Accommodating children special dietary needs

Am I obligated to provide special meals for these people?

If the meeting was mandatory and the food provided was the only way that they were going to be able to eat lunch that day, I’d get it…but that is generally not the case.

There are exceptions which might apply, and they make logical sense.

Reimbursement “shall not be reduced or denied” in the following cases: The United States Supreme Court recently resolved any doubt as to whether reimbursement for private placement could be ordered when a student never received special education services from the school.

It’s a complicated legal analysis as to how the notice provisions apply to an unidentified child, and the chances are higher that you might meet one of the exceptions than perhaps for other cases (for example, you request an IEP meeting so you can give notice and they won’t convene one). The reasons for this vary from not knowing they should, to not realizing they are even eligible for reimbursement, to embarrassment, to being in a state of crisis, to not realizing how expensive the placement might become.

I speak to parents all the time who have finally been able to take a deep breath and think about whether they could get public funding for the private school months after the child already began. You may change your mind, lose your job, or realize how inappropriate your child’s previous program was once you see how they do in the private placement.

But on the flip side of things, making a point of ensuring that those people have food they can eat is a pretty good way of making them feel valued and supported.

And it’s also probably to use food to make people feel generally taken care of and appreciated.

That means that, yes, it might end up being more complicated than just placing one straight lunch order; you might need to make special arrangements for people with different needs — but you should see that as part of the job, not an annoying distraction from the job.

And you definitely don’t want to exclude people because of their religious needs (your kosher employee or anyone in the future who needs halal food) or health needs (the gluten-free person or any future people with allergies or other health-related food restrictions).

Part of having a diverse workforce is that you’re going to have people with diverse dietary needs too, and you don’t want to signal that only the dominant culture’s eating habits are accommodated there.

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