What Is The LEAST Dangerous, Cutest Thing We Can Outlaw Next?

Hi Readers: Here we go again. For the sake of the children (somehow), schools are looking at whether they should banish class pets. After all, they could spread DISEASE! And they are (somehow) a liability! And ________________!  (Fill in the blank with something else bad they do. I know that’s kind of hard, but if you’re a pencil-pushing killjoy, keep trying. You can do it.) According to The Herald, in Everett, Washington:

…school districts have begun adopting policies that in many cases limit or even ban animals in the classroom unless they’re part of science projects.

Animals may be cute and fun to be around. But they can spread disease and cause allergic reactions in students. And students are exposed to animal wastes.

With these and potential liability concerns, the state is asking school districts to draw up policies on what animals, other than service animals, should be allowed in schools.

How about those scary animals that have clipboards and dream up worst case scenarios for every aspect of childhood? Let’s ban THOSE! But no, first we must worry more about The Children:

“You have to be very cautious about the environment in which they learn,” [Dept. of Health spokesman] Moyer said.

Students can be infected with bacteria, such as E. coli, MRSA or salmonella, after touching pets and not washing their hands, said Nickol Finch, who heads the exotic and wildlife services at Washington State University.

Students can get ringworm from guinea pigs, she said. And turtles, snakes and lizards can spread salmonella.

Germs can be passed when a child shares lunch with an animal, allowing it to take a bite of a carrot, for example, and then the child eats the rest of the vegetable.

Influenza, including H1N1, can be passed from humans to ferrets, or from ferrets to humans, she said.

No one’s saying we live in a disease-free world.  But to suddenly worry that pets are spreading MRSA is to imagine a Michael Crichton-esque scenario, at best. My son had a bunny in his kindergarten classroom and the only thing it spread was joy.

So here’s my (usual) plea: Instead of looking at life through the lens of “What if?” and Worst-First Thinking (A bunny? What if it spreads the PLAGUE?), let us step back, take a deep breath and chill. Like a lizard. — L

Okay, this is ONE animal I might ban from school. (It was filed in Flickr under "hamster"!!!)

145 Responses

  1. Ouch – *one* bunny? Please make them correct that mistake. Rabbits are group animals and other species (including humans) are not a proper substitute for other rabbits.

  2. This is part of an ongoing theme. We want to be all green. We want to protect the environment. But at the same time, we teach our children that the natural world is scary, dangerous, and bad for them.

  3. And another thing…children might be in danger of getting food poisoning from school lunches! Ban all food from schools!!


  4. Not opposed to class pets, unless some student is known to have a clear allergy.

    Might want to avoid armadillos. Supposedly a significant number carry leprosy. Not sure if they have a high rate of transmission though.

    Also: I think that’s a wombat in the picture.

  5. YOU ARE SO IRRESPONSIBLE! Pets can be KILLERS! Have you not seen the documentary “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”? Yes, it seems like a small little rabbit but it was so much more. I for one do not want to expose my kids to cold blooded killers like bunnies, hedgehogs(especially the blue kind found in video games) and puppies. Some sick people even have calendars with pictures of these killers on them for EACH MONTH. This madness must stop. Oh, Yeah. Remember, schools say it is OK for kids to pet each other if they are 11 or older but do not pet the pets.

  6. *sigh*

    Would someone please show them the studies that show that children that grow up around pets are less likely to get sick and develop allergies!

  7. Kids with pets have fewer allergies and are less likely to have asthma. My kids’ private school has pets in every classroom and also two pot bellied pigs in a pen outside. The kids take care of the pets and the pigs and learn responsibility and compassion. I once saw one of the pigs waddle out of the library and down the hall, following the librarian back to her pen. Adorable! So crazy to think of banning this important experience.

  8. Someone sent me a link the other day which basically said that you shouldn’t have physical contact with your pets because they can pass diseases. It then cited anecdotal cases. Not once did it mention the actual percentage of pet owners who contract problematic health issues from pet contact, simply that they COULD.

    It reminded me of all the years that scientists claimed animals don’t have emotions while pet owners see them be happy, depressed, angry, etc. But we were just projecting. Until, They did a Study and suddenly, “did you know animals have emotions?!”. Our absolute fear of risk and nature is mind-numbing. We’ll keep out 2 cats and 1 dog and we’ll keep petting them all day long, thanks.

    I’ve never known of any children coming home with health problems related to pets in the classroom. And I’ve parented 2 generations of kids now.

  9. We had geckos when I was in third grade. I loved those little guys!

  10. DISEASE?! Oh no! We must not expose our precious children!
    This morning my children (7 and 3) are catching snowflakes on their tongues while wearing their pjs (they’ll come in when they get cold), and have the brightest smiles on their faces.
    My mother-in-law would have a fit if she knew – “what about all the air pollution that is sticking to the snow as it falls?” REALLY she said that to me once.
    I hate living in this world of “what ifs’

  11. My daughter was allergic to the class pet (a bird) when she was in elementary school. Not dangerously so, but enough that I had to bring allergy medicine to school whenever she was seated near the cage. But did I demand the teacher remove the bird? Of course not! I simply had my daughter request that her desk be moved to another part of the room. Easy solution, with the added benefit of teaching my daughter how to speak up for herself in the classroom without involving a parent. Win-win!

  12. This is terrible. My kids have always had pets in their class. My youngest child is actually a bit zoophobic & I am pleased he gets exposed to animals around other children who have more “standard” reactions. (Seriously, this kid is terrified of kittens. Is it wrong for his own mother to laugh?)

    At our school parents are given multiple opportunities to list animal allergies & kids are given multiple opportunities throughout the day to wash their hands after being on pet duty. Good grief, now we think hand-washing is beyond the capabilities of 1st graders.

    When Isaac was in 1st grade (5 years ago), his class raised chickens -multiple types & I mean like 30 off them hatched from eggs right there in the class. All were destined for farm life or “backyard chicken” life. Some went on the win prizes in the county fair. The kids were proud and happy (what a disaster! they raised prize winning poultry!)
    Some of the eggs did not hatch. The teacher gave the kids the opportunity to stay with her while she opened some unhatched eggs. It was completely optional & they could excuse themselves at any time to join the other 1st grade class at recess. Then she buried these little not quite chicks in the ground. It was quite profound. I admire her willingness to take that journey with our kids.

    I hope no one takes that from her or from future students.

  13. The wife hears me read this story and laughed. When she taught in NYC she had: Turtles, fish, frogs, rabbits, gerbils, guinea pigs. And this was an inner-city school and mostly special needs classes.

  14. I have 5 children, and they raise goats, hogs, cattle, horses and rabbits and show them in 4-H. That is in addition to the menagarie of reptiles, feathered creatures and canines that we consider part of the family. My children are solely responsible for the care of all the pets and their 4-H livestock. During the course of our 11 years showing livestock, do you know how many illnesses or injuries they have had due to handling animals? ZERO, NADA, ZILCH, NONE!!!! Of course during that same 11 years, they have brought the stomach virus, scabies, head lice, H1N1, mono, and countless other germs home from school. The thing most likely to make you sick at school are the other kids. Kids are walking, talking, nose picking, non hand washing, hat and chapstick sharing biohazards…but I love mine anyway, and let them in the house!

  15. God forbid we ask kids to wash their hands… .

    If there is an allergy I understand, I also see a limit on pets (I worked in a school where one room smelled like a zoo because there were so many animals. A fish, turtle, hamster, bird or lizard isn’t actually going to hurt anyone.

  16. Is 4-H next for this kind of whacko “what if” thinking?

  17. I laughed out loud over this – we have 3 cats, 1 dog, 1 crested gecko and 1 tarantula.

    I have a 5 year old and a 3.5 year old and they know damned well to wash their hands after handling the animals, the gecko, in particular. (Lest someone reports me to the authorities, I can assure you that the kids are NOT handling the tarantula. Promise!)

    Oh, and I can report a big “yes” to the poop. My kids are well-versed in scatology now!

  18. I usually agree wholeheartedly with the essays on this site; however, this time I have to take exception. There are probably years of subtle reasons coming together to form this position on the part of schools. I would imagine incidents of actual health scares and frivolous lawsuits from parents, are at the top of the list. Our strapped school systems can’t afford to defend themselves against these potential threats.

    Allergies in children have gone through the roof in just the last generation. There isn’t a room in my kid’s school that (ususally more than one) has an actual life threatening allergy. This is terrifying business for the parents of such children. My kids have food allergies that affect their behavior.

