Allergies worth accommodating

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An Ontario mother has filed a human rights complaint, alleging her daughter is being discriminated against, because her school isn’t doing enough to accommodate her life-threatening allergy to milk and eggs. She compares her situation to those with peanut allergies.

Dairy products are more ubiquitous than other food allergens. Therefore an outright ban is virtually out of the question. Allergies to dairy products are rarer than peanut allergies, and the consistency of foods like peanut butter make them more likely to “spread” between children.

However, while the school did take some steps to protect the student from her allergies – including switching to no-cheese pizza and suspending the school’s milk program ― they haven’t gone far enough and should redouble their efforts to accommodate the child.

Arguments saying the mother should enroll her daughter in a private school that is willing to accommodate the child’s predicament or begin homeschooling are short-sighted. Excluding a child from public school should be an absolute last resort, as most private schools are expensive, and homeschooling requires time and resources that many families don’t have.

Before effectively excluding the student, the school could institute measures to isolate her from allergens. The child in question could be completely separated from the other students during lunch, or the school could institute a strict hand washing or sanitizing process for students who have eaten lunches with allergens.

The school shouldn't fear the inevitable backlash from other parents as their concerns don’t compare to those of the mother whose child is in danger.

There are limits to accommodation, but they haven’t yet been reached in this case. The school could, and should do much more to protect the child who ― barring extreme circumstances ― should have a place in public school.

- Journal Editorial Board

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