EDGEWATER, Fla. -- A first-grade student at Edgewater Elementary School is struggling with a rare life-threatening peanut allergy, and it's causing a controversy among her classmates' parents.
"We're not talking about she will break out in a rash. We are talking about she will die, stop breathing," said Tracey Bailey, the mother of the 6-year-old girl. The condition affects only 2 percent of the population.
Because of the condition, first-graders at the school are required to wash their hands and rinse out their mouths to avoid bringing peanut particles into the classroom.
"I don't think my child should have to rinse her mouth out three times a day. Nine times out of 10, peanut butter is not coming out of her mouth," said Carrie Starkey, whose daughter is a classmate of the girl.
"Teachers and parents are walking on eggshells," said Laura Burr, a mother of two children attending Edgewater Elementary.
In a letter sent in August, Principal Lynda H. Moore informed parents that the girl "has very severe reactions to even the slightest exposure." The letter stated that the girl can be affected simply by sitting at a table with someone who has a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or being touched by someone who has eaten a product containing nuts.
Parents said they feel their children are being stripped of their classroom rights and the girl's condition also prevents students from having holiday parties in the classroom with outside food.
"They shouldn't have to lose out on what they should be able to experience at school," Starkey said.
Parents said all the rules are taking time out of the learning process, and they protested Thursday morning outside the school with signs.
"On average, it's probably a good 30 minutes taken out of the day. That's my child's education. Thirty minutes could be a whole subject," Starkey said.
Protesters handed out fliers that claimed their children were wiped down with Clorox wipes. The fliers also said peanut-sniffing dogs will be at the school and snacks are not allowed in the classroom.
Nancy Wait, of Volusia County Schools, said Clorox wipes are used to clean desks, not students. She said federal law and the Americans with Disabilities Act mandate that the school ensure a safe environment for the girl.
"It is an inconvenience and it might seem like it's a bit overboard," said Wait, "but it's what is medically necessary for a particular student and has been sign off on by a physician."
Wait also said the students wash their hands and wash out their mouths in another classroom twice a day before entering their room. Wait confirmed that a peanut-sniffing dog will be at the school on Friday to search for areas that may contain traces of the allergen, and she added that the costs are not paid for by taxpayers.
The girl's father, David Bailey, admitted the condition is an inconvenience.
"Is it taking away from her education? A little bit, because there's so many things we have to do to keep her safe," Bailey said.
The Baileys apologize for the disruptions, but said it's their job to protect their child.
"I would love everything to be normal and everyone else to have a normal life," Bailey said.
Protesting parents said they hope their message gets school officials to loosen the restrictions in place.
What should happen in this case? Is it reasonable for students to have to rinse their mouths out and wash their hands even if it takes 30 minutes of instructional time? What about bringing in the peanut-sniffing dogs? Do you agree with the protests?