Food Allergies Inject Legal Risk: The Law Is Mostly on the Side of Students Who Have Food Allergies, Compelling Schools and Districts to Keep Them Safe, but the Requirements Are Not Unlimited

By Darden, Edwin C. | Phi Delta Kappan, October 2013 | Go to article overview

Food Allergies Inject Legal Risk: The Law Is Mostly on the Side of Students Who Have Food Allergies, Compelling Schools and Districts to Keep Them Safe, but the Requirements Are Not Unlimited


Darden, Edwin C., Phi Delta Kappan


Schools have two key legal obligations to students who suffer from serious allergies, severe asthma, or other life-threatening ailments: Make the young scholar academically strong and keep her physically healthy at school.

Astute teachers and administrators know they must take precautions when dealing with medical conditions that can strike at any moment and lead to death. Courts are stern about the obligation of districts to safeguard the well-being of such vulnerable children.

Make no mistake. This category doesn't include widespread annoyances like viral infections, head lice, or bedbugs. Nor does it include mental or physical impairments that merit special education. Rather, this category includes students with a dire personal health issue marked by sporadic flare-ups.

The classic example is peanut allergies, a condition shared by increasing numbers of children. A widely reported study found that the percentage of children with peanut or tree allergies more than tripled between 1997 and 2008 (Sicherer, Munoz-Furlong, God-bold, & Sampson, 2010). Indeed, the National Institutes of Health (2012) concluded that 5 million Americans, including 5% to 8% of children, suffer from food allergies.

That reality creates legal and logistical hurdles for educators. Most court cases find that one of three federal laws applies: Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), or the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Building-level employees literally hold a child's life in their hands. An allergic food reaction can provoke anaphylactic shock, a reaction by the immune system that identifies a food as "foreign" and fights it using antibodies. A student can then experience breathing difficulties, a drop in blood pressure, and other harmful effects. Some 90% of allergies are triggered by eight foods: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts), soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish. That makes breakfast, lunch, sports concession stands, and field trips a hidden maze of legal jeopardy.

Safety first

There should be no doubt that the duty for school leaders is always safety first. Still, two court cases and a settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights drive home the point.

In 2010, Hevel Elementary School in the Romeo Community Schools in Michigan banned all tree and peanut foods due to a single student's severe allergy and Section 504 plan. The Michigan Court of Appeals, upholding the district stance, noted that officials tried less intrusive measures, but those were condemned by the student's doctor. The physician said even airborne exposure to peanut products could trigger trouble.

Hevel parent Kathleen Liebau sued the district, the superintendent, the principal, the school nurse, and "unknown individuals who approved the 504 plan." She asserted that "because she and her daughter are not parties to the 504 plan, she cannot be bound by the nut-ban policy." The July 2013 unpublished decision by a Michigan appeals court said the well-being of every student is the priority. "[T]he school district had the authority to adopt a schoolwide ban on nuts as part of the 504 plan for [the student] given its determination that the ban was necessary," the court said.

A similarly strong lesson was delivered in Iowa. The state's Court of Appeals ruled in January 2013 that a preschool child's tree-nut allergy qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act. When Shannon Knudsen's mother attempted to enroll her in school she informed the school of the girl's allergies and suggested an emergency care plan. The school refused. In Knudsen v. Tiger Tots Community Child Care Center, the court cited the ADA as the logic for overturning the school's decision.

Nationally, the Education Department's civil rights office rebuked the Gloucester (Va.) County Public Schools for refusing a Section 504 plan for a student with severe allergies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Food Allergies Inject Legal Risk: The Law Is Mostly on the Side of Students Who Have Food Allergies, Compelling Schools and Districts to Keep Them Safe, but the Requirements Are Not Unlimited
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.