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Celiac Disease Discrimination


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#1 KSUmarlow04

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 12:46 PM

I have an important question for the celiac community. I was diagnosed with celiac disease in my sophmore year of college (2005). I am now a senior at a major university in Georgia. This semester, Fall 2009, they are implementing a mandatory meal program. I filled out a form entitled "Medical Meal Plan Exemption" because I did not believe that it would be very safe to eat food on campus. After filling out the form, I was sent a letter asking for more information. I had to write a one page letter describing why I felt I should be exempt and what my disease is. I also had to request a letter from my gastroenterologist confirming my diagnosis. In the letter my doctor also insisted that I am exempt from the plan because it would hinder my ability to stay on the gluten-free diet safely. Although it was not requested, I also printed an article explaining Celiac Disease incase the board members did not know what it was. Yesterday I received a letter from the school saying that they would be unable to grant my request to be exempt and that all decisions of the Appeals Committee are final. Now I have to pay for a meal program that I will not be able to use AND the expensive gluten free food that I already buy. I gave the school the benefit of the doubt and asked them if they have a gluten-free menu or if they could accommodate and they said no they can not guarantee anything.

My question is, do I have a legal case? And what other suggestions does anyone have?
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#2 Takala

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 01:11 PM

No, no, no, don't "give" them the benefit of the doubt and don't let them force you to purchase and subsidize other student's food.

You have (from a legal standpoint) a medical disability that they are refusing to accommodate- when they could do so very easily, just by letting you opt out.

I do not know what the contract is that you sign to reside on campus, but if it does say "must purchase meal plan as a condition of residing on campus housing" then you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Chances are there are other students on campus who are gluten intolerant, celiac, or have severe food allergies- this is a lawsuit just waiting to happen, and extremely dull witted and greedy on their part. Posting a query on the campus student website and craig's list and facebook or however you socialize and share information should yield a lot of other disgruntled students who are being put at medical risk. Gather their names and ask if anyone's parents (because really, all it should take is a one or two well connected, wealthy, Really Aggravated Parents) would like to also contact your attorney and the entity you are dealing with at the Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

I would also cross post your problem with Kennesaw State University of Georgia's Mandatory Killer Mealplan on several other sites to generate as much negative publicity as possible- the objective is to make them cave to public pressure not to be putting students at risk of health catastrophes because of their love of cafeteria subsidies.

Good luck, and go get 'em.

_______
edited to correct name of state university. advice remains the same, contact an attorney as post below, per the Univ. website, indicates that their refusing to cancel by your medical request, which they indicate that they are capable of, is actually going to generate more fees for them.
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#3 KSUmarlow04

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 01:32 PM

I NEED TO CLARIFY SOMETHING!

I do NOT attend the University of Georgia. I attend Kennesaw State University! I do not want to give UGA a bad name.

Also, I did not sign a contract. I rent a home and do NOT live on campus. This is a university-wide mandatory meal program that ALL students are responsible for. They are starting the program this semester, Fall 2009, and it is mandatory because they could not get enough funding from the state. I had absolutely no choice in this meal program. It has already been added to my fees and has to be paid in TWO weeks!!!
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#4 Takala

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 03:25 PM

I'm looking at the Kennesaw State University website. Student Contract Terms and Conditions, ASaP Culinary Services

Oh, this is just precious. I almost thought this was a prank.

https://financialser...tudent_contract

Student Contract Terms and Conditions
Definitions:

Administrative Fee - A $25 fee charged to cover the costs of changing previously-contracted Meal Plans.

Banner Account - A University-maintained account for each Student that reflects fees and payments.
Block Meal Plan - A plan that allows a set number of entries to The Commons - Student Culinary Center during a semester.
Commuter Student - A student who does not reside in on-campus housing at the University.

Contract Period - The semester in which the contract applies. Each Contract Period can only be one semester as established each year by the University.

