A “504 Plan” protects children from discrimination because of a difficulty. Section 504 is the portion of the Americans With Disabilities Act that spells out the procedure and specifically includes celiac disease as a potential disability. Here are two articles that explain this more fully. (Click here for the second article). Finally, read this article by The Savvy Celiac, a gluten free author and blogger whose celiac daughter has a ’504 Plan’.
First of all, I should mention that I am a retired elementary school teacher who has worked with children who have these plans. As a school counselor, I wrote several. (We did not use the term ’504 plan’, but the meaning was the same.) Here are my personal reactions to this ‘hassle’:
- I don’t think of celiac disease as a disability. A child might never know that has been labeled ‘disabled’ but that is not the entire point. Words like ‘disability’ affect people’s judgments. Celiac disease a serious condition but is it that serious? This plan could cause a teacher to overreact.
- Ideally, every child should be fed a hot meal prepared in a dedicated facility daily. Ideally, a child who lives gluten free should never feel like an outsider . The only way to fully accomplish both of those goals would be to serve every child in the school a gluten free meal in a dedicated gluten free cafeteria. This is very unlikely to happen.
- Children who live gluten free should be encouraged to ask lots of questions whenever they are serve a meal. This is not practical in a school lunch line.
On the other side of the coin,
- It is always a good idea to get a plan down in writing.
- It is always a good idea for parents to make people aware that they understand their rights and demonstrate their willingness to be assertive in pursuing those rights
I am not recommending that you attempt to establish a full-fledged ’504 Plan’ during the hectic weeks that precede the opening of school. It might be more realistic to mention this possibility now and make the full plan your objective for the year