    Classroom pets are actually beside the point. Why not direct all this righteous outrage at the deplorable state of our environment and all the toxins we spew that are destroying the immune defenses of our children. And not skewer the schools, who may seem paranoid, but are actually trying to protect themselves and their continued ability to keep the doors open and educate our kids.

  19. It would seem that some people forget that we are all equipped with this thing called an IMMUNE SYSTEM.

    There’s a whole list of reasons to have pets in a classroom; kindness, compassion, caring, responsibility, bonding to name a few. Petting a pet releases oxcytocin ( a feel-good hormone) in the animal AND the petter. Schools are just determined to suck all the fun out!

    As you say, Lenore. Possible? Slightest chance. Probable? NO. 🙂 H.

  20. After I finished elementary school in the ’90s, our school district started to have stricter policies about mammals because of allergies–completely ignoring the fact that some nice early childhood exposure to mammals could maybe help avoid allergies, and that there was an earlier policy in place about not placing animals with specific children with known animal allergies As far as I know, this was never an issue in my classes, though special visits by cats were probably the only major allergenic animal that ever really occurred, and of course I was very young and just might not remember. Fortunately I don’t think anyone is complaining about reptiles, amphibians, and butterflies. I don’t know how they feel about birds and of course just because I didn’t see mammals around in high school doesn’t necessarily mean elementary schools didn’t still have them. I just hope that second-graders are still experiencing mating, birth, and parenting, as well as having a teachable moment about genetics, through mice. Because that was just awesome.

  21. I’m pretty sure the classmates present a much greataer liablity. Kids carry all manner of diseases as evidenced by the absentee rates rising markedly every winter. And they lick and bite and don’t clean up the bathroom after they’re done. Think of the children! We need to ban classmates in all classrooms. Glass cubicles for the children may be a big seller. We’ll let the pets have free roam and put the kids in aquariums. For their safety you know.

  22. I was born in 1961, and somehow missed the classroom pet thing entirely (I had a nice, slobbery bulldog a home, so I wasn’t bereft).

    I would suggest that this is a fairly transparent attempt to distract from far more serious issues – like persistent inability to teach the pupils anything much, or locking asthma medication in the school nurse’s office – but I know very well that school administrators aren’t that smart.

  23. I am shaking my head in disgust and disbelief.

    On the brighter side, love how you capitalized The Children. Everything is for The Children these days isn’t it? Health insurance for a 25-year old from their parents. For The Children. Lifetime pensions and tenure for teachers. For The Children. Banning one of the last cool things like classroom pets at school. For The Children.


    Ah, good times.

  24. Aww, this makes me sad. 😦

    And excluding the cases where kids have really severe allergies, it seems like most of the concerns are really based on the assumption that the kids shouldn’t have to learn to practice good hygiene. God forbid they should have to wash their hands before and after handling an animal or resist the urge to let the little critter take a bite of their snack!

    And as kc bennett points out, the kids are MUCH more likely to contract an illness from one another than they are from an animal, so why isn’t there an outcry over that??

    I think the more legitimate concern would be that having a cute, cuddly pet in the classroom would distract the kids when they should be paying attention to the teacher. But this is coming from someone who, every time a dog enters my field of vision, will stop mid-sentence, shout “PUPPY!!!” and run over to pet it. 😉

  25. I’ve been sick pretty much constantly since my son started preschool in September. And I’m pretty sure the germs he’s bringing home do NOT come from the glass guinea pig!

    Also, probably half of his class (2 year olds) would have not been as successful as they were at separating from their parents had it not been for the little critter. Give the kids a bag of carrots and they don’t care about Mom anymore, lol!

    The world has really become a “glass half empty” place, hasn’t it?

  26. Wouldn’t it make more sense to ban classmates? My kids didn’t get strep from the class hermit crab.

  27. I’m 33 years old. When I was a kid we always had pets in my elementary school classrooms. In High School my biology teacher has all sorts of cool reptiles that we could get out and hold during class. He had a giant snake that was like 12 foot long and a big iguana. Everyone loved them. My children are now in 1st and 3rd grade at the same district and I had not even noticed that they didn’t have pets until last year. I sub occasionally for the district, and was working at my old high school. I went looking for my old biology teacher, I was shocked he still remembered me. I asked him if he still had all the cool reptiles in class and he told me that unfortunately it had been decided a few years back that no animals could be in the schools because of liability issues. How sad that my children will have to miss out on the opportunity to care for a living pet. All they know about pet care is what they play on webkinz 😦

  28. Ridculousness bordering on paranoia, it seems. I guess these are the same people who won’t allow their kids to have pets, as they’re “dirty animals”. Or they’ll allow a pet, but the pet has to live most of its life outside (in which case I ask, why bother having a pet?) I know some people would be appalled by my two cats that have free rein of the house (although I do draw the line at counters and feeding at the table), but we’re all pretty happy, and my daughter is a relatively healthy, non-allergic child.

  29. I gave my mom a 28 gallon fishtank, and when she was deciding what to put in it for my little brother (who turns 7 next month), I suggested what -I- thought a cool pet would be for a little boy – some sort of lizard like a Water Dragon or some Geckos.

    Oh no, said she, can’t have those. He could get salmonella from them. Lets get him some hermit crabs instead. Nice, safe, little hermit crabs in a 28 gallon tank.

    I skipped the inevitable argument and got him a puppy two christmases ago and they love her to bits. (: (The tank is still unfilled).

  30. Jeez, the way things are going for kids, I’m starting to think I should have had myself sterilized…..

  31. Our school system already has this in place. We offered to bring freshly hatched chicks in to show in kindergarten, but we would have had to keep them outside, and it was still too cold. The kids were pretty disappointed.

    On the other hand, their pre-k teacher let us bring ducklings in to paddle around the water table, so at least some teachers are ready to flout the rules. REVOLUCION!

  32. Hee, hee, so they’re “banning animals in class unless they’re part of science projects”…
    Admit it, people. It’s surely more fun to butcher Georgie the Bunny, dissecting it for a science project than chucking carrots at the dumb thing and having to wipe its cage clean.

  33. When my children were in public school, where the only classroom with pets was the kindergarten class, it seemed like they were always sick. Head lice, strep throat, sneezing, sniffling, impetigo, stomach flu, yada yada. Now I homeschool and we have a dog, a parakeet, two backyard chickens (that we occasionally bring into the house because it freaks out my friends to show them photos of Crockpot and Drumstick in my living room), and they just aren’t sick any more. Hmm.

  34. “Students can be infected with bacteria, such as E. coli, MRSA or salmonella, after touching pets and not washing their hands, said Nickol Finch, who heads the exotic and wildlife services at Washington State University.”

    Dr. Finch (I Googled her, she’s a DVM) apparently had her brain sucked out in vet school. As someone who didn’t, I’ll explain something — the teacher should make the kids wash their hands after handling the pet.

    Guess what, Dr. Finch? The kids can damage their septum IF they stick their pencils up their noses, and they can drown IF they hold their heads under the classroom sink.


    Mommy: Crockpot and Drumstick, awesome names.

  35. “Germs can be passed when a child shares lunch with an animal, allowing it to take a bite of a carrot, for example, and then the child eats the rest of the vegetable.”

    Yes, if the teacher is an idiot with no classroom management skills, the kids might be handling the pet while actually eating their lunches.

    If there’s a school situation where the teacher can’t have even that degree of control over the kids for whatever reason, then yeah, don’t have pets. For normal classrooms, this is silly.

  36. my home, with our 3 cats, 2 rats, gerbil, hamster and stick insects is obviously a disease-fest. What’s more, my kids always share their food with the rats
    “a bit for you and a bit for me”…

    and yet, my kids are so rarely sick, even after kissing those lovely smelly, people-lickin’ cows that live across the road from us.

    weird, yeah?

  37. S. Leigh Schmidt, you may or may not want to tell your mom this, but hermit crabs are also known salmonella carriers. I’m aware of this, because we have some. So our kids wash their hands after handling them.

  38. Oh wait a minute, the teachers are too busy “teaching to the test” to take time and tell kids (a) wash your hands and (b) if you’re gonna share your lunch with a critter, don’t change your mind and take it back.

  39. There I was on a late fall day and the class hamster under my charge for an entire weekend! I was excited as, up until then, then only pet I ever had was a few fish. He was boxed up and I stood outside in the deceptively cold temps waiting to be let on the bus, carefully holding his box. Later that evening I walked up to it to check and there lie the deadest hamster I had ever seen. Cue hysterics. See, I was the new kid, the navy family who had just come to town, just settled in, just made some friends and now I killed the hamster.

