Does your child have a severe food allergy? Do you worry they'll accidentally ingest or come in contact with their allergen while at school? If so, read on to learn how to protect your child with a 504 plan.
What Is A 504 Plan?
A 504 plan is a federal law filed under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. It states that any school that receives federal funding is obligated to provide students with disabilities the same educational opportunities that non-disabled students at the facility receive. It ensures that disabled students are kept safe and treated fairly while at school.
How Do You Initiate A 504 Plan?
The U.S. Department of Education classifies severe food allergies as hidden disabilities, meaning the signs and symptoms of the disabilities are not readily apparent. In order to prove the necessity of a 504 plan, you'll need a statement from your child's primary care doctor or allergy specialist outlining the seriousness of their condition and the consequences that may occur as a result of not making special accommodations for your child.
Once you have a detailed analysis of your child's condition from your doctor, it's time to call the school and ask if they have a 504 coordinator on premises. If they do, ask to set up a meeting to initiate a 504 plan for your child. If the school doesn't have a 504 coordinator on premises, you may need to call the school's district office to set an appointment.
Once you've requested an appointment, the school will have limited time to respond, depending on the regulations set forth by your state.
Along with the 504 coordinator, you can expect your child's school nurse, their teacher, the school principal, and the school cafeteria manager to be present at the meeting. The willingness of these people to oblige your child's 504 plan will play a key role in the success of it. Together, you'll discuss your child's individual needs and establish an actionable plan to satisfy those needs.
What Should A 504 Plan For A Child With Food Allergies Include?
Nobody is as familiar with your child's allergies as you, and so you'll need to advocate for them at the 504 meeting. Make sure all of the below key topics are discussed.
Once your child's 504 plan is finalized and approved, the school should begin following it immediately.
What Problems Might You Encounter During The Process?
Unfortunately, the process of obtaining and enforcing a 504 plan doesn't always go smoothly. Your child's school has a right to deny your request for a 504 plan, but only if they can prove that one is not necessary. Furthermore, there is a chance that your request for a 504 plan will be granted but not thoroughly followed by all staff members.
If you are denied a 504 plan for your child with food allergies, or if you were granted the plan but feel as though it is not being enforced, contact the Office of Civil Rights and file a complaint. The Office of Civil Rights will investigate your case and, if they agree that a 504 plan is necessary, will warn your school of the consequence of losing federal funding should they continue to discriminate against your child. If the school continues to be lax in enacting a 504 plan, they will lose funding and can be sued for discrimination against a child with special needs.
If your child has severe food allergies, they are entitled to any special accommodations they may need to keep them safe while at school. Make sure the school understands these accommodations and obliges them by starting the process of creating a 504 plan today.
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