If you have a child with food allergiess or any other disability, then you've probably heard the terms 504 plan, IEP, and IHP tossed around. Here's a quick guide to sort out the alphabet soup of disability law.
Food Allergies, Schools, and Disability Law
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973
Section 504 requires that all children be provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) If your child attends any school receiving federal funds, you cannot be told to homeschool or to take your child elsewhere because of a medical condition. Your child must be provided with all necessary services needed to receive an education.
Every school must have a designated 504 coordinator. When you request a 504 plan, the coordinator will set a meeting to determine if your child's medical needs qualify for one. The meeting does not guarantee that you will be given a plan, but generally documentation from a physician regarding the severity of your child's food allergies is sufficient.
Parents often prefer 504 plans to other kinds of voluntary arrangements, because they have an enforcement mechanism. If the school fails to provide the accommodations in the plan, a parent or guardian may appeal to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) for help.
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA)
When the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was expanded, it specifically added hidden disabilities, such as food allergies, to the list of diagnoses it included. If a medical condition has the potential to interfere with a major bodily function, such as breathing, then it must be considered a disability.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
IDEA defines thirteen categories of disabilities which qualify students for special education and related services. If a student falls into one of those categories, then the school must develop an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Food allergies alone will not usually qualify a student for an IEP, but if your child has any other kind of special need, then the food allergy accommodations may be included in it instead of in a separate 504 Plan.
Individual Healthcare Plan (IHP or IHCP)
An IHP is a document which specifies the accommodations which must be made for a student with food allergies, such as nut free areas or hand washing by everyone entering the classroom. Often a school will offer an IHP without setting up a 504 Plan or IEP. As a parent, you may certainly accept the IHP by itself, but you always have the right to ask for a 504.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
The IHP details the steps the school will take to prevent your child from having an allergic reaction. Your child's school is also required to have an EAP. The EAP sets out the staff's response if a reaction does occur, such as who is responsible for administering epinephrine and calling 911. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) has an excellent template you can give to the school.
Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Management Act (FAAMA)
This is the most recent of the federal regulations. It provides funds and resources to create voluntary guidelines to help schools keep children at risk of anaphylaxis safe. Essentially it provides a set of best practices for schools to use when developing accommodations for students.
In addition to federal regulations, the states have a patchwork of laws which set policies on issues such as whether schools will keep stock epinephrine on hand or if students may self-carry their own devices. Many of these laws are new and still being interpreted, so sometimes it may be necessary to challenge your school district's policy if it seems at odds with the intent of the law.
Allergyhome Food Allergy Tools for Schools
FARE Food Allergy Research and Education
KFA Kids with Food Allergies
Writeslaw Special Education Advocacy