    My parents took me to the pet store to buy a replacement. We found a similar looking one and bought it. I brought it in and tried to explain to my teacher but ended up a crying mess. A fifth grade biy crying over a dead hamster – not a good scene. Class pets are clearly traumatizing and these situations are best avoided;)

  40. That’s crazy… we had a room by the biology classroom filled with critters – rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, mice, hamsters, a couple fish tanks, some parakeets and canaries, and even a hedgehog. We all took care of them in turns and we all liked playing with them, so it was rare for anyone to try and skip their turn.

    And we had three cats in our school too, one for each floor. The cafeteria cat (you don’t want rat poison around your food, do you?). the library cat (the mice would chew the books) and the third floor cat who loved sleeping in the physics classroom best. When you have a building that is nearly 300 years old, you are bound to have rodents, and our school opted for cats over poisons. Win-win. Though up through 8 grade or so teacher made sure everyone washed their hands before eating, there was a row of about 10 huge sinks at the cafeteria entrance…

  41. I would fall back on the science aspect because you could use that excuse for ANY animal. You are studying it’s habitat, learning about animal growth, etc etc etc.

    We watched the class hermit crab over Christmas break. They kids all love the hermit crabs and they add to the classroom environment in a wonderful way.

    They are “officially” a science tool so the kids can learn science journaling. Hee! I happen to know the teacher just likes hermit crabs.

  42. Of course, we MUST ban the animals. After all they only help children learn about responsibility, caring, nature, life cycles, science, ecosystems. Oh, yeah, they might die. That would only teach them the horrible fact that living creatures die, and we wouldn’t them to learn that. Wait, that might have babies (especially the fish), but that is introducing the banned issue of sex which should never be discusses at young ages. Let them think that their mothers are simply fat and babies are flown in by Stork Express. WE MUST BAN ALL LIVING CREATURES FROM THE CLASSROOM!

  43. That picture is actually of an Australian Wombat.


    As for the article, these stupid people are crazy. Make sure ths kids wash their hands after handling animals, and make sure they don’t share their lunches with them. Geeze, it’s not rocket science!

  44. My daughter’s first grade class had mice. One of them died because the children fed them inconsistently.

    Oh, no! We can’t expose the children to death, dead things or teach them that their actions (or lack thereof) have consequences! It would be bad for their self esteeeeeem!

  45. Maggie, we had neighbors when I was a kid who weren’t allowed to play in the first snowfall because it ‘washed all the pollution out of the air’. They were, however, allowed to play in the yard with big trees during thunderstorms.

    The only class pet I ever had was in 9th grade biology. Mr. Shifflet had a snake and a couple fish tanks. Watching the snake catch and eat a goldfish was the coolest thing. Unfortunately, something broke in the heater system over winter break and it was over 90 degrees in the science hall for most of the week; the fish got fried (and later replaced) but I bet the snake was happy.

  46. I had Red-eared Sliders for years when I was a kid. After a couple of years, our family doctor figured out the constant stomach aches my brother and I were having was caused by Salmonella from the turtles. His answer to this dilemma? “Wash your hands and don’t put your fingers in your mouth.”

    These days, he would get sued for malpractice for that advice.

  47. Tell that to kids raised on farms.

  48. @ Matt L, Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!!!!

  49. Why not teach the children to wash their hands after handling an animal? There’s an important life lesson for you.

  50. What about all the “rats” in the teachers’ lounge?

  51. That hamster is a wombat, i believe haha!

    Honestly, i have to believe that they are taking the piss with this. Otherwise i’ll cry. Pets help kids to develope emotionally, to learn responsibility, and yes they help kids learn about hygiene! wtf.

  52. […] Read the original here: What Is The LEAST Dan&#103… […]

  53. WTF is that?!? A ROUS? Jesus.

    I also cannot believe this. I once forgot to close the lid on our pet tarantula’s aquarium.

  54. […] responsible for the care of all the pets and their 4-H livestock. … … Read more: What Is The LEAST Dangerous, Cutest Thing We Can Outlaw Next … ← VIP Pet Services Launches Dallas Area Dog Training and Pet Waste […]

  55. I can think of three really positive things that happened in 12 years of public schooling – my second-grade class adopting my pet box turtle (tortise) so he wouldn’t have to hibernate; being involved with 4-H, including getting up before sunrise to feed my calf and ribbons at the county fair; and having a collie that would stick her head out of the window of my car at the drive-in and trade licks with me on our soft ice-cream cone. Witnessing the last quickly separated girls that were worth dating from those that weren’t, and was probably where I developed a fondness for women with a sense of humor.

  56. Two things: 1) Our class hamster peed on my desk at least twice in 5th grade. I lived to tell the tale. Even have all my limbs.

    2) My 3 year old got ringworm at daycare. Should we ban small children from school, too? Hmmm…should we ban toys that carry icky things? Wait, maybe bubble wrap everyone? What’s an irrational germaphobe to do?

  57. When my daughter was in 3rd grade and on duty for the week to give water to the class snake, she was actually bitten. (Technically, I think the snake was trying to eat her, confusing my daughter’s delicious-looking, pudgy pink finger for a baby mouse.)

    Everyone was horrified as the teacher had to work to free my daughter’s index finger from the frightening jaws of the 8 oz snake. My daughter, who had a bit of a rep as a “drama queen,” however, sat very calmly and bravely while being treated.

    That became an important event for us to be able to reach for in the family folklore: “Sweety, you can handle this [insert somewhat risky situation here] — remember when you were bitten by the snake? Remember how it was scary but you held it together and helped everybody else realize it was going to be okay?”

    So me? I’m glad that hunger-crazed snake lived in the classroom. The teacher, of course, after getting bitten once himself, got rid of the snake. Ah well.

    My son is in that class now. They have 3 geckos.

  58. Just this morning I was thinking “Why don’t scientists and pediatricians offer official guidance on something useful, like how to get liquid medicine into a two-year old?”

    But no, no, it had to be pets in schools. *shakes head*

    By the way, the Wombat is an especially useful sign for Free Range kids, as Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia notes: “no reasonable person would ever risk crawling down a wombat burrow, but a 15 year old boy explored many burrows of the common wombat in 1960 and wrote up his observations in a now-famous article in his school magazine).” So, basically what we know about wombat homes in situ comes from a crazy kid doing a dangerous stunt. 🙂

  59. “We don’t have time to wash hands before snack.” Mrs. N, my daughter’s kinder teacher. I was, to say the least, dumbstruck. (I always thought that was a skill that HAD to be taught in Kinder!)

    Fortunately, our family doctor’s daughter also attended class. I brought up my concerns (as my kids catch everything that goes around) and she got the teacher to use hand sanitizer.

    There were no pets in that room. The other kinder class had hamsters, a gerbil and Iggy, the iguana. I wish my daughter had been in that class instead. She might actually be in school still, instead of homeschooling! (Our teacher didn’t like kids who couldn’t sit still or follow directions the first time, same for pets. The other teacher was much nicer and more laid back about things.)

    As for that other study that came out this week, my cat is still going to sleep on the bed with me. (The dog is too big, and besides, his job is to keep critters away from the other animals at night.) My kids are going to play with our ducks and geese, and occasionally bring them into the house.

    And yes, I will let my kids lick the bowl with the raw egg in it too (I know where my eggs have been!)

  60. Actually, the number one cause of disease spreading in classrooms are in fact children. If they want to stop disease, they’d have to find a way to make one-kid classes.

    By the way, the chance of disease spreading from pet to kid are minimal if the teacher does his/her job and supervises the kids while they’re in the classroom and teaches them how to handle the class pet.

    I wonder how much cases there are of kids catching diseases from class pets? Sure, allergies are possible. It’s one thing to ban a certain animal if one of the kids is allergic, but to put a blanket ban on ALL of them is excessive.

  61. “Students can be infected with bacteria, such as E. coli, MRSA or salmonella, after touching pets and not washing their hands, said Nickol Finch, who heads the exotic and wildlife services at Washington State University.”

    Top sources of E. coli: Eating undercooked ground beef (the inside is pink), Drinking contaminated (impure) water, Drinking unpasteurized (raw) milk,
    Working with cattle. (apparently, there is a difference between cattle and other animals and infection can be avoided by skin contact if you wash your hands…)

    There is no information about a link between MRSA and pets. Most infections come from OTHER PEOPLE. (http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/infections/common/bacterial/926.html)

    I found the best tips when I went to search for Salmonella at http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/infections/common/parasitic/261.html

    “Household pets such as dogs, cats, birds and reptiles can carry diseases or parasites that make people sick. The good news is this doesn’t happen very often. Most pet-to-people diseases can be avoided if you follow a few common-sense rules.”