Culinary Services - Department of the University responsible for administering meal plans and managing all dining services on campus.
Dining Facilities - The Commons - Student Culinary Center
Drop/Add - The time period at the beginning of each semester in which all Students may make adjustments to their course schedules. Requests for changes to Meal Plans are due by 5:00pm on the last day of Drop/Add.

Final Payment Deadline - The last day to pay all tuition, fees, and charges for a semester.

Freshman - Any Student having twenty-nine (29) or fewer earned credit hours as recorded by the Office of the Registrar at the University.
Full-Time Student - Any Student taking twelve (12) or more credit hours in a semester.
Guarantor - A person or entity that agrees to be jointly and severally liable with the Student for Student's debt or performance under this Contract if Student fails to pay or perform. A Guarantor is required when the Student is below the age of 18.

Mandatory Plan - The minimum plan required to be in place based on a Student's class designation and whether or not he or she resides on campus.

Meal Plan - A plan recognized by the Revenue Department of the State of Georgia, which permits a Student to purchase meals that are exempt from state sales tax.

Meal Plan Cancellation Charges - Charges calculated as due for meals used under any Meal Plan up to the time cancellation of a plan is effected. All entries are charged at the rate of $7.50 regardless of plan.

Meal Plan Cancellation Request Form - The form used to request a cancellation of any Meal Plan.
Meal Plan Change Request Form - The form used to request a change to any previously contracted Meal Plan.

Meal Plan Exemption Request Form - The form used to request an exemption from a Mandatory Plan.

Meal Plan Office - The main office of the University meal plan program, which is located in The Commons - Student Culinary Center. Prior to the opening of The Commons (scheduled for August 15, 2009), the Meal Plan Office will be at Culinary Services, located in House 48 on Campus Loop Road.
Optional Plan - An upgrade to a Mandatory Plan or any plan voluntarily selected by a Student who is not required to purchase a Mandatory Plan.
Plan Week - The seven (7) day period that runs from Friday, 12:00am to Thursday, 11:59pm.
Residential Student - Any Student residing in one of the University's four communities (University Place, University Village, University Village Suites, and KSU Place.)
Student - Any non-employee of KSU registered for at least one (1) credit hour during a semester. Status as a student or employee is noted on the KSU ID card. Employees of KSU are not classified as students. A Student is eligible for a tax-exempt meal plan, while an Employee is not.
Unlimited Meal Plan - A plan that has no limit to the number of entries to The Commons - Student Culinary Center. KSU offers two such plans, one for five (5) days of every week and one for seven (7) days.


a. Exemption from Mandatory Plan: A Student may have an existing medical or financial circumstance that warrants an exemption from a Mandatory Plan. The Student must complete a "Meal Plan Exemption Request Form" for each semester an exemption is requested. Requests may be submitted once the Student has been admitted to the University. The deadline for submissions for each semester are 5:00pm on the following dates:

i. Fall Semester 2009 - July 15, 2009
ii. Spring Semester 2010 - November 15, 2009


Can you say "scam artists?"
Install mandatory plan.
A student requests an exemption.
They deny the exemption.
This triggers a late fee.
They make more money off the students trying to OPT OUT OF THE STUPID MANDATORY UNWANTED MEAL PLAN.

Kennesaw State University deserves some publicity on this one. I love the $530 bucks they are also tacking onto all the tuition as extra student fees on top of this travesty.
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#5 JillianLindsay

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 03:42 PM

Well said Takala.

Marlow, If you have a DR's note saying you cannot eat their food then you definitely have a case. PLEASE FIGHT this and DON'T give up! We are behind you 100% (as much as one can be from far away & over the internet anyway).

What about the better business bureau and/or consumer protection? I don't know how it works in the U.S., but here in Canada we have these government organizations to investigate compaines for unethical and/or illegal conduct at no charge. If you get nowhere with them, then the next step is private legal action (i.e. hiring a lawyer, which is expensive $$!)

