Many parents within our Twin Cities ROCK group have been through the 504 Plan process in our local Minnesota schools. The 504 Plan is assembled to ensure a safe, gluten-free environment for our children with celiac disease. To find out more about the definition of a 504 Plan click here.
How to initiate the 504 Plan for your child in your school district:
1. Contact your child’s school and speak to the 504 Plan coordinator – usually the principal. Inquire about the process in your school district to request a Section 504 evaluation. (If your child has an IEP for Special Ed contact the IEP case manager.) There may be a form to complete, etc. (They will probably tell you they will need a letter from the MD for example.) Then a meeting will be set up. You can request the following be present at the meeting: principal, school nurse, school social worker or counselor, classroom teacher, kitchen manager or head cook, Food Service Director, District Dietitian. At the meeting, you must prove your case – so to speak – the MD letter takes care of that! They may ask you to explain Celiac Disease, a chronic health condition, which may impact their learning at school and requires accommodations.
2. You will need a letter from your child’s MD stating the following:
- That your child has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, which is a lifelong condition that restricts the diet.
- That the restricted diet affects a major life activity – eating
- That the foods that must be omitted from the diet are wheat, rye, barley, and oats (unless gluten free oats)
- It helps if the doctor includes a statement explaining a strict gluten free diet and environment is necessary to keep the child healthy. Thus the dietary restriction is not limited to eating, but to any possible hand to mouth contact exposure to products containing gluten – such as art supplies, lipstick, lotion, adhesives – since even trace amounts of gluten could interfere with intestinal healing and could result in intestinal damage and future health complications.
3. Your school may need the MD to sign an Eating and Feeding Evaluation Form:
4. You may have your child’s MD sign a “Health Care Plan” specific for Celiac Disease to be used as part of the 504 Plan or instead of a 504 Plan at school (or it could be used for a daycare setting). This can be used as a supplement for an existing IEP/504 Plan, for summer camp, daycare and it is an easy reference for substitute teachers. Sometimes the school nurse will manage an IHP and the principal may manage a 504 Plan, but the school nurse still has a big role regardless. Your school may draft their own IHP. (Feel free to save to your computer and edit/personalize for your child’s needs.)
5. Mail above 3 items signed by the MD to school 504 Plan coordinator – keep copies!
6. Before the meeting, PREPARE!
Know your rights. the MN Department of Education's School Nutrition Program website is particularly informative. In particular, “FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE MEMORANDUM: Meal and Milk Substitutions for Medical or Special Dietary Reasons”. Prior to the meeting, draft ideas/ areas of concern/ areas you’d like accommodations – For instance: GF lunch substitutes (hot dog without the bun, etc) & classroom project substitutes (instead of regular cheerios or noodles).
The 504 Plan will be a written document broken down into the following categories:
Training for Staff – request your expectations for teachers and food service staff training
Communication – open communication about changes in menu or any concerns you may have, include communication to other parents/students about only sending GF treats
Classroom Accommodations – wash tables before and after art projects or snacks
Cafeteria Accommodations – child need not be separated from peers, instead clean tables with fresh water and towel
Food Service Accommodations – who is preparing/handling the food, what training occurs, what safe guards are in place to assure child only gets GF foods, request reasonable variety and substitutes, request that Dietitian.
Seek info re: gluten status of all foods available to other children – don’t eliminate food unnecessarily.
School Nurse – nurse’s role if child complains of tummy pain or if accidental ingestion of Gluten, request nurse contact the parent to come up with a plan. School nurse can have role to educate all the teachers, etc.
7. After the 504 Plan is set up, communicate what is working and not working.
Gluten Intolerance Group: "Understanding Your Student”
Celiac Sprue Association : School Information
Rochester School District: download gluten free school lunch menu and compare to regular menu to see how they substitute
USDA document that the schools follow currently (lengthy but read index & go to pages 34-35 & 41-45):
National Foundation of Celiac Awareness
Disclaimer: All recommendations, information, dietary suggestions, product information, and related data contained in this newsletter are intended for the benefit of Twin Cities R.O.C.K. members. The text of this document has not been submitted for approval to the CSA/USA medical board. Individuals should consult with their physicians and dieticians before following any product, medical or dietary recommendations in this document. Products mentioned do not constitute endorsement. Manufacturers’ products are subject to formula change at any time, changes that may or may not be reflected on labels. Neither Twin Cities R.O.C.K. nor any of its members assume liability for the use of the information contained in this document.
Drafted by Julia Fried-Devine in collaboration with Julie Jones, Twin Cities R.O.C.K. members