    The page goes on to tell that you should avoid contact with pet stool and oral (mouth-to-mouth) contact and wash your hands after contact. Hurrah! There is still some common sense.

  62. My local newspaper ran an abbreviated version of this article. Reading the original, I came across this:

    “Mukilteo schools put the kibosh on having pets in the classroom about three years ago, unless the animals are part of a science class.

    “‘The proliferation of animals was starting to become an issue,’ spokesman Andy Muntz said.

    “Among the issues district officials considered was who would take care of classroom pets during holiday and summer breaks, he said. There also was concern that some students may have pet allergies or simply not tolerate pets.

    “‘It’s easier not to deal with it,’ he said.”

    I think this is a big reason for these kinds of policiees. Rather than saying, “Here is an issue that seems to be coming up. How can we creatively address it in a way that meets everyone’s needs?” we say, “Let’s make a rule that everyone has to follow.” We’re ignoring an opportunity teach kids how to apply sound prinicples to different situations.

    Classroom pets do have an academic benefit, not just in teaching science, but in helping create a welcoming environment in which children can learn. Some libraries have “read to a dog” programs where children who are too shy to read to other students can get the practice they need by reading to a non-judgmental, furry, and comforting audience.

    But even beyond academics, pets teach important life lessons, aid in character development (responsibility, compassion, stewardship and interpersonal connection) and are important to children’s mental and emotional health and development.

    I hope that schools will see that the benefits of classroom pets far outweigh the risks (which certainly see overblown) and not take the easy way out by “just not dealing with it.”

  63. Can’t they just teach the kids to wash their hands? Or not share their snack with the class pet? If a kid has allergies that is one thing, but to child proof the world instead of world proof the child is crazy.

  64. And if they had birds and pot bellied pigs in the same class, the kids could get the horrible avian-swine flu …also known as “when pigs fly flu”

  65. I am the coolest mom on the block because I allowed my kids to babysit the school corn snake over the past two summers. Nobody dropped dead from salmonella. My cats nearly died of jealousy – that snake got mice, and they didn’t! Totally unfair! But he was a welcome guest – much quieter than some of our other guests. Plus I have a couple of phobic inlaws who won’t visit if there is a snake in the house. Bonus!

  66. I would be more concerned about how well the animals are cared for, which would depend on the class in question. (Won’t somebody think of the animals??)

  67. @Emily The fun with getting sick by your kids has just started. Once you get nice and immune to much of what they bring home from preschool you get to experience it all over again when they go to a regular elementary. I definitely agree with others that the danger of disease isn’t from the actual furry animals but the the kids sitting next to yours. Why don’t we just Balloon boy everyone up and then everything is solved. They bounce so much easier when in a self enclosed ball.

  68. If they’re so worried about diseases that could be spread when children don’t wash their hands… Why don’t they take the opportunity to re-emphasize good hygiene and… Teach them
    to wash their hands.

  69. I taught middle school life science for three years in the mid-90’s, and I had at least a dozen pets at any given time. (At least one each of the five classes of vertebrates, then others also. And when fish have babies, the count goes up exponentially.) My third year, I did have one student who found she was allergic to Guinea pigs… but I made certain to have her sit in the opposite corner of the room, and it wasn’t a problem. It is much easier to retain students’ attention when the teacher has a parrot or chincilla sitting on her shoulder! 🙂 …there are so many lessons these critters helped us learn, and these weren’t only science-related.

  70. I’m an excellent, EXCELLENT teacher. I hate the politics behind teaching, so I go out and now work in Corporate America, despite my absolute love for kids, young adult development, and trigonometry. The politics were too much.

    I now tutor privately, and an integral part of my teaching strategy is my golden retriever. A vast majority of my students (much like myself) are ADHD.

    – Frustrated because you’ve been struggling with the same concept I’ve taught 4 different ways? Don’t get mad, simply get up, tell me you’re taking my dog for a walk and come back within 10 minutes.

    – Struggling to finish your assignment? Complete all the odds, and we can play with the dog for the last 5 minutes.

    – Can’t comprehend goal setting? Teach my dog a complex trick (like shutting off the lights… this one rocks on cold nights when I’m in bed, lol) by breaking them down into tiny steps and heavily rewarding him for doing the right thing. (NO NEGATIVE SCOLDING OR PUNISHMENT… this is a huge understanding for PARENTS who often yell and scold.)

    I always ask the parents, “Are you okay with dogs? Is it okay if your kids interact with them?” Never had a “no,” and I have a waitlist of kids who want to work with me.

    Oh, and not a bottle of anti-bac soap or hand sanitizer exists in my house (where I tutor)… I simply say to my students, “Since we all share calculators, pens, and other tools, I ask that you wash your hands before and after we start.” (NOT WITH ANTI-BAC SOAP!)

    Bam… happy, healthy students (who are also encouraged to raid my healthy-food-stocked fridge), and I haven’t had so much as a cold in 4 years.

    Dammit. I wish I could open my own school. 😦

  71. We’ll have to ban teacher’s pets too. Nothing worse than junior being the class snitch, except if he’s also “petting” the teacher after hours…

  72. As a complete contrast and fresh air to our brains, let me propose the extreme opposite.
    Imagine a preschool where 4-year-olds light fires, stay out all day, jump from rock to rock on a pebble beach and climb trees.

    While this complete-outdoors school is special in some ways, all aspects of what they do will be represented in pretty much present in all pree-schools in Norway – to a lesser degree.

    Now how would US school-boards react to this?

  73. Oh, and this is another “we don’t give our kids enough credit”…

    I keep my fridge stocked with juice, water, soda, and energy drinks. I don’t care what the older students drink (heck, they can buy all that stuff on campus), but the 5th-8th graders, I always ask, “If your dad were here right now, would he let you have a coke?” Some kids say, “Yup!” others say, “No, he’d tell me to have the juice,” and go right for the juice.

    Rarely do kids lie about this. I find it rather telling that when allowed to make their own decisions, they usually choose the one that would make mom or dad proud.

  74. @a former teacher – Having fought with my son’s less than sympathetic first grade teacher for an entire year, I would totally send my ADHD/dyslexic 9 year old to your school.

    He would thrive in that environment.

  75. In 2nd grade I brought my ant farm to school.
    I don’t see how doing the same today could be any sort of problem.

  76. Did I mention that the teacher said that they “Don’t have time to wash hands!”? See the sidebar about the 172 days of testing, and you will see why they don’t have time to wash hands. (How they are supposed to make it to all that testing when they are sick, I am not sure, but that is what the teacher said!)

  77. Maybe its just me, but I would have been thrilled to have a wombat for a class pet. (That’s what the picture at the end is of. Either that or world’s largest hamster. Which would have made a cool class pet too.)

  78. By that logic in the article, you are a BAD PARENT if you have pets at home that you let your kids come in contact with at all. Hey, maybe your cat has a bug that’s hazardous to your child… who knows, anything can happen, right?

    Humans have lived with animals and pets in close quarters since before the dawn of civilization… and guess what… we haven’t died out. But we will eventually, if we allow pencil-pushers without a life and devoid of any sense of reality to rule kids’ lives. Because they will make us raise children who are completely unfit for any kind of self-determined adult life. Not to mention that it steals their childhood from them.

  79. But…. animals POOP!!!!! How can you be so cavalier as to suggest that anything that poops is safe to have in a classroom?!

  80. I guess humans shouldn’t be allowed in the classroom either… since they poop too!

  81. We used to have an aquarium in the front of our school. The small alligator created quiet a stir and it got taken out and put the science lab. (Random toddlers wandering from their parent can’t get into the lab and put their fingers in the alligator’s mouth) Our current science chair has several animals in her room, and we can take our students their to observe them.

    We can also have them in our rooms – but I don’t. I do see the side of those who are allergic. I had a miserable year in 7th grade. A teacher had hamsters and every day I left that class with the biggest sinus headache. My parents complaints fell on deaf ears – the nurse and next period teacher pitching fits because I threw up 3 days straight from the headache got more attention.

    The sad part was they didn’t need to get rid of the hamsters for me. Just clean the (*&#$(*#@& cage and use quality bedding instead of the cheapest stuff she could find would have solve the problem.

