Provisions of 504 Plan Illegal?

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 7:42am
anonymous's picture
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

I've been lurking here for many months and have enjoyed reading all of the comments and questions; I hope to join in more.

My daughter is in 2nd grade, and this is her 4th year in public school. This is her second year with a 504 plan.

Each year, my husband and I have sent home to all class parents (with the teacher's cooperation and approval) a letter from us informing them of dd's allergy, how it "works," and what items they should avoid sending to the classroom; we've included our contact information for parents who have questions, so that the teacher does not have to devote extra time to this issue. This letter has always been well-received, we've answered lots of parent questions, and most have been very happy to comply.

Prior to the beginning of this school year, dd's teacher checked with the principal before sending this letter, and the principal stated that she did not want this letter sent. Fine. The teacher placed allergy info in weekly newsletters, but the class Halloween party was a nightmare for dd. I contacted the principal that day, and she said that she would send the letter home so that it appeared to come from HER. Fine. No letter, and the Christmas party was another nightmare. Another promise from the principal, and yet another party at Valentine's where dd could have nothing, and dangerous foods were sent to the classroom. I'm sure this is because the parents really had no idea about dd's allergy.

I contacted the principal once again, and she told me that she no longer thought sending the letter would be a good idea to send this letter. I contacted the Director of Special Servicesl, who works in the Superintendent's office. She told me that there are legal issues with this letter, and the school district's lawyer does not want it sent to parents. I was floored.

We spent a day e-mailing back and forth,with my asking we can ensure Emilie's 504 is adhered to if parents do not have any idea what foods cannot be in the classroom. Suddenly I received a call asking for a meeting to review dd's 504.

Her 504 worked for us (had it been followed). It stated that no PN/TN products, may contains, or processed on equipment with foods were to be eaten in the classroom, and asked that parents not send in these items. It also contained other provisions (wiping hands, mouths, desks, etc.) that the teacher has faithfully upheld.

In our meeting (with teacher, Special Services Director, Principal, Special Ed Coord at dd's school, and her classroom teacher), I was told that her 504 was illegal and opened the school district up to lawsuits, as no one can tell a parent what foods to send to class, and it had to be rewritten ASAP.

I was incredulous. This was the same plan that had been in effect for over a year, and just now it was deemed "illegal?" This is why I wanted to send our personal letter out - so that parents would know why this request was being made. Then we could deal individually with the few parents who didn't want to comply (which has not happened in 4 years).

We did rewrite the plan so that any item with a PN/TN warning label will be eaten outside in the school courtyard (on bad weather days when going outside is not possible, dd will leave the classroom and desks will be wiped off and kids will wash hands/faces before she returns). Any outright unsafe item (PB cups, etc.) will be placed unopened in the children's backpacks at the end of the day. These provisions are OK with us.

My question is, has this ever happened to anyone else? If this is the case, how in the world do any of you get PN/TN-free classrooms? I was told that it's a parent's right to send any food to the classroom regardless of any other child's safety and what harm it can cause. If a parent chooses to take off work and bring

I'm really interested in hearing how others have handled this issue. While I don't want to open the district up to legal issues or audits, perhaps we should look into changing some things.

FWIW, at the 504 meeting, I did approach the idea of snack-free parties. I mean, it's really ridiculous! If the school really wants to promote wellness (which they tout at every turn), they could stand to end the free-for-alls of cr*p that pass for holiday parties and birthday celebrations. Seriously, these kids end up with piles of garbage that equal their entire desired caloric intake for a whole day! But that's another rant...

------------------
Keri
Emilie (6.99): PA & TNA
Ella (5.03): NKA

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 8:34am
chanda4's picture
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Joined: 12/14/2006 - 09:00

Keri...I am in the middle of our 504 and our school is the same as yours, they will NOT let me send a letter to parents, and they will not let me have a peanut-free classroom....it's against the law(what they said). So yes, it does happen. Since they won't control what comes into the classroom, then my answer was NO FOOD...eat whatever food they want but not in the classroom(take class to the lunchroom)...they didn't like that idea either. In my eyes, there is no other option...so the fight has begun! I will stand firm on this, I see no other option....
Good luck(I'll let you know what happens to us!)
------------------
Chanda(mother of 4)
Sidney-8 (beef and chocolate, grasses, molds, weeds, guinea pig & asthma)
Jake-6 (peanut, all tree nuts, eggs, trees, grasses, weeds, molds, cats, dogs, guinea pig & eczema & asthma)
Carson-3 1/2 (milk, soy, egg, beef and pork, cats, dog, guinea pig and EE)
Savannah-1 (milk and egg)

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 9:35am
gvmom's picture
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Joined: 08/24/2005 - 09:00

Maybe someone else here can word it better than I, but as far as I know, parents not being able to inundate a classroom with junkfood has nothing to do with legality. If a parent isn't allowed to bring in outside food, there is no effect on the ability to learn with respect to the children in the classroom. They will not suffer academically if they don't get a gooey cupcake brought in by a parent.
Conversely, a child with Food Allergies can have their educative process adversely affected if they are thrown into anaphylaxis because of a food product introduced into the classroom.
My understanding is that children have a right to a free and accessible public education, not that children have a right to have parents bring food at whim to their classrooms that could cause another child anaphylaxis. Children with food allergies can't access their education if food containing their allergens is allowed in their classrooms.
One wonders what the liability coverage for districts is that seem to believe parents have more of a right to pass out food at will, that is not even held to any safe food handling guidelines & labeling, than those students whose lives depend on clear labeling, consistent and complete ingredient disclosure and safe handling procedures.
Of course, I'm not even venturing into the liability a district might open themselves up for should any one of the children come down with Hepatitis, Salmonella, E-Coli, etc.

