Our daughter is allergic to dairy milk. We provide her almond milk at home, however our school has told us we cannot bring in almond milk due to concerns about nut allergies, and that we should provide soy milk instead. We do not want our daughter drinking soy milk and feel that the school's policy is discriminatory due to the fact that both soy and dairy are potential allergens and they are allowing those, while banning nuts. Therefore they are providing preferential treatment for children with one medical condition while not providing the same considerations/protections for children with another medical condition.

Are we correct in our assessment that this is a discriminatory practice?

We are willing to work with the school to develop sane practices based on CDC recommendations, such as allergy-free tables in the lunchroom, etc.

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  • My daughter can't do dairy either. Have you considered coconut milk? – Kevin Aug 5 '15 at 20:24
  • We have considered coconut milk, which the school allows. The FDA considers coconut milk a trigger for nut allergies though, which shows how absurd the school's policy is. We don't want to put any kids in danger, but the school's policy goes against every recommendation from government and allergy research groups. – drz Aug 6 '15 at 12:55
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    Accoriding to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, "Coconut is not a botanical nut; it is classified as a fruit, even though the Food and Drug Administration recognizes coconut as a tree nut. While allergic reactions to coconut have been documented, most people who are allergic to tree nuts can safely eat coconut. If you are allergic to tree nuts, talk to your allergist before adding coconut to your diet." – Kevin Aug 6 '15 at 15:59
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    It could be that peanut particles can be airborne and inhaled, but dairy is much less likely to be breathed in since its a liquid. – Andy Aug 31 '15 at 0:59
  • Do I understand it correctly that the school may restrict what kind of drinks pupils are allowed to bring from home and drink in school (e.g., in breaks between lessons)? Or is this about some other situation in school, e.g., when eating together in a lunchroom and having bottles on the table for all pupils to use? – unor Oct 16 '15 at 2:10

It may be discrimination; not all discrimination is illegal.

Details vary by jurisdiction, for example discrimination on the following bases is illegal in Australia:

  • race
  • colour
  • sex
  • sexual preference
  • age
  • physical or mental disability
  • marital status
  • family or carer’s responsibilities
  • pregnancy
  • religion
  • political opinion
  • national extraction
  • social origin

A medical condition like an allergy is not necessarily a physical disability.

The school is arguably fulfilling its obligations under WHS legislation by banning nut products if that is what a risk assessment indicates. It may also be necessary to ban milk products if that is required for your daughter's safety. If (and I do not know) nuts pose a greater risk than milk then banning the former and not the latter may be perfectly justified. Ask to see the risk assessment.

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    Thanks for your answer. The issue is occurring in the United States. The CDC and other major US medical groups recommend against an outright ban and in favor of "allergy-free" zones for schools, although these are guidelines, not laws. There no hard laws at a federal level, and our state does not have any specific laws concerning food in schools. – drz Aug 5 '15 at 13:02

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