    I know this because we had hamsters, a dog, and a rabbit. The only time they set me off was the rabbit (lived in an outdoor hutch) during ragweed season when her white fur turned yellow from the pollen.

  82. Good grief. Hey, is that a wombat that man is holding?

  83. I seriously feel this is one of those moments they need to look back at their own school childhood, list the number of animals they were exposed to…. the lack of diseases they got from said animals and WAKE UP!

    Its one of the things I love about my kids school, there are rabbits, chickens, bountiful amounts of insects that come into the class (usually on the end of a stick), get a good look at and are then set free again. Birds, bats and possums are encouraged to make their home at the school amongst all the native gums left alone when it was built…. the place itself is still all trees, bushes and native scrub where there aren’t buidlings and paths.

    Sorry, but I liked it when the animals used only for scientific purposes (ie: the rats bred for disecction) were removed at my high school and we focussed more on raising the cows and things on our little ag farm.

    I’ve seen kids raised not exposed to animals…. its not pretty when they meet their first gecko and pick it up by the tail…..

  84. “Wombat man’s heroic hands, saves the day wherever he lands!”

    Sorry, couldn’t resist an obscure reference…

  85. When I was in the 6th grade our science room was filled with animals on all side, a dove, some ferrets, some, some hamsters, some cockatoos, some small snakes, some gerbils, and some guinea pigs. (the guinea pigs had babies and I got to keep one!) Now my little sister is in the sixth grade and theres nothing but desks and a marker borad. What happened to setting rules and trusting kids to obey them?
    Here were our rules: wash your hands after handling the pets, no hurting the pets, be carefule with the pets, and don’t use the pets to scare other students. If we broke anuy of these rules we lost our priviledge to handle the pets. If someone had an allergy, the teacher would seat them away from the animal they were allergic to. If anyone gives me one example of a child becoming sick from a properly cared for pet, I’ll side with the idiots that made these rules, but all I see now is my dissapointed little sister that couldn’t wait to go to sixth grade so she could play with the ferrets, but sadly, all there is to sixth grade science now is the occasional picture of an animal in their books.

  86. Have there been any cases of students be becoming sick due to the classroom pet?

  87. […] Hi Readers: Here we go again. For the sake of the children (somehow), schools are looking at whether they should banish class pets. After all, they could spread DISEASE! And they are (somehow) a liability! And ________________!  (Fill in the blank with something else bad they do. I know that's kind of hard, but if you're a pencil-pushing killjoy, keep trying. You can do it.) According to The Herald, in Everett, Washington: …school districts hav … Read More […]

  88. My children have three dogs, at least five cats, a tank full of tropical fish, five goats, three cows, two steers, seven sheep and about fourteen pigs. Oh, and in the spring and summer we are home to several hundred poultry of varying kinds. (They’re all harvested shortly before Thanksgiving.)

    I can’t remember the last time we had colds or stomach flus, but by reading this article it’s amazing that we’re not all dead by now.

  89. no pets in classrooms? OMG that is a tragedy!

    My youngest son, at 6 years old, wanted a hermit crab. why? because his 1st grade teacher brought one into class.

    I made him do the research on how to house and care for them…took us 6 months.

    We gathered all of the equipment (about $100 worth) and FINALLY purchased 3 tiny hermies because we found out they were social creatures. He also carried his knowledge with him to school. He convinced his class and they created a “habitat” and bought 2 more crabs.

    The next time we saw them at the mall, my 7yr old son gave the gift shop worker what for about all the wrong things they were doing with the animals. (they need humidity, salt and fresh water, fresh fruit etc.)

    This may not seem a big deal to many, but my son, who was always shy, always a bit uncaring of others and a lot lazy with doing school work, learned how to learn about and care for another living creature.

    All because of a classroom pet.

  90. Soap and water does alot in terms of disease prevention in class rooms. Add a hand desinfectant during stomach flu times and the churning wheel of a kid getting sick, gets better, another kid gets sick passes it back and on and on. And the advice on that is based on solid facts. Just don’t try to go sterile.

    On animals. That’s a shame. Unless someone is allergic it shouldn’t be an issue. It’s not for nothing that elderly alzheimer patients where the nursing home has a pet has a lower incidence of anxiety. Petting a dog or a cat does wonders for your mind. Even more so when that mind is failing. You might forget who you are, or not, but your hands will remember.

  91. Do bureaucrats invent non-existent dangers to justify their own existence? My son was very shy in class until his class got hermit crabs. The other kids began to admire his ability to handle them and from that time onward, he began to slowly blossom socially.
    btw, I think the “hamster” is an Australian wombat. Perhaps not for a classroom, but fascinating animals all the same.

  92. Let’s just ban all pets from the world! Nip it in the bud. The next generation can grow up with stories of…..
    remember when they allowed people to touch animals? And have them live in the house? And someone else can say…” I even remember a gerbil in my kindergarten class People just didnt know the dangers back then” Then of course it will be followed up with, “Those were the good ole days and we were fine but you can never be too safe nowadays!!!!”

  93. The hamster is a wombat for those not in the know. They are lovely and friendly and make wonderful pets (though one isn’t actually allowed to have them as they are protected) though a little blunter than the sharper knives in the drawer.
    As far as the deleterious effects of contact with dirt and germs, there has been quite a lot of work done in recent years which ever more clearly shows the propensity to over sanitise our environment as children has exactly the opposite effect as one might expect. We need to have our immune systems challenged from the start. That is how our bodies learn to live in the real world. The dramatic increases in food and environmental allergies, asthma, and various auto immune conditions are apparently the result of such non exposure when young.
    What these wallies are in fact doing is condemning the very children they purport to protect to something far worse. Indeed one could conceivably mount an argument that they are in fact being far more dangerous the vast majority of potential contagens likely to be picked up by close contact with most animals. Death adders, Taipans, blue ringed octopuses, box jellyfish etc being obvious exceptions.
    Even more disturbing really is the depth of dysfunction relating to the real world. Is it any wonder we are in deep do do, when the rest of the living world is seen and treated as some kind of alien threat. Quite clearly our days are numbered.

  94. This is why my children attend a Montessori school.

  95. This just reminded me of my job in 4th and 5th grade. Once a week I had to go, with a friend, to the science classroom to clean the turtles’ aquarium. We had to take the turtles out, carry the tank down the hall to the janitor’s closet, and clean it out in the sink. We were responsible for remembering to do this one our own.

    I think back, wondering why the hell I would volunteer to scrub turtle excrement out of an aquarium. (Even after I realized that these turtles were neither ninjas nor mutants.)

    But being trusted with that responsibility was pretty cool. I was proud of it. That, aside from animals being super fun, is one of the greatest reasons for kids to have pets.

  96. I too have a child with severe allergies to pets. We have five kids, and she is the only one with allergies, but her allergies are severe enough that she will have an anaphylactic reaction to most critters with fur. Her first grade teacher kept a bunny. Our daughter is VERY allergic to bunnies. The bunny went home with kids during holidays and such. This teacher was great – she made sure our daughter did not handle the bunny, that she sat far away from the bunny and never made a big deal out of our daughter not being able to pet it. Our daughter required her inhaler a couple times, but was otherwise fine. The teacher never made our daughter feel like she was different in any way.

    In other words – our daughter was taught that while most kids can handle playing with bunnies, she cannot. She has an allergy. She was taught that she could appreciate a bunny from a distance. Not one kid ever teased our daughter in any way, and our daughter suffered no real harm from being exposed to something she was allergic to.

    She’s 14 years old now, and I can only thank this teacher for giving our daughter a great dose of real-life coping!

  97. Hi, Just had to have a say on this one. I really think the kids are in more danger of the poison from school lunches then they are from animals. In actual fact some recent studies performed in workplaces shows that animals in the workplace help motivation, contentment at work and help with depression. Perhaps they should fund such research in schools.
    I can’t believe this our risk adverse world gone completly bonkers. Unless they are inviting elephants (elephant poo is huge) and tigers into the class room seriously whats the risk really.
    The big hampster in the picture is an Australian Womat, beautiful creatures.

  98. @ a former teacher
    Dammit! I wish you could too!!! Hell, I’m almost 45, and I think I’d like to learn some trigonometry from you and your dog! Pleeeeez???

    I had not pets growing up, but I had a lot of allergies and colds and pneumonia. I was also severely allergic to cats. We did have a chameleon in 1st grade, but that was my only ever classroom animal. Oh. And I did get to keep a hamster I found roaming around in my backyard when I was about 12.