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 9:41am
TwokidsNJ's picture
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Joined: 05/28/2005 - 09:00

Check out the MA Dept of Education document and the Ann Arbor Public Schools policies and procedures, and CT Food allergy policy. All have sample letters as a key part of their programs. These models are being used all over the country.
Search them here and I think they'll come up.

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 10:50am
notnutty's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2004 - 09:00

From my understanding there is nothing "illegal" about asking parents to comply with a classroom policy put in place to protect the life of another child. Ask the school to direct you to the policy, case law or statute that states that it is illegal. Tell them that you do not agree with the "no letter" decision and your child has a right to FAPE in a safe environment.
Does anyone know if Prior Written notice applies to 504? I know PWN is very effective when you have an IEP and they want to change something...
Gail...or Mommabear...any ideas...I will also try to look it up because it could be a very effective tool when it comes to schools trying to modify a 504.
Be back when I have more time....

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 10:54am
Momcat's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2005 - 09:00

The assertion that schools cannot legally control food in the classroom is flat-out wrong. If that were the case, students would be able to eat whatever, whenever they chose in the classroom. Schools make all kinds of rules--our school has a no gum rule and a dress code, for instance. There is no such thing as a "right to bring food into the classroom".
We currently have a food-free classroom. That's right! The teacher made a rule that no food will be brought into the classroom for snacks or even for parties. This has not been a problem! In fact, the principal is encouraging it because it works with the school wellness policies.
Our principal also sends out a letter to parents in DD's class requesting that they not send peanut/nut foods for snacks. However, they don't search anybody's snack, it's just a request because it would be difficult to enforce. The intent is to reduce the amount of peanut/nut foods brought into the school.
Cathy
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Mom to 7 yr old PA/TNA daughter and 4 yr old son who is allergic to eggs.

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 11:02am
notnutty's picture
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Joined: 03/15/2004 - 09:00

No...there is not a clearly established prior written notice requirement for 504.
Thought that maybe would be a path you could take. I would still ask for the "Law" they claim is being violated.

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 11:47am
cathlina's picture
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Joined: 06/29/2001 - 09:00

Technically...according to 504 law...the school can not discuss 504 plans with anyone but school staff. It violates the student's right to confidentialty. That is a law. In fact, only certain staff people can read IEP's and 504's.
I worked as a special education associate and asked to read a student's IEP to better assist the student. I had to get permission from the Director of Special Education.
This is not any different that a doctor's office not being able to give out your medical records to scores of people.

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 12:34pm
anonymous's picture
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Joined: 05/28/2009 - 16:42

Thanks for the collective advice. I left out a lot of "back & forth" details, since my note was already alarmingly long. For now, I'm pleased with the provisions we have in place, especially with the awesome teacher dd has this year - she's truly a godsend.
And, yes, part of my request at the 504 meeting was that we move toward a "food-free" environment, and, while everyone agreed, they said that would never fly with parents. Good night, people, will your kids truly suffer if they don't get 3 cupcakes (which my child can't have), a ton of candy (which my child can't have), and a truck load of cookies (which my child can't have) at every class party?!?!? It's sickening! And then they have the gall to send home notes requesting that parents refrain from sending sodas in their kids' lunches, due to "healthy student" initiatives? Something ain't right.
If they can make that request, surely I am right to request that they don't allow food that can seriously sicken my child, or worse.
Rant over for now. Thanks again for the ideas. I knew they were being inconsistent somehow. I'll try to find a way around it for next year.
------------------
Keri
Emilie (6.99): PA & TNA
Ella (5.03): NKA

Posted on: Sun, 04/01/2007 - 4:28pm
NicoleinNH's picture
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Joined: 06/21/2003 - 09:00

d
[This message has been edited by NicoleinNH (edited June 09, 2007).]

Posted on: Mon, 04/02/2007 - 12:59am
Gail W's picture
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Joined: 12/06/2001 - 09:00

I'll guess that you received the calls from parents who received your letter well and that the principal received the calls of complaint. This all is the result of the school district acquiescing to parent complaints and has nothing to do with law.
BTW gvmom, you worded your post beautifully. [img]http://uumor.pair.com/nutalle2/peanutallergy/smile.gif[/img] The bottom line is that our children cannot be denied the necessary accommodations that enable them a FAPE.

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