When your child has a food allergy, you want to make sure they are safe in school and enjoy the same educational opportunities as the other students. Implementing a “504 Plan” can help ensure a student’s safety and opportunity.
A “504 Plan” refers to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This section prohibits discrimination against people with a disability in public and private schools that accept federal funding. It provides guidelines for classroom or other school area changes that may be needed to provide a safe education for every child.
A disability under Section 504 is considered a “physical or mental impairment which substantially limits one or more major life activities.” The major life activities include eating and breathing.
The Benefits of Having a 504 Plan
When a school’s standard policies and procedures do not meet a student’s need, a 504 Plan is a collaboration between parents, the child and the school to remove any barriers to safety or participation. Parents may be asked to present documentation from the child’s doctor or allergist verifying the child meets the disability definition under Section 504.
The plan will outline actions such as:
- The education of school personnel about food allergies, including symptom recognition and auto-injector training.
- The daily responsibilities of teachers as well as lunchroom and playground supervisors.
- The rules other children will be asked to follow such as no food sharing.
- Lunch room accommodations such as peanut-free tables.
- How snacks need to be stored and served.
- Procedures for class parties, field trips, school bus rides, evacuation or lock-down situations.
- How surfaces should be cleaned and when hand- washing is necessary.
- The training of substitute teachers.
- Whether outside groups can use the classroom or cafeteria after school hours.
“Section 504 gives parents the right to notify the school when it is doing something that is creating a barrier to a child’s access to education,” said Ellie Goldberg, M.Ed, an educational advocate and consultant.”You can ask the school to do something it isn’t doing, or to stop something that it is doing. Section 504 gives you the right to go up the chain of command if the school resists or refuses to cooperate.”
Complaints pertaining to 504 Plans are the responsibility of The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.