Can a School Limit what my Child Brings for Lunch Because Another Child has Food Allergies?

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“My 16 year old son, born with Down Syndrome, was asked not to bring his peanut butter sandwich to school because a fellow student (17 years old) has peanut allergies. My son has been bringing peanut butter sandwiches to school since he was 5. Why can’t the student with allergies eat elsewhere? Why is my son forced to change or eat elsewhere due to the other student’s needs? Thank you.”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

Many schools have approached the peanut allergy issue differently. In most cases these policies have been created not only out of concern for individuals with allergies, but also out of fear of lawsuits. The federal Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires government entities, such as schools, to make reasonable accomodations for those afflicted with various disabilities, such as food allergies. In many states, peanuts and peanut-products have been completely banned from schools.

The concern arises from the fact that while estimates say that only 1.5 million Americans suffer from any kind of nut-related allergies, for approximately 20 percent of them the allergic reaction can be fatal. In addition, according to several sources, allergic reactions can be set off not just from eating peanuts but by even having casual contact with their residue, such as crumbs, a smear on a table, or shaking hands with an individual who has recently eaten a peanut product.

While this may be difficult to explain to your child and may seem an outrageous over-reaction or extraordinary measure to accommodate one child’s needs, the risk of death or serious injury to that child may well offset some level of inconvenience to others.

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Author: Ray Everett-Church, Esq.

Ray Everett-Church is a privacy and security consultant with PrivacyClue LLC and is co-author of "Internet Privacy for Dummies"