study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. As defined by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, school districts have always had the responsibility of ensuring that students with a disability have the right to receive a "free and appropriate public education." In 2008, the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended to state that a food allergy is considered a disability when it is substantially limiting without medication or other safety measures. The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges that for many children with peanut allergies, the allergy is likely to substantially limit the major life activities of breathing and respiratory function. Therefore, under federal law, such children would be considered to have a disability.
The extent of the required accommodations for students with food allergies is determined by the needs of the particular student. Where one child with a mild allergy may only need to avoid ingesting a food item, another child may have a severe and life-threatening reaction to simply being exposed to the food residue second-hand. Either way, the school district has a legal responsibility to make sure that every student, regardless of their disability, has a right to a free and appropriate public education without needlessly risking his/her health and safety to obtain it. In cases of severe food allergies, this could mean prohibiting the allergic food from the entire school is the only safe option.
In the past, District #1 has experienced many students with food allergies, and our goal has always been to provide these students with their legal right to a free and appropriate public education. As the frequency and severity of food allergies in children continues to grow, we will continue to abide by the legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act and work with the parents of impacted students to provide a free and appropriate public education. In some cases, this could mean ensuring that an impacted student not ingest a certain food. However, in more severe cases, this could mean that prohibiting a certain food from the entire school is the only option that meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The safety of all of our District #1 students is of utmost importance. The school district appreciates your understanding and cooperation as we work to ensure that all of our students, regardless of their disability, receive their legal right to a free and appropriate public education.