On Sep 26, 2004
[i]Family prods school into new allergy policy[/i] Parochial school had refused child
By Emily Sweeney, Globe Staff | September 26, 2004
A Brockton parochial school that refused to allow an Avon girl to enter kindergarten because of her peanut allergy has changed its admission policy.
As a result of a discrimination complaint filed by the girl's parents, St. Edward Elementary School has agreed to accommodate children with allergies and pay her family a small settlement.
Linda Neault filed the complaint with the US Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in September 2003, after St. Edward's rescinded her daughter's admission to kindergarten because she is severely allergic to peanuts.
''She's gone to gym, YMCA camp, everyone has been great making minor adjustments for her. We've never had a problem," said Neault. ''For her not to be able to attend kindergarten [at St. Edward's]. . . she was devastated."
Neault eventually enrolled her daughter Jillian, 5, in a private kindergarten in Quincy last fall.
According to the resolution agreement issued by the Office for Civil Rights last month, the school will pay the Neaults the difference between St. Edward's tuition and the cost of the Quincy kindergarten program.
''It took a year to finally come to a decision. My husband and I couldn't be happier with the decision," said Neault. ''We don't want what happened to Jillian to happen to another child."
The Rev. Christopher Coyne, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said parochial schools within the archdiocese will now make special arrangements for children with allergies like Jillian's.
''At the time, the archdiocese was unaware of the requirements under the law to deal with children with this kind of allergy," said Coyne. ''There was a goodwill effort to accommodate the family. When the school became aware of the acuteness of the allergy, we could not guarantee [the child's safety]. The parish made the decision not to accept the child, which under the law we were not allowed to do."
Neault said she became aware of her daughter's allergy when Jillian was 15 months old. At a day-care facility, she ate a peanut butter and cheese cracker and went into anaphylactic shock. Doctors identified her allergy, and she has not had any peanut butter since. Neault now asks that teachers and staff at Jillian's school learn how to use an EpiPen, an emergency device that administers a dose of an antihistamine that can help stabilize a patient suffering an allergic reaction.
This fall, Jillian is attending first grade in the Avon schools. She wears a special medical bracelet and eats lunch at a designated allergen-free table.
''She doesn't live in a bubble, she's a regular kid," said Neault. ''It's a life-threatening condition, but you make minor adjustments and life goes on. We'll continue to send her to public schools in Avon."
According to the Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, one in 25 American children are reported to have a food allergy, and the number is increasing.
Anne Munoz-Furlong, founder and CEO of the allergy information resource, said school administrators, teachers, and families need more education about food allergies.
''Fortunately, this story is not very common, though it points to the need for education and the awareness of how serious allergies can be, but that they can be managed. We are aware of other situations where children have been denied access because of their food allergy," said Munoz-Furlong.
The Virginia-based nonprofit advocacy group's website, [url="http://www.foodallergy.org,"]www.foodallergy.org,[/url] includes statistics, news alerts, and links to resources related to food allergy issues.
''It's believed that allergies are on the rise and we don't know why," said Munoz-Furlong. ''Food allergies are a heath issue we're all going to have to live with until a cure is found."
On Sep 27, 2004
THANK YOU for taking a stand!
------------------ Jodi mom to: Dominic 5/22/01 NKA Zachary 3/18/03 Peanuts, Dairy, Eggs, Avoiding all TN, Fish, Shellfish...