How do I get started?

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My PA/TA son will enter kindergarten in September. I hope it is not too late to start dealing with the school district.

I am wondering how to go about this? Who specifically to I call? And how do to I bring up the subject with putting the other person on the defensive? Or should the first contact be in writing?

Any help would be appreciated. We just moved to the district so I have no idea what to expect.

Thx [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

On Jan 5, 2005

I also am just starting this process- yesterday. My son will be in Kindergarten next year also.

So far - I have not gotten the warm fuzzy feeling I was hoping for-- mostly I have just gotten the run around (bad wheather here isn't helping)

I first called the school that he is assigned to (we also have a lot of options for chosing schools - even in the public school system -- but I had to start somewhere) The principal actually answered the phone -- and he turns out to be a teacher that I taught with, before kids. I thought I was in luck. Nope-- he can only talk to me about Kindergarten after Feb. 20th. I explained the situation and he said that was the district policy. Not the answer I was hoping for from a fellow teacher - who I know pays tuition for his kids to attend these public schools- because he lives out of district.

My next move was to go on the website- read the parent rights, student right, --- not a word mentioned about Food allergies or 504's -- but I found the administrator for the disctict who is in charge of Student Services and another on for Food and Nurtition Services, and another one for Special Education (I figure the 504's might be in that person's department - I don't know.)

TOday is a sonw day-- well, Ice day. So I haven't gotten any further.

My neighbor went to another elementary yesterday and actually talked to the Principal - (Her son goes to speech therepy at the elementary - and has been since he was 2 1/2) She was basically told the same thing- we can't talk to you until Feb 20th

For me life would be easier if the Catholic School around the corner would have Kindergarten-- they already have several families with children who have peanut allergies and have done a nice job paving the way.

Good luck and let me know what you find out. Thanks.

On Jan 5, 2005

X-Contaminated & jami,

Kudos to both of you for getting the ball rolling now. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] The schools often will try to put you off, but the key is to work with them and ultimately get resolution before the end of the school year. It is extremely difficult to work through resolution on accommodations over the summer, and your stress level will skyrocket as a result (trust me, I've been there...not a happy place).

Anyway, jami, you've off to a pretty good start. But, let's make sure that both of you tackle this and have your ducks in a row for when you start to engage your respective schools.

If I were thinking about a checklist, it would look something like this:

1) Get educated on different types of plans available. There are 504 plans (named after Section 504 of the Rehab Act of 1973 - civil rights legislation), which are quite strong in terms of protecting student rights. Also, there are IHP's (Individualized Health Plans) that cover much the same ground, but don't afford the same level of legal protections as a 504. Also, for some, IEP's (Individualized Educational Plans) with Other Health Impaired designation are covered under IDEA legislation (useful for scenarios where child has learning disability and food allergies)....

Confusing??? Sure it is.... A great place to start the education process is [url="http://www.allergysupport.org"]www.allergysupport.org[/url] , maintained by a member here. There are some excellent articles which convey the differences between some of these different plans, and a great primer that suggests all sorts of things one needs to consider when crafting accommodations for a 504 plan. For most situations, many of us here are of the belief that the 504 plan is the way to go (assuming you are solely focused on putting accommodations in place re:food allergies). Also, be sure that you've reviewed this document from the US Dept. of Ed., Office of Civil Rights:

[url="http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq5269.html"]http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/hq5269.html[/url]

In particular, note that allergies are mentioned as a "hidden disability"; also review the section that discusses the major life systems....this becomes important in step 2.

2) Next, it's critical that you work with your child's doctor to craft medical documentation to support your request for 504 designation. Recommend that you do this [i]before[/i] formally approaching your school/school district, as the information is needed at the front-end of the process for determination to be made re:504 eligibility. Check out my post on what we used w/our doctor; I've also included the original sample letter from Rhonda RS (mentor to us all on this subject)...

[url="http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/Forum7/HTML/001046.html"]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/Forum7/HTML/001046.html[/url] (my intial 2 posts on that thread)

[url="http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/Forum7/HTML/000431.html"]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/Forum7/HTML/000431.html[/url]

3) Once you've got your medical documentation all set, you will also want to collect some good background materials to share with the school. You may find some of the exhibits included in my above post helpful; there is other good stuff posted by other members here. In any event, you'll need to calibrate this based on any advance knowledge you can gain re: the school. If you are a "trailblazer", you'll need to do much more to lay groundwork vs. dealing with a school that has lots of experience, and proactively collaborates with parents to manage life-threatening food allergies in a responsible and sensitive manner.

