“It made me scared when kids would chase me around and say they had peanut butter and all of that,” said Thomas Majka, who was bullied at school when he was in the second grade when he was so allergic to peanut butter that a tiny amount could cause a life-threatening reaction.
Majka’s mother, Eleanor Garrow-Holding, said her already vulnerable son faced daily dangerous harassment.”One boy at lunch smeared peanut butter on the back of Thomas’s neck,” said Garrow-Holding, president/CEO of Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT). “They also took his medicine at lunch a few times because they thought it was funny.”
She runs an allergy outreach website with an important message: “There needs to be zero tolerance across the board for bullying, period.”
“It can look like chasing in the playground with their allergen. It can look like repetitive asking over and over. ‘Why can’t you eat it? Come on and try it. Just try it. I don’t believe it will really hurt you. It probably won’t. Give it a try,'” said Dr. Sarah Boudreau-Romano, an allergist at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.
One explanation for the harassment is that the bullies don’t like being told they can’t bring certain foods to school
“She was scared to be in her classroom,” Cindy said. “She was scared and felt awkward.”
FAACT and Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) has a national campaign underway aimed at curbing food allergy bullying.