Do You Need a 504 Plan for a Food Allergy?

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Private School News//

December 9, 2009

What is the definition of a 504 Plan? We asked and found this answer:
The "504" in "504 Plan" refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, which specifies that no one with a disability can be excluded from participating in federally funded programs or activities, including elementary, secondary or postsecondary schooling. "Disability" in this context refers to a "physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities." This can include physical impairments; illnesses or injuries; communicable diseases; chronic conditions like asthma, allergies and diabetes; and learning problems. A 504 Plan spells out the modifications and accommodations that will be needed for these students to have an opportunity perform at the same level as their peers, and might include such things as wheelchair ramps, blood sugar monitoring, an extra set of textbooks, a peanut-free lunch environment, home instruction, or a tape recorder or keyboard for taking notes.

As the's definition explains, for a student to be considered eligible, they must have a condition that "substantially limits one or more major life activities", which are further defined under the law. We won't go into the depths of the law as it pertains to public schools more so than private, but for more information on what a plan looks like, click here.

In your school, you may have several students with special needs and/or severe allergies. Chances are the parents have come in and established an informal, verbal agreement with you on how to treat their child if they come into contact with an element that causes a serious reaction such as peanuts or bee stings. Please note, however, ISM recommends that all verbal and/or informal agreements should be documented in writing for your protection as well as for the child's.

For private schools, although 504 Plans don't always apply, there are several laws that do protect food-allergic students. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act are two that protect children within all educational environments. For more information on these click here.

Your Admission Office should be aware of all students being admitted into your school with severe allergies and/or other disabilities that may need emergency care. Careful parent questioning can help to reveal conditions guardians may be embarrassed to disclose. And, the Admission Office should be prepared to distribute important information to parents about the laws protecting both the school and their child.


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