Now it's time to begin the "dance". You can either contact your school district and find out who the 504 coordinator is for your school (this responsibility is usually housed under Special Education, jami); or you can call the school itself and inquire. BTW, the school 504 coordinator is often the principal. Anyway, what you wish to do is to request a 504 meeting for your child. Some schools may seek to dissuade you from this. Why? Well for one thing, there are no federal funds associated with 504 plans (unlike IEP's under IDEA legislation), plus the nature of the agreement means that accommodations/associated accountability will be documented. Schools often prefer to handle things more informally; less paperwork, less liability (at least they believe this). However, handling things formally IMHO, ultimately protects the child and the school by clearly articulating how accommodations should be handled. A well crafted document actually minimizes issues...

In an attempt to minimize conflict, you can try a verbal approach to get a meeting scheduled. However, don't accept lengthy delay. If you aren't getting action, you immediately shift into "documentation mode". At that point, you formally request (in writing) a 504 meeting for your child. Handling things in writing can become important down the road should you ever reach an impasse with the school and have to consider serious action (such as filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights [504 procedural violations by the school], or going to due process hearing to resolve lack of consensus re:accommodations).

Once the 504 meeting is scheduled, you'll want to present your medical documentation (some often include this along with the request for the 504 meeting). Anyway, the 504 coordinator needs to convene a 504 team (of which the parent(s) are members), whose purpose it is to (1) determine whether the child is "504-eligible"; (2) if so, to work through an accommodation plan so that the child can safely attend school. In the words of Section 504 language, we're talking about accommodations that ensure that a child achieves FAPE (free appropriate public education) in a LRE (least restrictive environment). Actual development of a 504 can take from one meeting to months, depending on a variety of factors.

As you head down that road, you want to be prepared (in your hip pocket) to be able to produce a draft 504 plan of your own (especially if you're a "trailblazer"); others will provide a copy of Rhonda's 504 outline and try to influence the 504 team to use that as a basis for discussion. An interim step I forgot to mention that we did was to request that DW have an opportunity to observe Kindergarten for a few hrs one day (a day in the life) before we started serious plan development. That way, we were able to understand the protocols at the school, the physical layout and degree of sharing of equipment, etc. That way, we were able to voice specific concerns in the 504 development process so that we could all brainstorm how to address those concerns... Anyway, the ultimate output of the 504 team should be a 504 plan that you and the school representatives can sign prior to the start of the school year. Some other quick tips - you want to push for having the teacher on the 504 team, or at least have teacher review plan in draft form prior to signing. This is critical for acceptance, as well as providing teacher with advance opportunity to consider changes he/she may need to make to curriculum (we all have lamented that there is too much of a focus on food at school!). Also, you want school to play a key role in communications aspect to other families (especially if you institute things like a peanut-free classroom, for example).

There are lots of resources here in the Schools threads (like sample letters from school to families, sample 504 plans, etc.). As you head down this path, keep us informed. If you're having trouble finding stuff, just ask, and we can help you find what you need.

Good luck. Hope you find this helpful as a bit of a snapshot as to how things work. It's a fascinating journey, as you contemplate the tradeoffs between safety vs. social normalcy. It can also be an extremely stressful one (not to scare you), but the advice given to me, which I gladly pass along, is that you need to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst...

On Jan 6, 2005

Wow thanks very much for the informative answer. My first step right now is to get in touch with our pediatrician and then I will start dealing with the school. I have researched 504 plans for quite some time so I think I know what I am getting in to. Previously I thought one would not be necessary, but that was before I had to deal with pre-school. No matter what they SAY they are going to do to protect your child, you really need it in writing. Thanks for the checklist!

P.S. Keep in touch Jami and lets get through this together [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img]

On Jan 7, 2005

Its great that you are planning ahead. I coordinate the 504 plans for my school. I like it when parents contact us the spring before to write the plan. I would talk with the school nurse and find out what your schools experience has been with allergies. Have they had many children with life threatening allergies and what protocols are already in place? Before I was hired my school had no clue- now we have it down pretty well -lots of protocols in place, staff are well educated... I have a daughter with an allergy and I like to meet with her new teacher every year the week before school starts to specifically go over her symptoms and needs. I like to do it at the start of the year so info isn't forgotten over the summer. Also- it gives me a chance to stress the importance of communication between us when food issues arise. Good luck!

