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The "perks" of Post-Secondary Education

My first experiences with school were not pleasant ones. At first many parents tried to kick me out of school for being a hassle to their lunch making and children's dietary needs. When that didn't work our for them they bullied the principal and teachers into forcing me to eat alone in a room at lunch time and recess.

After awhile my mom finally had enough gathered support from teachers and random parents to institute a protocol that would make it safe for me to eat in the classroom with my fellow students. After we won that battle laws and bills were passed in Canada to allow students with life threatening allergies feel safe while participating in normal school activities.

Since then I didn't think I would have to deal with ignorance from educators anymore. Other then a few bumps along the road my education was on seemed to be fairly smooth. That is, until I got to University.

I was accepted on a partial scholarship at the University of Ottawa U after attending Algonquin College for public relations. From the start I was already bias, I loved my experience at Algonquin, they offered intimate classrooms, respectable teachers,and an environment that grew into more of a family. Ottawa U seemed cold and disconnected, and in my second year I faced a tough situation.

In all my classrooms I've always made a note of informing my teachers of my allergies and asking them if I or they can make an announcement to refrain from bringing peanuts or nuts into the classroom. Since the classes are large (around 300 people) I had to rely on the memory and commonsense of the students. I never thought I would have an issue with the teacher, I assumed it would be my classmates who forgot...

Last Halloween I was sitting in my last class of the day, I was anticipating the end of the class and the beginning of the evening so I could enjoy the festivities of the evening. All I need to get through was one test. Given the nature of the class and the teacher I was not worried it would take long, he always had a passion for the weird and his class was notoriously easy if you studied the material.

Entering  the classroom he was in full embrace of the day, dressed from head to toe in a costume and baring candy. My heart started to race, but reassured myself that I had talked with him and emailed him about the severity of my allergy, and also common sense to not bring allergens into the learning environment. I caught a glimpse of the box he was carrying my heart skipped a beat. It was a collection of mini chocolate bars including "Oh Henry" "Reeeses" "Mr.Big" and other items containing nothing my but nuts, I was shocked, completely paralyzed and stunned I couldn't comprehend what was going on. I racked my memory and sent email files to find the conversation we had about my allergies. In my state of shock it took my a few second to gather myself, unfortunately the class was already deep inside the chocolates wrapper and the smell of almonds was in the air. I immediately started feeling itchy and knew it was time to get out of there. I packed my bag and marched to the professor and in the nicest way possible asked "What the Hell?" 

He then said to me and calmly as possible that he had no recollection of the emails and conversations we had about my allergies, and that I should have informed him from the start because there is nothing he wants/can do now. I was furious, I had emails from him reassuring me he could offer me a safe classroom, and here he was denying it. I asked him if I could take the test on a later day, and he asked me if I was using this "allergy" as an excuse. Insulted and hurt I stormed out of the classroom before my allergies and tongue got the best of me. 

That night I sent him a heated email, I attached the previous emails sent about my food allergies. It took him two days to respond, and when he did, he never apologized or admitted he was wrong he simply said I didn't have to do the test, and he would apperciate if I told him such important matters before class and before I embarrassed myself again. I was livid, how could he say I made a fool of myself when I was trying to protect myself. I didn't know who to talk to, or who to tell this about. I felt like that helpless kid who was bullied by adults in grade school again.

It took me a few days but after I realized what I had to do, I went to my academic adviser and dropped that class. I then sent him a packet on food allergy information with a note explaining it and why it is important to learn and respect food allergies. Since then I have never taken a class with that teacher again, but I am told he announces food allergies in classrooms now and takes it more seriously. He did send me an email with follow questions and I was more then happy to answer them.

If everyone just took time to respect and learn about food allergies, we would all live in a safer environment when students of every age can feel comfortable in learning environments.

Now, I don't think I handled this situation as best I could, if you feel you are being bullied by anyone, not matter the age or status let someone know. You should never suffer alone.

Remeber, stay alert and stay safe.

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