    Fast-forward… When I lived briefly with my mom at age 16, she had a cat. The first couple weeks sucked, then it got better! Years later, when my daughter was 4 and wanted a kitten, my brother’s cat had just had a litter. I got some weird health food store allergy drops with actual animal dander in it… I didn’t ever have a reaction to that cat, we’ve had cats every since (17 years), as many as 5 once, and we have a dog. And I finally kept a fish alive for more than a month! Yay me! Crazy ass betta lasted almost 2 years. Grandkid is constantly hanging with the kittehs, healthiest kid I’ve ever met. And my dust bunnies? Moved the couch for the first time in a few weeks… things were the size of Texas. My and the Dustbuster went on a bit of a rampage.

    And SERIOUSLY?!?!?! Doesn’t HAVE TIME to wash their hands before snack?! Are you freaking serious?! Another casualty of more seat time, get those scores, forget development and actual teaching. Gah. So dismayed by the focus on testing.

  99. A teacher at my school had a hamster which developed mites. The teacher became a “host” forcthe mites and was allergic. The classroom had to be evacuated and fumigated for a month, class was displaced, and cost quite a bit to get everything cleaned up. Not a bad idea to ban classroom pets.

  100. I don’t really get this whole “classroom pets” thing. I don’t think we really do that at all in Australia.

    At high school in rural areas (and maybe cities too? I dunno.), year 7 + (that’s like, 13 and up?) usually have an Agriculture subject, where the kids will be exposed to, usually, some cattle and chickens, but other than that, no animals are involved in school. I can kind of see why. Not only will the animal consume resources that the school can probably use more wisely, but the animal would be distracting in class, and need to be a hypo-allergenic kind of beast anyway (people with allergic reactions to animals are common enough to make this necessary – would YOU want to be the kid who got the class guinea pig removed because of your allergy?).

    Any child who does not know to wash their hands after handling an animal, or not to allow an animal to bite/lick their food, has a failure for a parent and is in need of serious training. Yes, animals can carry a lot of bacteria, but these simple things can pretty much keep you safe from all of it.

    Espeically compared to:

    Cheryl W: “We don’t have time to wash hands before snack.” Mrs. N, my daughter’s kinder teacher.

    That is just DISGUSTING. I mean, do you have any idea how disgusting children of that age are? Hint: Very. Any child of that age who eats without washing their hands first has an excellent chance of catching something nasty without any intervention from an animal, and habitual hand-washing NEEDS to be taught to children who are young enough to still wet themselves from time to time. Your kinder teacher is an idiot and needs to be written up.

  101. Hmmm….banning class pets….I guess I missed that headline “Class Hamster Spreads Plague”. Really? So, exactly how many actual health or legal problems have EVER arisen from a class pet? Ridiculous.

  102. Indeed. Why are the children in a classroom with their animals? Better they be in the woods learning quiet &sensitive relationships. Maybe helping kill and prepare their meat. Certainly learning to avoid crocs, taipans, and salmonella.

  103. “Any child of that age who eats without washing their hands first has an excellent chance of catching something nasty without any intervention from an animal, and habitual hand-washing NEEDS to be taught to children who are young enough to still wet themselves from time to time. ”

    Well I guess that my child needs to be taken away too then since I don’t make her wash before eating. I emphasis washing after going to the bathroom and when her hands are dirty but otherwise, that’s up to her. According to your theory, my child should be Typhoid Maya but yet I can count on one hand the number of times she’s been ill and have fingers left over. Never had an ear infection, flu, strep throat or any other common childhood illness other than a cold. She just missed her first days of school due to sickness in 3 years and even her teachers said when she returned “We were shocked when Maya was out sick.” And we have a dog and a cat which she pets frequently and doesn’t immediately wash her hands after. Probably even eats before she washes her hands. Maybe all that hand washing is actually the problem.

    And wet themselves? My child isn’t in kindy yet and hasn’t wet her pants in 2 years. I certainly hope that she’s not in a classroom with a bunch of pant-wetters next year.

  104. ] “My kids have food allergies that affect their behavior”
    There is no scientific evidence that food allergies affect behavior, unless by “behavior” you mean not breathing.

    The number of allergies “have gone through the roof” at least in part because allergies that cause you to die if you eat a particular food are now numbered with “allergies” (usually never validated by a high score on skin or blood test) that, according to the parents, cause their child to “behave differently”. There are now thousands of these types of “allergies” in schools, to which every teacher and every other student must make countless accommodations. These types of “allergies” did not generally exist a generation ago.

    Now, true allergies – those that result in immediate reactions such as hives or vomiting or not breathing – are admittedly also on the increase. But these helicopterish type of behavioral “allergies” (don’t let my kid eat glutten, wheat, or soy, because I think it makes him hyperactive, I’ve seen it!) actually make up the bulk of allergies teachers are asked to deal with in schools today. This is why teachers probably won’t take your kid’s allergy seriously until you put an epi pen authorization on file with the school nurse.

    My daughter has food allergies that will cause her not to breathe and eventually die, and so we keep and epi pen on hand. We’ve seen her go into anaphylactic shock. It’s terrifying. And yet I think I ask for fewer accommodations for her than do parents who have kids whose “allergies” (often never medically tested) cause them to “behave” differently.

    This allergy thing has in some ways become another symptom of helicopter parenting, another symptom of our fear mongering world – be afraid of everything you put in your mouth, everything you touch, and even if I don’t SEE my kid break out or stop breathing or immediately throw up what he ate, and even though I’ve never taken him to an allergist to have him formally tested—or when I did his scores were so low as to almost equal the control– why, be afraid, he’s STILL allergic. I just know it! I can just tell! Look at how he misbehaves after he’s had the red dye # 47! This is a very new generational attitude with our generation of parents –this hypervigilence about allergies and what our kids eat, and this assurance that kids are allergic to numerous foods and other things they’ve never actually had an immediate physical reaction to – ever.

    I would love to see Lenore do an article sometime on this modern trend toward hypervigilenece with regard to food and allergies, and the now common limited (wheat free, dairy free, glutten free, soy free) diets so many children have, and how much is based on true biological changes related to increased allergies (likely resulting from increased insertion of these elements in so many grocery store foods), and how much is based on hellecoptering paranoia.

  105. I don’t make my kids wash their hands either, unless they’ve been touching something really gross. They do make them do it after potty at daycare, though.

    I guess I’m a terrible parent, because I haven’t taught my kids to be afraid of pet germs. I would rather not teach them to be grossed out or scared of animals (my youngest took some time to warm up to my parents’ large German shepherd).

  106. Well I guess I better get rid of the 2 cats we have, you never know. If nothing else, we should prepare them for the way it is likely to be in school.

    Sarcasm off.

  107. “A teacher at my school had a hamster which developed mites. The teacher became a “host” forcthe mites and was allergic. The classroom had to be evacuated and fumigated for a month, class was displaced, and cost quite a bit to get everything cleaned up. Not a bad idea to ban classroom pets.”

    Yes, good idea to have a universal ban on a mostly harmless practice because of rare incidents out of millions of classroom-years worth of class pets without such problems.

    I wouldn’t blame any teacher who decided that the risks/inconveniences of a class pet were not worth having. But a “ban” policy for something that is almost always harmless is foolish.

  108. Off-topic, but here’s a cheerful sign-of-the-times thing. I was watching the first four episodes of The Cape (and let me tell you, if I’d known Summer Glau was in this thing I’d’ve watched from the start!) while patching clothes and in the last episode we see a flashback of Our Main Character talking to his kid’s class in his role as a cop. The kid can’t be older than nine (because this is a flashback and the kid’s 10th birthday is this episode) and the dad’s advice to the kids is “When you’re home alone, lock the doors and never ever answer the door if it’s a stranger”. And in fact, in this episode, on the kid’s 10th birthday he’s home alone and does not, in fact, answer the door to a stranger. It’s played for humor – the stranger is his mom’s boss, he was supposed to meet her there to do some work but she was running very late due to traffic.

    So the assumption in this show is that at nine years old in a crime-ridden city, it’s reasonable to expect that at least some of these kids will spend some time home alone. And it’s not a criminal activity!