On Jan 7, 2005

Nutternomore,

Thank you so much for all of your information-- and for putting it all together in one place. I really appperciate the guidance, you really answered a lot of questions to help those of us just starting this process.

Hopefully next week the schools will actually be in session- so I can get a few answers -- but at least now I am a little bit better prepared. Thanks again, and I will let you know what I find out.

On Jan 21, 2005

Does it have to be an allergist? We asked our pediatrician to write the letter.

On Jan 21, 2005

Not that you do not have awesome advice(which I plan to take as well), but you may be pleasantly surprised to find there are safeguards in place and cooperative folks to deal with! It does not always have to be a fight or put people on the defensive.

I asked a very informal question on a tour(just testing the waters) and was offerred much more info that I sought(at that very moment) and learned alot of things were being done I had thought not.

Not sure how it will all go when it is time to have everything in writing, but, I found the individual at one school to be very caring, informed and interested in my concerns. He was the principle.

Good luck and I hope it goes smoothly for all of us enrolling in new schools. becca

On Jan 21, 2005

Who gets the final say in whether a child is elibible for a 504 plan or if it is accepted? If the parents ask for it and they have the support of their dr., can the school deny? I'm a little fuzzy on this. Thanks!

------------------

On Jan 21, 2005

Glad to see that you all are making progress. So crazed at work these days I haven't had too much time here on the boards lately...

X-contaminated: Many folks here have gotten a letter from a pediatrician. So, that often works just fine. However, if you were to encounter a more contentious situation, it's possible that having a letter from an allergist could carry more weight (given that he/she is a specialist) with the school (or, if the school was denying your child's civil rights, if you ever had to move on to a due process hearing).

julieneaman: When you make a formal request for a 504 meeting, the 504 coordinator (usually the principal) is to convene a 504 team. That team includes various school representatives + one or both parents. The 504 team is responsible for determining whether on the basis of the documentation provided (plus any additional evidence - for example, current info if your child were presenting attending that school) as to whether the child is "504-eligible". Assuming that the child receives that designation, it is then the responsibility of the 504 team to determine what accommodations should be put into place in order for the child to achieve FAPE (free appropriate public education) in a LRE (least restrictive environment); these are some of the buzzwords to become familiar with, as its directly from the law involved (Section 504 of the Rehabiliation Act of 1973). Again, [url="http://www.allergysupport.org"]www.allergysupport.org[/url] has some good articles on this...

The school can deny 504 eligiblity, but if you have a strong case (i.e. strong documentation), you can follow the appeal process put in place by your school district to have the decision re-visited.

On Feb 2, 2005

After having several discussions with the administration for our school district -- and talking to several private schools -- we will be sending our son to a private school for Kindergarten. It is a half day -- but it covers everything academically-- because there are only 15 kids in a class -- I really didn't have the time or effort to spend on "fighting" and paving the way for our school district. for kindergarten. My son will be going to a Catholic school for grade school-- but they didn't have Kindergarten .

It seems in our area that private schools are much more willing to help with these issues -- (of course they want our money too)

I wish everyone else good luck in trying to "pave" the way in their area-- and I hope that everything runs smoothly.

On Feb 2, 2005

We are also preparing for my pa/tn son to begin kindergarten this fall. We met with the principal last summer to discuss our concerns and to see where to school stood on this issue and were pleasantly surprised. I was invited to visit the school anytime this year to see how things are done and he even offered to set up meetings with some of the other parents with pa/tn allergies to discuss their experiences. We will be meeting with him again after Kindergarten orientation next month to start the process of drafting a 504 and have already received a letter from the allergist (we included a copy with the registration papers). Dh would like to push for a Nut-free school, but at this point it doesn't look like that will be happening.

------------------ AnnieM.

On Mar 9, 2005

* Have a letter from Dr that spells out the a 504 is needed and spells out the life systems effected etc...

* School thinks I am crazy... can't understand why I would even want or need one. "We have plenty of kids with food allergies and have never needed a 504"

* So, having mixed feelings about a 504 now, not looking forward to having our son labeled disabled-- if I can get an agreement signed is that as good as a 504? It doesn't look like they will even consider the 504 but are talking about a signed agreement

On Mar 9, 2005

I would like to chime in on everyone's advice about having a 504 plan. We decided not to have a 504 plan because it seemed too confrontational. When I met with the principal I had a great feeling about the school - she has a nephew that is allergic to bee stings and witnessed an anaphylatic attack, and really seemed to "get it." A 504 plan didn't seem necessary.