Also, you could contact your local media to see if they would pick it up as a story. I bet the CBC here would love a story like this! Best to do it once you have some support behind you. Get your family, friends, and fellow gluten-free students and local Celiacs to rally around you.

GOOD LUCK and I wish there was more we could do to help. Please keep us updated.

You could also start an online petition. It wouldn't do much, but it may help your college see how wide-spread the gluten-free diet is and help us feel like we're doing something when we sign it :)

Best of luck to you. This is an opportunity for you to pave the way for other students with severe dietary restrictions and/or allergies who were afraid to step up like you are.

Jillian


No, no, no, don't "give" them the benefit of the doubt and don't let them force you to purchase and subsidize other student's food.

You have (from a legal standpoint) a medical disability that they are refusing to accommodate- when they could do so very easily, just by letting you opt out.

I do not know what the contract is that you sign to reside on campus, but if it does say "must purchase meal plan as a condition of residing on campus housing" then you need to contact an attorney as soon as possible.

Chances are there are other students on campus who are gluten intolerant, celiac, or have severe food allergies- this is a lawsuit just waiting to happen, and extremely dull witted and greedy on their part. Posting a query on the campus student website and craig's list and facebook or however you socialize and share information should yield a lot of other disgruntled students who are being put at medical risk. Gather their names and ask if anyone's parents (because really, all it should take is a one or two well connected, wealthy, Really Aggravated Parents) would like to also contact your attorney and the entity you are dealing with at the Kennesaw State University in Georgia.

I would also cross post your problem with Kennesaw State University of Georgia's Mandatory Killer Mealplan on several other sites to generate as much negative publicity as possible- the objective is to make them cave to public pressure not to be putting students at risk of health catastrophes because of their love of cafeteria subsidies.

Good luck, and go get 'em.

_______
edited to correct name of state university. advice remains the same, contact an attorney as post below, per the Univ. website, indicates that their refusing to cancel by your medical request, which they indicate that they are capable of, is actually going to generate more fees for them.


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#6 Lisa16

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 03:49 PM

Oh I am so sorry. If this had happened to me I would be more than angry. And I have a bad feeling this kind of thing happens a lot.

Here are some places to try:

The GA attorney general's office (write a letter)
A legal firm that does pro-bono work (call everybody in the book)
The Affirmative Action Office at KSU (file a complaint)
The American's with Disabilities Act website (there should be a contact for violations)
The American Medical Association (write them a letter)
Student Legal Services (at least they can refer you)
Your dean's office (maybe the dean will be sympathetic and can do aomething for you)
The Student Government Association
The Celiac Sprue Association (they have lobbists-- why not for this too?)

Rattle every cage you can.


Good luck to you! Hang in there. I bet if you fight it, you will at least get a refund. They are trying to patch a budget problem with this.
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#7 JillianLindsay

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 03:51 PM

If it were me, I'd pay all my fees EXCEPT the meal plan and risk the late fee being tacked on. You have every reason to be medically exempt and this is a terrible, shameless cash-grab by Kennesaw State U.

Obviously it's easy for us to shout out advice when we're not in your shoes, but we're here for moral support and good luck whatever avenue you decide to take :)

Best wishes,
Jillian

I NEED TO CLARIFY SOMETHING!

I do NOT attend the University of Georgia. I attend Kennesaw State University! I do not want to give UGA a bad name.

Also, I did not sign a contract. I own a home and do NOT live on campus. This is a university-wide mandatory meal program that ALL students are responsible for. They are starting the program this semester, Fall 2009, and it is mandatory because they could not get enough funding from the state. I had absolutely no choice in this meal program. It has already been added to my fees and has to be paid in TWO weeks!!!


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#8 Lisa16

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 04:11 PM

I found this by googling "Disabilities Act and Education" and there is contact information here:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) (formerly called P.L. 94-142 or the Education for all Handicapped Children Act of 1975) requires public schools to make available to all eligible children with disabilities a free appropriate public education in the least restrictive environment appropriate to their individual needs.

