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Educating Students with Allergies and Chemical Sensitivities

Not every child with an allergy or chemical sensitivity qualifies for protection under 504 or the IDEA (for purposes of this article we are going to limit the focus to 504). The school must first evaluate to determine if the student is eligible. A student is eligible if the allergy "substantially limits one or more major life activities". So, what does that mean? Well just like no two people are the same, no two children's reaction or allergies are the same and it must be decided on a case by case basis. Many school districts make the mistake of not evaluating a student or finding him ineligible under Section 504 simply because the student was performing well in school. A student's allergy or chemical sensitivity need not substantially limit the major life activity of learning in order to be eligible under 504 - if the condition substantially limits another major life activity. Food allergies can substantially limit major bodily functions such as breathing, respiratory function, and immune system function, among others, therefore students with food allergies may be eligible under Section 504. Food allergies and chemical sensitivities also have the potential to limit the major life activity of learning for example, a student who has frequent disability -related absences grades may begin to decline. This is where it becomes important to remember that schools must look at each case individually because not every allergy or chemical sensitivity will qualify. What are that child's reactions like, what is the history of reactions, information provided by a doctor such as, data showing that the student's life could be threatened by mere exposure? This is important because one child with a food allergy may need to ingest the allergen while for another student mere exposure might be enough to cause a reaction.

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