BIG MISTAKE! Our troubles began with my son's teacher planning a class exercise that required them to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I suggested an alternative of cream cheese and jelly, she sent the following email:

We are making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches next week because of reading/ language arts lessons that we will be doing all week. We will be reading a book called peanut butter and jelly. We will be working on sequencing of the story. I have several lessons in which the students sequence how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwhiches. I am willing to change it to the soy peanut butter but using anything else takes away from the story, song, and sequencing that we will be doing all week. If [ds] has a problem with even using soy peanut butter, [another teacher] is willing to take him at the end of the day so that he doesn;thave to be around the peanut butter.

Long story short, we ended up switching classes and getting a 504 plan. A well-crafted plan is helpful to everyone because it lays out expectations and helps avoid misunderstandings.

On Mar 9, 2005

My son started half-day (no lunch or snack) kindergarten at the public school this year. I didn't ask for a 504 plan.

There is no food in the classroom. All the teachers in the school have been trained to use an epi. The teacher seems fairly careful. She even asked me to go on a field trip with the class that had been designated No Parents (not enough space) because she was nervous about the bus ride. Buses are so often littered with candy wrappers.

Next year he will be in first grade, and will have his lunch at a special peanut allergy table in the lunchroom.

So far, so good.

I think my school district is fairly allergy aware. Not perfect (see my post today about the PTA meeting), but pretty good.

------------------ Jean one son peanut & watermelon allergies; one son seasonal allergies & oral allergy syndrome

On Mar 9, 2005

x-contaminated,

The school [b]could[/b] be feeding you a line. You'll have to make that call.

Many schools try to dissuade parents from going the 504 route for a variety of reasons - more paperwork, more documented accountability (for them), lack of experience in crafting 504's, etc.

On this site, you will find many stories of families who didn't go the 504 route, and later came to regret it. To be fair, you will also find stories of those will worked out an arrangement that wasn't as formal, and things have worked out fine.

Some of the factors you may want to consider are:

- The track record of the school in accommodating others (may be difficult to find out, but perhaps via word of mouth, and discussions with certain school personnel, you can get a read on that)

- The existing policies/protocols as to how the school operates, as well as physical environment (e.g. what degree of shared usage of equipment/facilities that are part of your child's day)

- Your child's maturity level and you and your child's risk tolerance re:the possibility of a reaction

I think for many of us, there is a desire to want to work things out without appearing confrontational. After all, you're going to have to co-exist and nuture a relationship with the school for many years.

For us, the answer was to do a 504, even though the school tried to dissuade us from doing so. They fed us the line about how others with PA had attended the school. Once we talked around, we came to realize that they were ill-prepared to deal with DS's PA.

It was difficult and confrontational, but 2 years into it now, I have no regrets about forcing the issue on doing a 504. It has become much more routine; roles/responsibilities/protocols are becoming second nature, and we're are all feeling more at ease.

Most importantly, we continue to have some degree of leverage by using 504, because we are formal partners with the school in spelling out the plan. They don't get to make decisions unilaterally re: DS's accommodations. And, if push ever comes to shove, my child's civil rights are protected (something you don't get with a handshake and a smile [and no 504])...

[This message has been edited by Nutternomore (edited March 10, 2005).]

On May 15, 2005

Raising for Darkmage...

On Aug 5, 2005

Raising for Jennifer

On Aug 19, 2005

Raising for some newcomers inquiring...

On Aug 19, 2005

Thank you so much for posting this topic. My 3 year old is starting kindergarted in 2007 and i have already contacted the school board. I greatly appreciate all the info. i'll bring it with me when i go to meet the superintendent. Thanks again kat

son 3 p/a red food dye and seasonal allergies son 10 not p/a thank god

On Oct 8, 2005

Raising for got epi's.

On Dec 6, 2005

Raising for gvmom...

Sorry I don't have much time for the boards this month, but see that you're looking at 504.

Gail W's advice is right on. Definitely keep the designation separate from getting into details re:accommodations!

Get the designation first...that can be a lot of work in and of itself, depending on school administration...

On Dec 6, 2005

Thank you Nutternomore. I am glad to see you around. When we started working on our FA policy with the school I pulled up a lot of the info that you have had posted here (I had come in here a couple times - about no school nurse, and also a school policy question). It was awhile ago - so I will be going there again - though I have printed a bunch of it out. I expect that I will be coming to this thread a lot in the days to come - calling on the expertise of the "big dogs" as some would call you, Gail, MB, Carefulmom, etc.

