I'm a long time lurker, and been so appreciative of this website for my PA DS, who is in the fourth grade this year. We are new to public schools, since he went to a private school until it closed down this summer (major paper mill closing and job loss). They bent over backwards to accommodate us, and we couldn't have been happier.
Now, the public elementary school he just started of 400 kids says that they have never had a PA kid before, and the schools here serve peanut butter on their hot lunch and breakfast program almost EVERY day! I personally want peanuts banned, but in this state I doubt it will ever happen (Wisconsin).
His teacher was willing to look at websites (like this one I gave her), is using the disinfectant wipes I provided for the classroom, sent a peanut-free list of snacks home with kids, and made a peanut-free classroom sign for her class door. I was really, really happy with all of this, since she was quite overwhelmed at first at the thought of PA. She has been wonderful.
There is a school nurse, but only for 1 day a week. They weren't going to keep his epi-pen upstairs with him, but downstairs in the office, but the nurse agreed their should be a pen in both places. This has all been done.
My problem-I mentioned I thought I should get a 504, and they really want to handle the problem without one. I have been called to a meeting at 8:00 am this Tuesday to meet with the social worker, principal, nurse, and the head of the food service (she makes up the menus). They want to know what else they can do, other than banning peanuts.
Yikes! This is where I need help. I have a list of needs that is usually asked for in a 504. I would like to come up with other substitutes for peanut butter that would meet their protein, fat, carbs, etc. requirements. They are already dealing with glucose intolerance and diabetics.
What would you do? Would you go to the meeting and still state you want a 504 (which is what I'm inclined to do), or are there other options?
My son has never had a anaph reaction, but as we all know that doesn't mean there couldn't be one. That is a hard concept to get across to staff.
I would really appreciate any direction from someone who has had to deal with schools on this-I feel so overwhelmed, and quite honestly, emotionally exhausted from so many years of explaining and worrying.
On Sep 6, 2008
I would absolutely insist on a 504. It is your son`s legal right! My dd is 13. The schools often don`t want a 504, because it is legally binding and holds them accountable. If they violate it, they can lose federal funding. So, of course, they just want everything done based on good will. The problem is, first of all if your son`s needs are not met and you have no 504, you will have very little recourse. If you have a 504, then if it is violated, you have recourse. My dd started kindergarten with a 504, despite the fact that everyone was very cooperative to begin with. She had wonderful teachers who were very accomodating until 4th grade. In 4th grade she got a teacher who didn`t take the pa seriously, and violated the 504. Without it, I could have complained all I wanted, but the school wouldn`t have had to do anything about it. Instead, because she had a 504, I wrote a letter to the 504 coordinator and principal stating that the 504 was violated and exactly what happened. The 504 coordinator took it very seriously. He called a big meeting with me, the teacher, the nurse, the principal, the 504 coordinator to address my complaint. We all had to sign that we were there. They were handing me pamplets on dd`s legal rights. They knew they could lose federal funding if I took it any further. BTW, the violation was one that some people might not even ask for in a 504. I asked for a food free room. Dd is allergic to milk as well as pa. We live in California and you can eat outside about 355 days out of 365 days a year. You can also eat in the cafeteria. Anyhow, I would insist on a 504. Things may be going well with this year`s teacher, but you don`t know what will happen further down the road. Another benefit is that it will go with your child to middle school, so you won`t be starting at square 1. I don`t think I would have gotten the accomodations we got in middle school if they weren`t already in the 504. We altered it a little, but they couldn`t actually take away accomodations unless I agreed.
On Sep 7, 2008
The school my son attends is a peanut free school. (they do not serve and do not allow PB brought from home.) There are a bunch of kids with FA in his school they have a pretty good handle on it I think. So I do not have a 504. However, I suggest you get one since you are the first one with a PA kid.
My sons school offers Sunbutter and Soybutter as subsitutes for peanut butter. It offers a lot of protien as does PB. I would encourage them to use that. I bet the kids wouldn't know the difference.
On Sep 8, 2008
Thank you for the responses. I need to find out how I start the whole 504 process. I will still go into the meeting tomorrow with more ideas to keep my son safe until then.
On Sep 8, 2008
I am in the beginning stages of getting a 504 plan for my son as well. Although the paperwork they sent me the call it a Chapter 15 evaluation. (State of Pennsylvania)
I have been very happy with my school and how they have been willing to work with me, but if my son participates in any extra curricular activities there would not be access to his EPI pens. The school district feels that since my son is not required to go to the extra curricular activities that they do not have to provide access to EPI pens for him. There solution is that I attend all extra curricular activities, but it is just not always practical. I feel it is discrimination, since the other students are not required to have their parents come to extra curricular activities.
On Sep 8, 2008
Thanks for the heads up on extra curricular activities, cristym. I hadn't even thought of that. I'll be including that and field trips in our meeting tomorrow.
On Sep 8, 2008
The law says that extracurricular activities have to have accomodations to keep your child safe the same way the school activities do. Even on site day care after school has to accomodate your child. They are not doing you a favor; they are required by law to make the extracurricular activities safe for your child. If your child needs an epipen available during school, then the school must make one available during extracurricular activities. Also, they cannot require the parent to go, although if you want to be there that`s a different story.