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Friday, June 21, 2024 | Back issues
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Mom Demands No-Perfume Policy at School

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CN) - A mother demands that her son's high school ban the spraying of perfume, cologne and scents, because her son was hospitalized three times with anaphylactic shock from it. The boy reacts only to recently sprayed scents, but the school blew off her reasonable requests for accommodation, she says in her federal complaint.

The mother sued Fort Wayne Community High Schools on behalf of her son, J.Z., saying the school district's refusal to protect her son violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The mother says she pleaded with Northrop High School's principal, asking her to bar scented sprays on school grounds, but the woman ignored her requests and told her that her son "just has bad genes."

In November 2009 and September this year, the mom says, her 17 year-old son had to be treated by the school nurse with "EpiPen" injections, and rushed to the hospital via ambulance after having violent reactions to "perfumes, body colognes and scented body sprays within his school environment."

Allergy tests confirmed that when exposed to "the mist of scented sprays," the teen's "respiratory passages literally close, restricting his ability to breathe" according to the complaint.

"Medical personnel described this condition as 'anaphylaxis,' a severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction which can lead to bronchoconstriction resulting in breathing difficulty, swelling, dizziness, shock and even death."

The teen has had several less-intense allergic reactions to the chemicals at school as well. His mom says he reacts only to "freshly sprayed perfumes, colognes and body sprays (such as Axe) lingering in the air. J.Z. does not react to air freshener spray, scented bathroom products and the like. Moreover J.Z. is able to function around persons who make normal use of deodorant, hair spray, scented laundry products and cleaning supplies, and even perfumes, colognes, and body sprays provided they are not sprayed within his immediate proximately [sic] (space and time)." (Parentheses in complaint.)

The mother says she "spoke with the Northrop school nurse on multiple occasions, inquiring about the possibility of implementing a ban on the student practice of discharging scented sprays from pressurized canisters within the school building." But she says she received no response from school officials.

The mother says she met with Northrop's principal Barb Ahlersmeyer, who told her that "she had made a passing request during afternoon announcements that students limit their in-school use of sprays," but concluded by saying there was nothing more she could do and that the boy "just has bad genes."

The mom says she called the school's superintendent, Wendy Robinson, and the elected school board president, Mark GiaQuinta, who were both unresponsive as well.

On Oct. 25 this year, sue says, her son had "his most life-threatening chemical reaction to date," requiring three EpiPen injections and treatment at the hospital. "This episode resulted in injury to [his] vocal chords causing temporary loss of voice for a number of days," according to the complaint. Due to his injuries, the teen had to be out of school for five days and missed work, his mom says.

And to top it off, on Oct. 30, the boy's parents received a letter from Fort Wayne Community Schools which "in ironic fashion," complained that he had "five (5) or more excused or unexcused absences during this school year."

The family says they fear that the boy's absences "might jeopardize his eligibility for college benefits through the 21st Century Scholar Program."

The mother says her son "would be able to function and otherwise receive the benefit of a public education at Northrop High School, and avoid unnecessary risk to health and life, if provided the reasonable accommodation requested, specifically, reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices, designed to control, limit and restrain the presence of airborne chemicals to which plaintiff suffers grave allergy." They demand that accommodation, plus costs and damages for pain, suffering and outrage.

Their lead counsel is Christopher Myers.

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