It is not uncommon anymore to find schools publicly running diffusers. This may be in the classroom, or it may be occurring in the offices in schools. We even at times find diffusers running in the hallways.
As a result, it is commonplace anymore to find parents seeking advice within aromatherapy circles on how to address this public diffusion in their children’s school. With the broad public misconception that essential oils do not present any risks, it is not particularly unexpected to run into public diffusion. But aromatherapists and those more familiar with essential oils beyond typical marketing pitches are aware of potential risks.
Risks of public diffusion include interactions with medical conditions and medications, allergic reactions, behavioral issues, and symptoms of nervous system overload. The latter made headlines as news of this incident at a daycare center in Middleton, Idaho hit the internet back in 2016.
Unfortunately, many parents have found that addressing the teachers directly has had little to no impact on resolving the nonpermissive exposure, which is deeply concerning given the therapeutic intentions of most use. And parents are consequently left wondering what steps they should take next.
In my own experience assisting with these situations, I have found that diffusion and other public essential oil use behaviors do not tend to change unless dealing directly with the school administration or superintendent. And ultimately, it is in their hands—not teachers—to implement widespread policies that can avoid these instances more securely in the future.
I am sure there are many wonderful teachers who simply have not thought of the potential impacts of essential oil exposure on some populations who are willingly amenable to stop exposing their students. Unfortunately, many I have spoken with have run into situations where this has not been the case. In a perfect world, conversations with the teachers could resolve the concerns, but this is not a perfect world.
So, if you find that you children are publicly being exposed this is what I suggest doing:
- Talk to your child’s teacher with the understanding that it may not be sufficient to resolve the issue. If you are worried about there being tension added to your and your child’s teacher’s relationship, you can choose to skip this conversation and move on to the administration.
- Carefully craft a researched letter expressing your concerns to the principal and superintendent. You want to be sure to point out the liabilities the school accepts should they allow things to continue.
- Send this letter through certified mail. In the event that a child does suffer harm through inappropriate exposure, you have a solid record of concerns being made known to the appropriate authorities.
- Follow your letter up with a phone call after its delivery.
From what I have seen, most of the time schools respond positively and appropriately and cease the public use of essential oils in their schools. If you run into more resistance, you may need to seek the help of an aromatherapist who may be able to more effectively communicate concerns to the school officials or even potentially get your children’s doctor involved if there are medical concerns and their health is at stake.
If you have not yet read it, Aromapologie’s article “Using Essential Oils in the Classroom: Accounting for Medical Diversity” takes a look at the various health reasons using essential oils in the classroom is not a great idea and may be of use as you gather your intel to present to school officials. It also covers why teachers should not be making decisions regarding aromatherapy exposure for their classrooms.
If you run into your children being publicly exposed to therapeutic substances without your consent, do not be afraid to speak out and stand your ground. In the end it is always your decision as to what your children are exposed to, and schools are liable for what is used on their premises should someone get hurt.