School District Sued Over Food Allergy Policy

According to a recently filed lawsuit, Fox Chapel Area School District in Pennsylvania failed to adequately address a student's severe tree nut allergy. The suit, filed Sunday in U.S. District Court, alleges that the student faced ridicule after being seated by himself in the cafeteria. Attorney Jeff Ruder – who represents the student, referred to by the initials T.F. – alleges that the district violated the federal Rehabilitation Act. As a result, the student was subjected to "disability-based harassment."

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Because of his treatment at school, the boy's parents decided to enroll him in a private school. Now, they are seeking compensatory damage and reimbursement for the private school tuition. According to the lawsuit, T.F. is allergic to tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews, and the allergy is so severe that "even trace amounts can be enough to cause a severe reaction."

Student sat alone at a desk in the cafeteria

After school administrators assured his parents that there was a "nut-free table" in the school's cafeteria, he enrolled at Fairview Elementary School in the fall of 2010. However, according to the lawsuit, there was no nut-free table. Rather than sitting with other students at a nut-free table, T.F. was seated at a desk, separated from other students by two empty chairs. According to the lawsuit, he experienced teasing and humiliation as a result of the seating arrangement.

The suit alleges that the district had an insufficient plan to prevent T.F. from experiencing an allergic reaction at school. Twice, he developed hives, and once he experienced a full-blown allergic reaction, according to the lawsuit.

School district responds

The school district responded with a statement that read: "The Fox Chapel Area School District has and will continue to make appropriate accommodations for students with allergies that are enrolled in the district. A hearing officer in this case, which was heard this past summer, found in favor of the Fox Chapel Area School District on this issue and we are confident that the Federal Court will agree with that decision."

How far do you think school districts should go in an effort to protect students with allergies?

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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