Food-allergy policy for schools urged by parent Woburn, Mass.

Posted on: Wed, 11/16/2005 - 11:49am
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Joined: 09/03/2004 - 09:00

Food-allergy policy for schools urged by parent
By PATRICK BLAIS [email][/email]

WOBURN - The city's School Committee will investigate whether to implement a state-recommended food-allergy policy after a Freedom Road resident recently requested that the guidelines be implemented.

According to Joseph Francoeur, of Freedom Road, his five-year-old son is part of a growing student population living with severe food-allergies who could be fatally compromised by the lack of a uniform policy across the district.

Armed with a copy of such a proposal drafted by the Commonwealth's Department of Education, which was recommended by the state agency but not legally required, the local parent suggested that the School Committee implement a similar set of guidelines as they review a number of other district-wide policies.

"Since this meeting was to talk about changing policies, I think you should really consider the Mass. Department of Education policy for student allergies to foods," Francoeur suggested.

"It really makes sense legally in Woburn to have all its schools on the same page," the Freedom Road resident added, explaining that currently, each school addresses the matter in a different manner. "When I was a young kid, I never heard of such a thing [a severe food-allergy]. But unfortunately, these days its quite a rampant thing with these kids."

Appearing surprised by the request, as many committee members admitted their ignorance about the presence of a state recommended policy governing how to treat students with potentially fatal food-allergies, the School Committee agreed to take the matter under advisement.

"This is kind of new to this committee, so is that information something you could pass onto us?" asked Chairman Denis Russell, referring to Francoeur's copy of the document. "I thank you for bringing this to our attention."

"The gentleman brought up a valid concern and hopefully we can follow up on that," Russell would later say, following up on the request toward the latter end of the recent School Committee meeting. "It's not a bad thing to do."

According to Francoeur, one of his primary reasons in pursuing the policy at the recent meeting stemmed from what he described as "exclusionary" student activities that sometimes arise in the classroom setting.

Not suggesting that such instances occurred on purpose, the Freedom Road resident referred to a fairly innocent student activity where gingerbread houses where being made in his son's classroom.

However, because that holiday fun would include the use of frosting containing the very ingredients his five-year-old can't come into contact with, Francoeur was left with little choice but to pull his son from school for the day.

"I'm the father of a five-year-old boy who has serious food-allergies, life threatening allergies. Unfortunately, what can happen [without guiding requirements] is things can become exclusionary," Francoeur explained.

"His doctor and his allergist have said the best thing for him to do is to stay home," the parent explained, in a non-confrontational tone.


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