Actually, as I sit and think for a sec - didn't your school not have a school nurse - but then they got one - right? My first problem with the school was the secretary functioning as a nurse. She moved away, now there is no secretary. She was part of the emergency action plan -- can the 504 force the school to get a secretary to replace her? Right now the custodian comes in and sits in the office, and the principal does part of the job too. I don't know what is taking so long to get a new secretary - but if in the emergency action plan portion, there is a secretary in the steps, wouldn't they have to hire someone in order to not have their funding cut? I mean, I'm guessing we can't force them to hire a nurse - someone added to the staff - but we could force them to at least fill the staff positions that already exist, and are relevant to the 504 right? I don't know if I said that so that it makes sense, but any & all thoughts, opinions, suggestions, observations, knowledge, etc., is very, very welcome.

Thanks again.

Edited to add - sorry - it was an aide - not a nurse (just finished the other thread, realized my mistake)

[This message has been edited by gvmom (edited December 07, 2005).]

On Jan 5, 2006

bumping for those wondering how to get started w/504 plans...

On Jan 15, 2006

bump

On Jan 16, 2006

I too am starting this process for kindergarten in the fall. I have not officially contacted the school yet because my son is currently attending the public preschool that is housed within the same school. They know he is pa and it has not been a wonderful experience so far without 504.

I decided to get all the paperwork from the doctor before requesting the 504 meeting. That way I will be one step ahead of the school. I sent the doctor letter last week and after I receive the response, I will send it to the school along with a 504 request meeting.

I have decided to be very formal in the process because I need the school to understand from the beginning that I mean business. If the school does not understand why I want a 504 designation, I will just turn to the doctor's letter. I will have a doctor on my side from the beginning.

I know the school is full of peanut butter and peanut butter projects from volunteering in my non-pa son's classroom. I know many things need to change for my pa son to be safe. I would rather aim for change with 504 on my side that to go it alone.

If the school won't talk to you until Feb, I would start by getting a letter from the doctor. That will take some time anyway to get it back from the doctor.

Let me know how it is going...

Donna

On Jan 16, 2006

Quote:

Originally posted by Nutternomore: [b]Most importantly, we continue to have some degree of leverage by using 504, because we are formal partners with the school in spelling out the plan. They don't get to make decisions unilaterally re: DS's accommodations. And, if push ever comes to shove, my child's civil rights are protected (something you don't get with a handshake and a smile [and no 504])...[/b]

... nor with an IHP.

Nutternomore recently helped explain this to me: Children who have a Section 504 designation are entitled to a Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), meaning they cannot be separated/segregated. A child with PA who does [b]not have a disability designation are not entitled to LRE. [/b]To ensure that your child has a LRE, s/he must have a disability designation.

On Jan 20, 2006

I was not sure where to put this,I thought this is the place.Let me know if it is "not" the right place.

When we first started this I wanted to "beleive" that I could just verbaly work things out.

I have come to relize that it is much clearer in "black & white". DYKWIM?

Which brings me to this point.

*I* would like to sugg. to any newcommers to get a pen and paper in hand *before* you start the making *any* phone calles.

Start with the date and time of the call and who you made this call to.Write down the conversation and what was said,and if you received you answers.

Then I would do a *letter of understanding* in ref to that call. Make it *clear* as to the problem you are having and stick to the *facts* and what you need from the school in order to *help* your child.

These are *just* sugg. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/biggrin.gif[/img] HTH someone.

------------------ Love this site Synthia

sorry for the spelling errors,it has been a long week [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/eek.gif[/img]

[This message has been edited by synthia (edited January 20, 2006).]

[This message has been edited by synthia (edited January 20, 2006).]

On Jun 6, 2006

Raising for Overwhelmed

On Dec 19, 2006

raising for breezemagic

On May 12, 2007

raising for 3xy1PAinNH

On Aug 7, 2007

Bump for others who may need this like me [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] I've been around for a long time but this is the first year that we need a 504... its all new to me!

On Aug 21, 2007

I can't tell you how extremely grateful I am to all the veterans who have so generously given freely their knowledge and experience in the whole process of developing a 504 to keep all our kiddos safe.

I bow to all of you...

------------------ Kimberly Wife to Joel (since 1999) SAHM to: DS1 (May 2003) PA since Feb 2004 DS2 (Jan 2006) KNA

[i]"With God all things are possible." ~ Matthew 19:26[/i]

On Oct 25, 2007

bump

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