  109. I would be cautious about this subject on animal welfare grounds, not sure rabbits appreciate noisy classrooms or that hamsters do well being woken up during the day. As for our own species, I’d often share carrots with my rabbits or sandwiches/chips with the local ducks and never got sick from it, unlike certain times where snotty-nosed human compatriots have taken a handful of my crisps and left something in exchange…

  110. As someone who lives in Everett and has a daughter in the public school system, I’d like to mention something that was left out of the article. We are not a wealthy school district. Funds are allocated according to the wealth of the neighborhood. Schools in higher income neighborhoods get more resources through parental involvement and fundraisers. Schools in poorer neighborhoods receive funds through Title 1, have less parental involvement due to homelessness, gang membership,( yes the parents belong to gangs), or living below the poverty level while holding down three jobs. I know all of this because I have a friend who teaches in the district and she often laments about the lack of resources and parental involvement.

    It’s true that many of the schools do not have classroom pets because the money isn’t there to pay for the upkeep of the pets. Children are allowed to bring a pet for “Show and Tell” as long as no other student is allergic. My daughter’s elementary school had one custodian because that was what they could afford salary wise. At the end of the school year, teachers stopped giving out printed assignments because there wasn’t enough paper to make a copy for each student. Her school had the highest free breakfast /lunch ratio to paid breakfast /lunches in the district because a lot of the kids were homeless or on welfare.

    If enough money was raised through PTA fundraisers then the students got to raise fish and hermit crabs in 4th and 5th grade. When she graduated from elementary school two years ago, I was informed by people who worked at the school that all field trips as well as the 5th grade graduation ceremony were going to be cancelled due to lack of funds.

    Since this policy has been in place for 10 years I asked my daughter if she missed having pets in the classroom. She looked at me with one arched eyebrow with the quizzical look only a near teenager can make and said, “Mom, if I never had pets in the classroom how could I miss them?”

  111. For a number of reasons, you should not feed ducks bread products or potato chips. It’s bad for them on a number of fronts.

    Really, you shouldn’t feed them at all (this encourages them to congregate in areas too small to support their numbers, and helps spread disease) but since you likely will you should give them greens instead – say, that wilting lettuce you didn’t finish off, or the spinach from your sub. Vegetable peelings are good too, or grapes, and if you want to buy them food instead of giving them your scraps, go for cracked corn, birdseed, or earthworms.

  112. And of course, no, the problem isn’t YOU feeding the ducks bread. One person giving them bread is no big deal.

    Unfortunately, everybody who visits your park thinks they’re just one person.

  113. I think KIDS should be banned from class rooms as well. They can carry disease, can be dirty, can be dangerous and loud. A kid-free learning environment, this is what schools need to strive to acquire! Oh, and did you know kids even poop once in a while? Yuck!

    My word, people can be ridiculous, can’t they?!!!!!

  114. Sky, until you have been there with the dye, don’t knock it. It wasn’t in the food a few generations ago. It may not be an “allergy” in the medical sense of the word, but a sensitivity should cover the reaction.

    I know of two kids who shouldn’t have it. Both would have a huge tantrum and one would get sent home every time that the teachers said “But it is Johny’s birthday, you have to eat some!” When a kid is getting suspended because of what he is eating, you have to suspect a correlation. The mom wrote a letter asking that he not be given the stuff (including cheap chocolate) but the teachers ignored her. The mom was trying to make things easier for the teacher, the kid and herself.

  115. I should have added, that despite their own children having issues with red food dye, neither family wants to ban it for other people!

    But back on topic, when I was in 10th grade the Biology teacher had hamsters in the classroom. Despite my brother having them and knowing how to handle them, when cleaning the cage or some such thing, I got bit. It bled a little bit and I sucked the blood off (hamster germs and all!) I don’t think I told the teacher or my parents. Still here…no super hamster mutations or anything. I don’t think it was a learning experience, and had practically forgotten about it until this posting.

    Other than that, I think that we hatched a couple of chicks in Kinder, and again in 6th grade. I got to take them home in 6th grade because we already had chickens. There may have been fish in other grades. Mostly I learned about animals from my family and our farmette, and walking in the woods and reading. As another poster said, I didn’t really miss the animals, because I didn’t expect them. In the 70’s, I was mostly happy to be able to have the same instruction as the boys in gym (one gym teacher scolded my female friend because she went to play basketball with the boys instead of bouncing the balls back and forth with the girls.)

    I don’t think they should ban animals, but they should not be mandatory either. Not all teachers love animals.

  116. As a kid, I regularly shared food with the neighbors’ dog–one bite for him, one bite for me. It grosses me out a little to think of it now, but clearly it didn’t do me any harm. The only thing that happened was that the dog got fat and had to be put on a diet. 🙂

    As for my own family, we had fish when my daughter was little and we have cats now that she’s older. None of us have ever gotten a hideous pet disease, even though the cats sleep with us. Pretty sure we’re not going to, either.

  117. I actually agree with banning pets from classrooms for two reasons. The first is that I think it’s cruel to keep pets in tanks in classrooms. Most classroom pets I’ve seen are grossly neglected and the kids learn nothing from it except how to keep an animal in an unnatural habitat that is against it’s nature. The second reason, is in fact allergies. I think that many kids can have allergies to pets and not even know it. Perhaps my perspective is different because one of my four kids has pretty bad allergies. She often feels sick when she goes to a particular friend of mine who’s house is really dusty. Even when the symptoms are not outward, it can affect a child’s health. It’s different when it’s in your house by your choice.

  118. Diane- It is sad that kids cant have pets because of lack of funds, and also sad there is a policy, which is unneeded. They are sad for different reasons- one is practical (money), the other is stupid.

  119. I think we should ban keyboards. The ‘spread disease’ and can lead to children being exposed to pedophiles. Yes, we must ban keyboards….for the children.

  120. Hege, that video is fantastic! I wish there was one of those near me!

  121. Sorry, but I call BS on a teacher repeatedly forcing a kid to eat a birthday treat when he doesn’t want to/cant.

  122. Last year, my daughter was in a private school that had pretty liberal rules compared to the public school she is in this year. Her last years teacher informed all the parents that one of the other parents offered to donate to the class a bunny rabbit. She asked all the parents if they were okay with it and all but one parents said that it was great. The one parent didn’t want the rabbit in class because her son “might” be allergic to it since he was allergic to dogs. So, no bunny rabbit for my daughter’s class. This was also the same parent who told the teacher that their son might also be allergic to peanuts. So, my daughter is completely picky and wanted to bring a PB&J sandwich to school everyday wasn’t allowed to anymore because she might breathe on the kid or something crazy like that and he would have an allergic reaction. I understand peanut allergies are serious but shouldn’t the other parents be doing thing to work around the allergy (having an epi pen available to the school) so the rest of the kids wouldn’t be “punished”. Maybe I’m just spoiled because my kid thankfully doesn’t have any allergies.

  123. Diane, your post made me very angry. Why are we shocked when kids in an underfunded school system with no role models turn out to be exactly like their gang-member parents?

    It’s sad, too, because I think classroom pets could help kids like that. They need them more than the kids in affluent districts, who can get the unconditional love at home. They need the lessons in responsibility too. I hate the way schools are funded in this country. I work in an affluent school district where there’s pools and Japanese classes and a planetarium, and I come home to the city where the school I vote in has had paint peeling off its walls for the past three years. It shames us all.

  124. I agree with the person who said they are more likely to get serious diseases from their classmates. *sigh*

    I grew up with animals. Cats, dogs, a rooster, a box turtle, those little turtles in aquariums. The loneliest time in my life was when I was living in apartments that didn’t allow pets. I really missed their companionship.

    Pets teach compassion and responsibility. Two things that apparently aren’t needed in a child-centered world.

  125. This is off-topic of pets in classrooms, but on-topic of this site. Kid is suspended for a year, filed charges against and sent to a delinquency program (among other things) for what basically amounts to using a pen to blow spitballs.


    Completely outrageous.

  126. ] “I hate the way schools are funded in this country. I work in an affluent school district where there’s pools and Japanese classes and a planetarium, and I come home to the city where the school I vote in has had paint peeling off its walls for the past three years. It shames us all”

    And you think these differences have soley to do with funding? Do you realize that Washington, D.C., which has some of the worst schools in the country, with paint peeling off of the walls, has the third *highest* per pupil spending in the country? The per pupil funding is much higher than in my affluent suburb, but there’s no paint peeling off any of the walls here, and it’s got nothing whatsoever to do with us having greater funding, because we don’t.

  127. A couple of points,
    Donna, here in New Zealand, and I understand some other parts of the world kindergarten is 3 (okay sometimes not yet 3) and 4 year olds, some 3 year olds are still having occasional accidents.

