Elodie Glover, now 7-years-old and in Grade 2, was forced to leave Holy Name of Jesus school last October after several bouts of anaphylactic shock. Her mother, Lynne Glover, filed a complaint with Ontario’s Human Rights Tribunal against the school in January, claiming discrimination over the way officials there handled Elodie’s potentially life-threatening allergies.
After a summer of mediation with lawyers, Glover and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board came up with both a specific plan banning dairy and eggs from Elodie’s classroom and a proposed management plan to deal with allergies board-wise.
“It was incredible, she’s beyond happy to be back at school,” Glover told CBC Hamilton.- The Current | Should allergy protection in schools be a human right?
The human rights complaint has been partially settled, Glover said, but not completely resolved. The HWCDSB confirmed the complaint is still working its way through the process, but said progress is being made on a resolution.
Meanwhile, a letter sent by Holy Name of Jesus Principal Michael Campbell to all parents explained there are students at the school with severe allergies — meaning even a “tiny amount” of the foods could cause a life-threatening reaction.
“We can all play a positive role in preventing such a dangerous and frightening situation at our school,” Campbell writes in the letter.
Parents are being asked to avoid sending children to school with dairy, eggs, peanuts or tree nuts (a different student has the nut allergy). Those who have children in Elodie’s class received a separate letter, asking them not to send these foods.
Every morning, Glover said, students’ lunch boxes are checked. If any of the foods contain one of the allergens, it is replaced with a similarly healthy food.
Glover stressed not all students are banned from bringing dairy and eggs.
“There is no school-wide ban … parents are misunderstanding the word ‘avoid’,” Glover said.
Glover said the agreed-upon accommodation plan is still in draft form, but she hopes the board will approve it so it can become a “template” for other schools dealing with anaphylaxis.
“A lot of children will benefit from this because it’s not just an accommodation plan for Elodie,” Glover said.
'There will be other allergies'
HWCDSB spokeswoman Toni Kovach did not comment directly on Elodie’s situation, but said the board prides itself on creating an “inclusive environment,” and said it causes distress when students can’t participate in school due to something like allergies.
She said the board’s new accommodation plan has been developed in a collaborative effort between school officials, parents, medical experts and the board. Now, education and communication will be key to creating a safe environment, Kovach said.
Clint Davis, the HWCDSB’s chief psychologist and chair of the board looking into the allergy accommodation plan, said the school board has been dealing with allergies long before Elodie’s case.
“This is not something that started for us in October,” Davis said, adding the board has studied allergies in its students since the 1990s and it will continue to be an issue in the future.
“There will be other allergies that arise in other children,” he said.
Davis said last year, of the 100 or so students with severe allergies, only one student had to use an EpiPen.