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PEANUT-BUTTER BAN IS NOT THE ANSWER

In alerting the school system now to their 2-year-old's potentially fatal peanut allergy, a Grand Island couple has given the district plenty of time to implement a ban on all peanut products.

But a better approach would be for the family to use that time to find an alternative schooling plan for little Vincent LoPresti, who turns 3 next month.

As heart-rending as Vincent's plight is, dictating eating habits to an entire school does not sound like the best solution to one child's special needs.

Vincent's peanut allergy -- one of many the child suffers from -- is so severe that he could have a shock-like reaction and die from just the aroma of a peanut-butter sandwich.

Hence his parents' heartfelt -- but likely unworkable -- request.

While sympathetic, school officials concede they have little idea how they might enforce such a ban. Would they have peanut-sniffing dogs at every door to make sure no kid sneaks in a pack of Planter's?

And once the district tried to impose such a ban, what would its liability be if it then failed to guarantee 100 percent compliance? If some peanut product did find its way into school and Vincent had a reaction, would the district then be deemed responsible for not enforcing its own rule?

But beyond the legal and practical issues, there's also the basic issue of fairness, not just to Vincent but to all of the other kids. Is it fair that an entire school suffer the consequences of one child's affliction?

The ideal scenario, of course, would be if the New York City specialist Vincent will see next month comes up with some treatment that dramatically lessens his sensitivity.

But short of that, the next best solution might be if the district provides home-schooling for Vincent. True, he would miss out on the socialization lessons that kids learn by attending school with others. But that very socialization could kill him -- or else it would impose uncommon restrictions on hundreds of other kids.

There is a balancing act involved whenever such competing interests meet head-on. Society must try to make reasonable accommodations to help those suffering disabilities or afflictions so they can live life in the mainstream. In fact, those accommodations benefit society as much as the persons with disabilities by fostering a healthy diversity.

But banning a food as popular and widespread as peanut butter is not reasonable, and perhaps more to the point, not workable.

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