    Skye As for behavioral with food colourings/additives, they are real. I get severe behavioral changes with most food colourings and after consuming them have very high blood test numbers for all the allergy indicators, yes they have been tested after a routine blood test picked up very high IG levels caused by a red dye. I understand from my dr this means that medically I have an allergy to them, as the numbers are beyond intolerance levels.

  128. @ Catspaw – Ah. Kindergarten in the US is 5 and 6 year olds. Before 5, kids attend preschool. I would expect kids to be well past accidents by kindergarten in the US.

  129. Well, Donna, there were a few accidents in kindergarten when I went (for NYC the school year starts in September and kindy students must be 5 before Dec 31st of that year), and my older niece had an accident at school when she was in kindergarten. Come to think of it, I did too when I was that age.

    You wouldn’t expect daily accidents from typically developing children, but there’s a reason kids that age are still sent in to school with a change of pants.

    Amanda, food allergies can be scary. If a child is seriously allergic to peanuts, they can have a reaction just from the particles in the air – yes, your child “breathing on them”. Or, if they’re small enough, their friends may eat messily and spread peanut buttery contagion all around with sticky fingers – and for some people, you don’t have to ingest the substance to go into anaphylactic shock.

  130. Yeah, I think every KG class has “the kid who pees herself.” There was one in my KG class, and also one girl who used to throw up in the classroom every time she got a little nervous, which was often. (I still remember her name, is that weird?) The KG teacher used to assign a small team of classmates to clean up the puke each time. Ah, memories!

  131. @Donna – Chiming in with the others here – yes, kids do certainly have accidents by kindergarten age (here ~6yo) – not all the time, but many of them will have a very occasional one. I remember this vividly from my own years in the K-3 classroom at my primary school and yes, both myself and my brother were among them. This usually arises from either the kid being too shy to interrupt the lesson by asking to go use the toilet, or the teacher not allowing the child to leave to use the toilet.

    See also the above discussion on food allergies.

    Both of these are things that make handwashing very important at that age. Your child may have an immune system built like a tank, but that does not make her totally impervious, and perhaps more importantly, other people and their children are not as well-protected against the bacteria, viruses and allergens that your child may be carrying and dispensing.

  132. Chiming in with the others re: Amanda, some kids really “can’t be” around peanuts/peanut products at all — he’d be using that epi pen every day if your daughter brought sandwiches to school every day and ate them close to him……

    IF he’s actually allergic. But this mom was trying to ban things from the classroom because her son MIGHT BE allergic.

    I’d say if she’s that concerned about a potential deadly allergy, she should be getting her son tested ANYWAY, and the rabbit/peanut issues could stay on hold until it was determined whether she actually was. It’s nuts from any point of view to think your kids might have a deadly allergy and not know, because if there’s even a small but reasonable chance, you should have them tested!

  133. My son’s class had a lizard. At the beginning of the year we had to sign a release form giving him permission to touch the lizard. Now that I think of it, that must have meant the poor teacher had to somehow keep track of which students had permission and which ones didn’t.

    There was an article in our paper recently warning that there had been a recent study that showed that letting your pets sleep in bed with you was desperately dangerous and put you at risk of all kinds of dread diseases, the bubonic plague being one of them. Did we kick the cats out of our bed? Eh–not so much.

  134. Most of our local schools have banned all animals (and, in some cases) plants from classrooms – even for science projects. I was working with a local teacher, trying to come up with classroom plans to cover science material – pretty much worksheets are all that’s left.


    Let’s ignore for the moment that exposure to pets has been shown to be protective against allergies/asthma.

  135. One of the key reasons we send our son to his particular school is precisely because seemingly each classroom has its own animal–approaching the status of mascot, even. They include all the major vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) and also some invertebrates (spiders, etc). No one (child or teacher) has died yet from animal attack. In fact, kids vie for summertime “take home” duties when school is closed.

    Last summer my son volunteered to take care of the lizard and, to his disappointment, had to settle for the hamster; nonetheless, he did his best, with mimimal parental assistance — and the hamster lived to see yet another school year.

  136. Pentamom is right, and I should’ve said that when I made my last comment.

    One last thing, though – an epipen is not a cure. It keeps you alive long enough to get actual medical attention, but you still have to get to a doctor. So the kid wouldn’t just be “using it every day” if they really were allergic, they’d be running to the hospital daily, and in genuine (and unpleasant) risk.

    This is assuming the kid does have an allergy, naturally.

  137. @ Sera – I took your post to mean that all the kids have occasional accidents, not that there is an occasional accident in the classroom. I do remember the kid who peed his pants in kindergarten but it was certainly not a regular occurrence, hence the reason that we all remember the event. I would fully expect a rare accident in a kindergarten classroom – maybe or two kids the entire school year – but I certainly wouldn’t describe children that age as “young enough to still wet themselves from time to time” as the vast majority of normally developed 5-6 year olds don’t wet themselves.

    And, kindergartners don’t necessarily bring pants just for accidents. My child still regularly uses her change of clothes at school (though less this year than last) after spills or really messy art projects.

  138. While I agree that some people can have an allergic reaction to particle in the air, they should establish that this kid is one of those BEFORE actually banning the item from the classroom. Even if this particular child tested positive for a peanut allergy, the vast majority of peanut allergic people do not have an airborne peanut allergy. They must actually consume or touch the peanut product before they get sick. There is absolutely no reason to ban peanuts (or anything else) for an entire class because one kid can’t eat peanuts. If we banned everything that was a possible allergen, we’d only consume water in school (except the risk of drowning would probable even knock out water). Even if we banned things that only the kids in a particular classroom were allergic to, we’d be down to mostly water. The parents of the allergic kids need to teach their kids not to share food. If there is a particular child with a serious airborne allergy, then that classroom can address the issue.

    I think all this allergy craze is actually harming the safety of allergic kids. I know that I get annoyed with and am much less likely to obey when things are banned just because it’s “policy” in case a child is allergic. However, one of the kids in my daughter’s dance school has a serious airborne peanut allergy. They sent out an email to everyone before the recital informing them of the situation and asking them not to bring food to the recital. I made it a point to not feed my daughter a PB&J sandwich that night just to be safe. If there had just been a blanket prohibition on peanuts, I wouldn’t have done that and this kid may have been exposed to peanuts from my child (PB&J had been my planned dinner since we needed to eat quickly).

  139. You’re kidding right? Animal waste? I was helping muck out the horses (which I am allergic to) as soon as I could lift mums shovel!!

    And I can’t even begin to count the amount of times I’ve had a dog tongue in my mouth thanks to a quick face lick. Yuck sure, but hardly life threatening.

  140. “So the kid wouldn’t just be “using it every day” if they really were allergic, they’d be running to the hospital daily, and in genuine (and unpleasant) risk.”

    Right, I didn’t mean that as a realistic possibility, but as an absurdity. Thanks for making the point clearer.

  141. I’m against most classroom pets, not because of the danger the animals might be to the kids, but because of the care (or lack of it) given to the animals. My rabbit, Palmer, now 13 years old, was a classroom pet dumped at the Humane Society by the teacher at age 2 years. I assume it’s because of the bad handling he received at school that he still prefers not to be touched. I run a rabbit rescue and I can’t tell you the number of calls we get from schools and other institutional settings (daycares, nursing homes) who have a sick rabbit but no one will pay to take the poor bunny to the vet. I find that in institutional settings, it’s everyone’s pet until there’s an issue and then no one wants to step up and be there for the animal. I got a couple of pet rats this way because no one would take them to the vet for a serious upper respiratory infection. They were wheezing so badly, they could hardly breath. We also get calls when summer rolls around and no one has volunteered to take the rabbit home. At the end of Summer we get the calls from Summer Camps. So, what is that teaching the kids? “An animal is fun and educational until the animal needs something, then try to get someone else to take care of it for you.” This is the FAQ we hope teachers will read before deciding to get a rabbit for their classroom:http://www.rabbit.org/faq/sections/classroom.html
    We’ve adopted to a number of teachers who occasionally bring their rabbit in to the classroom as a treat for the kids. Seriously, though, given the choice, would you rather live in a home with a family receiving consistent care and a stable loving environment or in a noisy institution where you go somewhere different every weekend and Summer?

  142. How silly! My library has pet guinea pigs and the kids love them to pet them, sneak food from their lunches to feed the guinea pigs. As a precautionary note I make sure everyone gets antibacterial goop after petting or handling the pigs (and they can only use one finger as it is)

  143. […] about real dangers, we worry about the theoretical dangers, like living near cell phone towers, diseases from the class gerbil, or eating nitrates.  And these worries never die–I just heard the theory that bras cause […]

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