If your child has a food allergy, the school has a duty develop rules, procedures, and guidelines to provide that child with a safe environment. While New Jersey has published guidelines for the management of life-threatening food allergies in schools, each school is still responsible for establishing rules as needed and as they see fit. As a parent, you want to work with the school in developing this plan, to ensure that there is a safe environment that does not exclude or single out your child.
Here are some options for providing protection for your child and ensuring the school is aware of the laws and policies.
- Establish a Section 504 Plan. A 504 plan is legally binding and can provide you and your child with protections. The plan must establish what procedures the school will establish to keep a child with allergies safe and minimize exposure. In addition, the plan can address emergency care and food allergy bullying. Because it is legally binding, a parent has due process protections in place if a school is not compliant with the plan.
- Develop an Individualized Education Plan or IEP. If your child has food allergies in addition to special education needs, the protections of a 504 plan can be built into the IEP. Again, this is a legally binding document that provides parents with due process protections if a school is not compliant with the plan.
- Arrange an Emergency Care Plan. An ECP is prepared by a doctor and can be filed at the school. Such a plan would include a list of allergens and procedures to follow for medical care.
- Develop an Individualized Healthcare Plan (IHP). In addition to including an ECP, an IHP will go a step beyond and include the school’s procedures to keep the child safe and minimize exposure. An IHP will likely be similar to a 504 plan, however unlike a 504 plan, it is not a legally binding document.
For a child with serious or life-threatening allergies, one of these tools should be established and put in place with the school as soon as possible. In addition, constant communication and sharing of information between the parents and the school is imperative in creating a safe environment that does not exclude or single out the child involved.