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School and Allergies, Asthma

Allergic Student Returns to School with New Accommodations Plan

Lynne Glover and Elodie close up
Lynne Glover with Elodie.

A Canadian girl with severe allergies to dairy and eggs is now back at school with a new accommodations plan to keep her safe and included.

Readers of Allergic Living will recall the story of Lynne Glover of Hamilton, Canada, who felt she had no choice but to remove her 6-year-old daughter Elodie from school in October 2013 and file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Elodie (who is now 7) had experienced multiple reactions at school, and in Glover’s view, the school was not doing enough to minimize the risk.

“Elodie is so happy to be back in school, it’s beyond words!” says Glover, adding that the girl’s friends are excited to have her back as well. “This has been a long battle. The support I have received throughout this has been incredible.”

After a year of negotiations, an accommodations plan was agreed upon by both Glover and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, allowing Elodie to return to school with some special restrictions for her class. Glover, a mother of five children, notes there are still some outstanding issues that will likely go to a human rights hearing, but the important thing to her is that her daughter is back in school.

In the earlier grades at Canadian schools, the classroom usually doubles as the lunchroom, which complicates the issues of accommodating and supervising to prevent accidental allergen exposures.

“This is about putting in place the same risk-reduction strategies for dairy and egg as have been in place for peanuts and tree nuts for many years. There is no hierarchy of importance when dealing with anaphylactic allergies,” says Glover.

Some of the accommodations agreed upon include:

• A letter sent to parents of students in Elodie’s classroom (but not to parents of kids in other classes) asking not to send Elodie’s allergens to school.
• Lunch bags in Elodie’s class are to be checked each morning, and any products that contain milk or eggs are removed and replaced with a similar snack. (This is a move that has been controversial in other jurisdictions, and is not common practice in Canadian schools.)
• All common areas are to be free of food and drinks: the gym, library, hallways, main office, washrooms and playground.
• Elodie’s classroom rules will apply for any field trips or events that involve more than Elodie’s class.
• During field trips Elodie will have a designated supervisor.
• Elodie’s classroom will be sanitized before and after food is eaten.
• Food for special events will come from an allergen-aware food manufacturer.
• Fundraising activities are to avoid using allergens.
• Bus drivers for school events are to be trained in recognizing anaphylaxis and in the use of epinephrine auto-injectors.

A second letter was also sent to all parents of the school asking to “avoid” (when possible) sending foods that contain milk, egg, peanut, tree nut or fish, as other students at the school have severe allergies to these foods.

See also: Milk Allergy in the School

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