Michigan's West Ottawa Public Schools has instituted a no-tolerance policy that's stunning in its immediacy, breadth, and severity. Because of safety and allergy concerns, every furry classroom pet will be summarily removed from schools. Assistant Superintendent David Zimmer justified the decision by citing a "need to be sensitive to the concerns of the whole community.... That's the same reason we've established peanut-free zones in schools where there are students who are allergic." But animal lovers need not fear. The district's hairless pets - which include a few snakes, a naked mole rat, and a Madagascar hissing cockroach (an insect featured on "Fear Factor") - were deemed classroom-safe. But the West Ottawa brass is behind on its medical reading. A study in the March 2005 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that cockroaches are perhaps the worst instigators of asthmatic symptoms in children (see here). In the district's defense, however, it should be noted - Madagascar hissing cockroaches do not eat peanuts.
"School district expels classrooms' furry pets," Associated Press, January 7, 2005