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Allergy Free Zone Protects Student

Promising Practices in Special Education
Life-threatening Allergies (anaphylaxis) June 1996, Vol.2:5, Alberta Education Special Education Branch

by: Dave McFarlane, Principal, Greenfield Elementary School, Edmonton, Alberta and Elaine Kryzanowski, Special Education Branch, Alberta Education

Schools are being challenged by the unique medical needs of an increasing number of students. Many schools are reviewing their policies and procedures in order to adapt to these needs while maintaining a positive atmosphere and open learning environment. One school in south Edmonton recently assessed its ability to meet such a challenge. The following information provides a brief summary of the steps taken by a creative and responsive school team.

Faced with a unique challenge, Principal Dave McFarlane of Greenfield Elementary School decided to pull together system expertise along with community resources. He knew, through his years of experience in meeting student needs, the necessity of good communication and team leadership.

A student attending Greenfield has a severe allergy to peanuts and substances that contain peanuts or peanut products of any kind. The allergic reaction can be fatal.

In order to develop and implement a plan of action, Dave and his staff had to determine what constituted a safe environment for the student.

In consultation with Dr. Vincent Osundwa, allergist and clinical immunologist, and other members of the medical community, it was decided that steps should be taken to provide a reasonable level of security in order for the student to avoid exposure to peanuts and peanut products while at school. Although it would be difficult to eliminate all risk, they agreed everything reasonably possible should be done.

The student's parents applaud the action taken by the school and particularly by the principal and his staff. "The principal of the school cooperated in all respects. He took steps to learn as much as possible about the situation and he instituted immediate steps to address our son's need -- we are very pleased with the school initiatives," the parents noted.

Administrative Procedures

  1. Identify student's special need
  2. Determine school responsibility and liability
  3. Determine school adaptations required
  4. Determine awareness, education and training required
Dave McFarlane emphasizes the importance of paying attention to the student with special needs as well as other students. "It is important to remember that some students, and sometimes their parents, see a school rule made for one student as an infringement on the rights and freedoms of others," he said. Being sensitive to the needs of all students is an essential part of the development of a plan of action.

His solution was to institute "Allergy Free Zone" that included the student's lunchroom and classroom. The teachers who had direct contact with the student received special instructions about what to allow to be brought in for snacks (especially at Halloween). Classmates were informed of the need for tolerance and understanding and were told of the important role they play in implementing the "Allergy Free Zone." Lunchroom supervision procedures and checklists were put in place and a reporting system instituted. Instructions were given regarding the proper use of an EpiPen and Ana-Kit for the administering of adrenaline. Procedures for calling for medical assistance and notification of parents were put in place.

Dave McFarlane's advice to other school administrators is simple and straightforward, "Accept the circumstances and get on with solution."

Plan of Action

  • "Allergy Free Zone" Lunchroom
  • "Allergy Free Zone" Classroom
  • Playground and Field Trip Supervision

Roles and Responsibilities

Classroom Teacher

  • Trained and knowledgeable about the action required if a problem occurs
  • Responsible for monitoring and checking food substances brought by other students
Lunchroom Supervisor
  • Checks all substances brought into the lunchroom, paying particular attention to the small print describing ingredients of pre-packaged goods
  • Each month, provides a written report outlining steps taken and a summary of specific incidences related to the confiscation of items and the behaviour of students.

For more information, contact:

Allergy/Asthma Information Association

Calgary Allergy Network

Lilly Byrtus, Regional Coordinator 
Allergy/Asthma Information Association 
16531 - 114 Street, Edmonton, AB T5X 3V6 
Phone/Fax (780) 456-6651

National office:
Box 100, Toronto, Ontario M9W 5K9
Phone (416) 679-9521 or 1-800-611-7011 
Fax: (416) 679-9524

Dave McFarlane, Principal, Greenfield Elementary School, 
3735 - 114 St., Edmonton, AB T6J 1L7 
Phone: (780) 434-8581
Fax: (780) 435-1303  

Dr. Vincent Osundwa, 
Suite 1230, First Edmonton Place, 10665 Jasper Ave., 
Edmonton, AB T5J 3S9 
Phone: (780) 425-3400,
Fax: (780) 421-0065   
Special Education Branch 
10th floor, East Devonian Bldg., 11160 Jasper Ave. 
Edmonton, AB T5K 0L2
Phone: (780) 422-6326
Fax: (780) 422-2039   

Terms of Use: The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is for your general information only. We cannot be held responsible for anything you could possibly do or say because of information on this site.   Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions or concerns. 


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