504 Plans for Food Allergies
On this website, you will find many articles that discuss the overuse of 504 plans. They were never intended to be an “IEP Lite” and too often, they are used as a stalling tactic when the child truly needs an IEP. However, in the case of isolated food allergies, a 504 plan is completely appropriate and warranted.
I say “isolated” allergies because this assumes that the only condition your child has is an allergy.
If, for example, your child has autism (that warrants an IEP) and food allergies, then the food allergy accommodations would just be added to the IEP. It’s neither common nor recommended to have both an IEP and a 504. But, if your child is only allergic to bee stings, then a 504 plan is needed.
Section 504 Plans vary from student to student and from school to school. The rules governing a 504 plan are not as strict as an IEP and schools draw up 504s and implement them in various ways.
The problem I see with 504 plans for food allergies is the disconnect between educational and medical. Your child’s doctors know all about the medical side of food allergies, but they often have little knowledge of day-to-day occurrences in a school building.
As the parent, you have to mesh the two together for your child’s maximum safety. All it takes is one oversight during a classroom holiday party, and tragedies can occur.
I also am including a couple of great downloads at the end of this post. One is the Federal guide on 504 plans. The other is a guide to Food Allergies in Schools put together by HHS.
I also find a surprising amount of pushback from school teams about food allergies. Many are dangerously dismissive, and treat it like a food allergy is an optional, voluntary diet. It’s not just a matter of healthy eating habits for kids, in some cases it can be life threatening.
It’s not, but I don’t need to tell parents that. That’s why I included the HHS information at the bottom.
504 Accommodations for Food Allergies
The following lists are for allergies in general. I know that we tend to think about peanut butter and candy treats at the holidays when we talk about allergies at school. However, many teachers utilize outdoor space for teaching, so allergic bee stings and other insects should have a 504 plan too.
When you request a 504 (which I have outlined the steps in another post), here are some food allergy accommodations you may need to ask for.
Reminders for Parents
Here are a few things I recommend to put in your Google calendar or kitchen calendar. One is that twice a year–back to school and January, make sure that your child’s emergency contacts list is updated and current.
The other is that every year at back to school time, you should make it a habit to revisit your child’s 504 plan, make sure that the Epi-Pen is not expired and so on.
Allergy Letter Sent Home To Parents
Email your child’s IEP team during back to school time. Ask that this letter be included with back-to-school materials that are sent home. I’ve received several of these over the years from my son’s school.
You want to ask for a letter written by the principal to be sent home to the student’s classmates alerting parents or guardians of the severity of the allergy suffered by the student(s) in their child’s class. The letter should include:
- A request that all students and parents voluntarily refrain from sending/bringing any (list the allergen products/foods) into the school or to any school-related activities.
- A statement of how bullying, harassment, or threatening of a student with an allergy (or any other disability) will be disciplined according to the school district policy for bullying, threatening, or harassment.
Food Allergies in the Cafeteria
- The cafeteria personnel will not serve any food items containing allergens.
- All Students will wash their hands with soap and water immediately upon leaving the cafeteria after lunch.
- Determine if your child needs to be at an allergen-free table. If your child does require an allergen-free lunch table, include a statement indicating how it will be handled so your child does not sit alone.
- The allergen-free table will be washed with a solution and an allergen-free sponge.
- If your child does not need an allergen-free table, consider including a statement asking that your child not sit immediately next to someone with an allergen.
- If the school cafeteria space is loaned or leased to outside groups (scouts or before/aftercare programs) then said outside groups are not to use the allergen-free table.
- The child will only have to clean his/her own eating space.
Food Allergies in the Classroom
- Parent-approved letter (suggested above) sent home with general information on specific allergies and letting other parents know of the allergen-free classroom policy.
- No home-baked goods allowed for classroom treats. All treats brought in should have ingredients clearly listed.
- All students wash their hands with soap when they enter the classroom, including after recess and lunch.
- Child has access to his/her own scissors, markers, etc.
- Computer keyboards to be wiped down in the classroom and/or computer lab.
- No outside snacks to be given to your child without written consent from the parent.
- Storage places in the classroom where safe snacks/special treats can be kept for your child for special occasions.
- Parents will be notified if foods run out.
- No activities, lesson plans, or crafts to include allergen (to avoid activity exclusion.)
- A statement that you would be notified at least a day in advance of celebrations so your child could bring in something similar but safe.
- You may want to request extra time on assignments in the event of an allergic reaction during the school day.
School Building and Field Trips and Allergies
Field Trips/ Bus Accommodations
A child’s disability should never exclude them from a field trip.
- List which adult should accompany your child on school outings. A parent or approved ‘representative’ will be allowed to go on all field trips or your child must be with the teacher on field trips. Teachers must carry cell phones on all field trips.
- Bus driver knows how to administer EpiPen. (or designated someone)
- The bus must pull over and call 911 and remain with your child if EpiPen is administered on the bus.
Now, here are those two printable booklets about 504s and Food Allergies that I promised you.