety is involved. At some point, it can get unmanageable to watch out for every allergen or intolerance if safety isn’t an issue (meaning only ingestion causes problems, and warning is given to prevent accidental ingestion; exposure isn’t dangerous). It’s disappointing to the one child but not wrong to bring in the treats. The classroom and allergy mom should have a plan for such scenarios (heads up policy and/or safe treats on hand). And the child should be aware so he/she knows how to be safe and self-advocate (“thank you – I can’t eat that”). It’s unrealistic annd unsafe to set the expectation that all contexts will automatically cater to someone’s needs. Planning helps.

  13. I have the same opinion as Missy above. I am a parent of an allergic 19 year old. He has been anaphylactic to eggs, wheat, peanuts ect. since one year old. I made sure his teacher and school nurse had prepackaged food and a few treats for exactly this situation. Grade school is tough but being excluded is a part of the allergic life. We never wanted “peanut table” or allergy table because he would be allergic to the other things kids consumed. And end up by himself. The parent of the allergic child is extreme in my opinion. Being prepared takes the emotional anxiety away. Just like carrying an epipen and Benadryl. Alienating other unknowing or uneducated or inconsiderate parents is never good. Parents of unallergic kids have no understanding of the life and trials of an allergic parent, family and the child. But education amd understanding goes a long way. Plus you have more years with the same parents

  14. As a food allergy parent, I sent safe treats for staff to give my student when there were in-class treats. I did not trust other parents to find “safe” treats and would never have expected anyone to make a special purchase just for my child. That being said, I would have much preferred to keep treats out of the classroom altogether, esp in the lower grades where younger kids would be eating allergenic treats and then touching things in the classroom without washing their hands.

  15. As the mother of an 18 year old with 13 allergies including anaphylactic to wheat and eggs with a severe cardiac response, I have a strong opinion on this which is not the norm. First, my biggest objection is: children in the classroom should never ever give each other (or hand out) food to classmates. Only the teacher should hand out treats/food, even if it is supplied by another student’s family (birthday treats), Second, the parent of the allergic child needs to communicate (by letter or talk) to all the parents in the class to garner support and not ostracize the allergic children. Teacher announcment of allergy awareness and policy at pta is great here. 3rd, the parent of the allergic child needs to have backup plans for this situation with prepackaged treats in the teacher and school nurse’s custody. The support from other parents is handy at this part. The gifter should (if possible and emails shared) let the parent know there are birthday cupcakes or treat coming in and then the allergic child’s parent can supply a “like” (ex: cupcake for cupcake, ice pop for ice cream) treat. This fosters inclusion. Four, allergy policies and no allergy tables. My son would have had to sit alone. Teach all kids that food is not to be shared, and everyone is not able to eat all the same things. It also does not make us different, excluded or unable to participate. Five: all parents need to understand they would not want there child ostracized or excluded, so be considerate. I found the ones who tended to ignore the allergies of kids (more then one) were the ones who were offended the most when something went wrong for their kid. It is called consideration. Also, any child can develop an allergy or medical condition for the first time at any time, even at school. At the same time, parents of allergic children have little justified reason to be nasty to other parents. Most kids tend to be with the same students through there school tenure. If they were armed with the backup of the teacher’s supply, there would not be so much strife that they need to blow up on another parent. Educate the other parent with kindness, just to let you know ahead. If you shared your details at the beginning of the year, then there would be no excuse. This brings up: not wanting to let others know your child has allergies. That does more harm then good. Once it is known by the child’s classmates, young children will even watch out for each other. We live in an allergic world. It is more and more prevalent.

  16. I know it’s different in a classroom setting and for children, but as an adult, I hate to see people go without something because of me. Makes me feel guilty. I’d rather see people eat their cookies of whatever with nuts, than see them go without because of me. I’ll mind my own business and try to find my own snack.

    For the mom who brought cookies, maybe she could have waited one day, and ask the teacher what they thought they should do about that. The teacher knows their classroom, the rules and their students. Maybe she already had a note about Joe stating what should be done if there’s food in class.
    The comment about having safe snacks stored at school already for your allergic child is a great idea.
    Also, when I was a child, I didn’t have allergies but I had a friend with a lot of allergies. She’d bring her own dessert at birthday parties. In other situations, she’d try to find something she could have. I remember we went for candies at the grocery store and she got a huge lollipop, it was different than what everyone else got but that was something she could have. And she was fine with it.


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