Peanuts Have Entered the Chemistry Classroom

lab

Ah, so it is another day in my 10th grade Honors Chemistry class. I’m just sitting there, minding my own business, and jotting down notes. It was then that my Chem. teacher posed the million dollar question.
“Does anyone have a nut allergy?”

Of course I raised my hand but my initial reaction was, how does this relate to the topic we were discussing? Well, my question was quickly answered, we were going to do a lab experiment using nuts. It was not a shock to me, after 15 years of having a peanut allergy you just begin to expect peanuts to be involved in everything. It is just like living in New York City, once you live there long enough you will wind up seeing everything! Nothing phases you anymore and I mean nothing, a tortoise on a leash, people hand feeding squirrels ice cream, that kind of everything.

So my teacher concluded that the two people in my class (including me) with a Peanut/Tree nut allergy would not have to do the lab. It was not going to be canceled because of us. The boy and I would just have to go to the library for the class and get the results from a friend.

I will write about what happens on the day of, because I have a feeling it is going to be a lot more complicated than just going to the library. The whole entire classroom will be contaminated with what I am deathly allergic to. But like always, I shall figure it out and handle it, for it is key to never panic. In fact I am going to talk to her soon that if the experiment must be done then I need all the desks wiped down with Clorox Wipes.

Stay tuned.

By christin28 on Tue, 10-16-12, 11:46

You are protected by the "Americans With Disabilities Act". It is illegal for a school to exclude you from an activity because of your nut allergy. They can no more exclude you for having a nut allergy than they could for being in a wheelchair. They have an obligation to provide a safe learning environment for all students. I don't know if it's a fight you want to take on but if you get a lawyer you will win.

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By eliezrah on Wed, 10-17-12, 13:49

First of all, kudos to you for standing up for yourself. You should be proud. Second, I agree with the above statement. You are protected by federal law. By their definition, food allergies are a hidden disability and since it's a public school that gets government money, they HAVE to provide you with a safe learning environment and an equal opportunity to learn. Now I remember when I was in high school I would have loved to miss a lab and not get penalized for it, but by law having you and the other student miss the lab without doing an alternative is exclusion and illegal.

I have 2 food allergy children, one of them severely airborne and contact to tree nuts and peanuts. I was terrified reading your post at the thought of how well can they clean the room after the fact (like you mentioned). For my younger son, the entire room would have to be sterilized before he could even walk past the door. How many other nut allergic students might walk into that room after the lab before the janitor can clean?

My older son's teacher came up to me yesterday (2nd grade) and said she had a science experiment planned for today with lima beans and would he be ok with that (he had over 40 allergies and is allergic to practically everything). She made it clear that if he couldn't touch them, she would show the entire class the DVD of the experiment that came with her manual instead of having him sit and not do anything. THAT is protecting my son's rights under the law. I thanked her and told her he'll be safe and to go ahead and do it with them today. Obviously I immediately thought of you.

Good luck and please keep us posted! Below I included a link to one of the many websites that states the law. Make sure you are fully aware of your rights and don't let anyone make you feel that your education is not just as important!

http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/resources/factsheets/504.pdf

"Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 is a national law that protects qualified individuals from discrimination based on their disability. The nondiscrimination requirements of the law apply to employers and organizations that receive financial assistance from any Federal department or agency, including the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). These organizations and employers include many hospitals, nursing homes, mental health centers and human service programs.

Section 504 forbids organizations and employers from excluding or denying individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to receive program benefits and services. It defines the rights of individuals with disabilities
to participate in, and have access to, program benefits and services."

It pretty much states that any organization receiving federal funds (i.e. schools) has to provide an equal opportunity for everyone with a disability. Food allergies are defined as a hidden disability by federal law so they are included in this. Having students leave the room and miss out on an activity is not providing them with an equal opportunity. The only time such places don't have to make accommodations is if it causes undue hardship. Not doing this experiment would not cause undue hardship to the school.

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By Cali1530 on Mon, 10-15-12, 17:19

Good for you for standing up for your allergies! It's unfortunately "people like us" are still excluded from class activities, when I was in school I had to eat my lunch on the opposite side of the classroom, sometimes with 1 friend, since Peanut Butter banning wasn't even a consideration. At least things are changing partly because of people like you! Keep on it!

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