There are different approaches to helping ensure that a gluten-free child’s needs are met at school. Children’s needs vary and the approach to accommodating gluten-free students varies from school to school as well. Each family needs to consider their own child and circumstances, and determine the approach which they think will suit them best. Simply communicating with a child’s teachers, and potentially with administrators and food service staff at the school as well, can sometimes be sufficient. Materials such as GIG’s “Letter to Teacher” are useful for this approach. A more formal option is to submit what is called a “504 Plan.” Section 504 of the “Rehabilitation Act of 1973” is a federal law designed to protect the rights of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. So, a child with a disability who attends a public school may submit a 504 plan. Section 504 is an anti-discrimination statute that requires the needs of students with disabilities to be met as adequately as the needs of the non-disabled are met. What does requiring a gluten-free diet have to do with having a disability? In 2009, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was amended to broaden the meaning of “disability” to include anything that limits a “major life activity,” and one of these major life activities is eating. A child who requires a gluten-free diet (whether due to celiac disease or gluten sensitivity) may be eligible for a 504 plan, but is not guaranteed consideration. Each child and plan is considered on a case by case basis. A medical diagnosis (documentation from physician) is a necessary part of submitting a 504 plan, but does not guarantee that the student will receive services under the plan. Parents interested in submitting a 504 plan should contact their school district for additional information.
References, and for additional information: