Severe Allergies Fall Under ADA

By Heather Legg

“Life-threatening allergies are considered a disability and are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a representative from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. And just as school districts must make their buildings safe and accessible to people in wheelchairs, they must also make them safe for people suffering from severe allergies,”

according to an article in Capenews.com.

As with schools all over the country, there is controversy with the total nut bans in schools. Some families believe the ban goes to far and is a big inconvenience for them. Often peanut butter is the choice lunch for a few reasons – it packs well, it’s inexpensive,  it’s healthy, and kids eat it. But when it can be deadly, it becomes an issue.

People are also against total nut bans as it “creates a false sense of security.” What if a child ate peanut butter for breakfast, forgot to wash his hands and touches the pencil sharpener. Then the child with an allergy touches the same sharpener. It’s impossible to make the guarantee.

But severe allergies are listed under the ADA and now schools must provide the “safe” environment for children who are highly allergic or they can be prone to litigation. This is tough because though school systems provide guidelines, they don’t really provide specific rules or regulations and is up to local leadership to manage. It’s recommended that the schools communicate with not only families but also doctors of families to determine the best management strategies.

Not every allergy is severe, schools must remember, and the provisions must fit the student needs. I know often classes become allergy free when there is a child with an allergy, even if he or she doesn’t need that much. Also, under the ADA act, it requires schools to come up with appropriate policies which doesn’t always mean total bans.

However, if a total ban is required, it needs to be enforced. That can mean nut free classes, nut free lunchrooms/tables, overall nut free schools. And if something happens, the school is liable. Again, it needs to be a committee decision, involving doctors, parents and administration and come up with the best plan for the individual.

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