IDEA requires public school systems to develop appropriate Individualized Education Programs (IEP's) for each child. The specific special education and related services outlined in each IEP reflect the individualized needs of each student.

IDEA also mandates that particular procedures be followed in the development of the IEP. Each student's IEP must be developed by a team of knowledgeable persons and must be at least reviewed annually. The team includes the child's teacher; the parents, subject to certain limited exceptions; the child, if determined appropriate; an agency representative who is qualified to provide or supervise the provision of special education; and other individuals at the parents' or agency's discretion.

If parents disagree with the proposed IEP, they can request a due process hearing and a review from the State educational agency if applicable in that state. They also can appeal the State agency's decision to State or Federal court. For more information, contact:

Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20202-7100

www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/osers/osep

(202) 245-7468 (voice/TTY)



Rehabilitation Act

The Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by Federal agencies, in programs receiving Federal financial assistance, in Federal employment, and in the employment practices of Federal contractors. The standards for determining employment discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act are the same as those used in title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


Section 504

Section 504 states that "no qualified individual with a disability in the United States shall be excluded from, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under" any program or activity that either receives Federal financial assistance or is conducted by any Executive agency or the United States Postal Service.

Each Federal agency has its own set of section 504 regulations that apply to its own programs. Agencies that provide Federal financial assistance also have section 504 regulations covering entities that receive Federal aid. Requirements common to these regulations include reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; program accessibility; effective communication with people who have hearing or vision disabilities; and accessible new construction and alterations. Each agency is responsible for enforcing its own regulations. Section 504 may also be enforced through private lawsuits. It is not necessary to file a complaint with a Federal agency or to receive a "right-to-sue" letter before going to court.

For information on how to file 504 complaints with the appropriate agency, contact:

U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Disability Rights Section - NYAV
Washington, D.C. 20530

www.ada.gov

(800) 514-0301 (voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)
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#9 Ahorsesoul

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 04:32 PM

Just send them a pleasant note by certified mail that you will be holding them legally responsible for any medical problems you may have from eating in their mandatory food program. Make sure to include the doctors letter. CC it to the president and/or administrator of the school.

I think they may reconsider your case. It sounds like they didn't read what you sent in the first time.
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1960s-had symptoms-could have been before but don't remember
1970s-told had colitis or nervous stomach-was given phenobarbital, felt great but still had symptoms
Me, dd and ds diagnosed with Lactose Intolerance
2000-osteopenia
2001-had stroke because of medications I was given
June 2003-saw Chiropractor who specialized in nutrition: Celiac Disease not Lactose Intolerance, went gluten free with once in awhile cheating, off soy and dairy for about 6 months
June 2003-found excellent doctor for fibromyalgia (who has found out she has Celiac Disease)
May 2006-went gluten free with NO cheating-excellent! Made all the difference in the world

#10 LuvMoosic4life

 
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Posted 02 August 2009 - 08:44 PM

OMG! I went to a small college. I did an article on celiac disease and college students. At my school there were only 2 confirmed celiacs that the food manager knew of. He said that they wouldn't be able to take the meal plan off the contract, but they did have differant meal plan options and made accomodations such as : A sepate toaster/mini fridge away from gluten foods for them to use and they ordered specialty foods and kept them stocked for them.....I also know people who worked in food service at the school and told me about how they accomodated the celiacs by cleaning the grills/ using new cookware, altering recipes etc...

they definitly need to do something to accomodate you!!! My school also required a confiremation letter from the doctor in order to accomodate students, but the accomodations would definitly be met!!!!
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#11 NewGFMom

 
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Posted 03 August 2009 - 06:12 AM

I work in the IT department at dining services or a major university. We also have a mandatory meal plan. However, since it's mandatory, they accommodate all declared food allergies. The staff preparing the food is specifically trained to deal with food allergy and cross contamination issues.

Go talk to the chef's and see what they can do for you. We have a special gluten free refrigerator they they replenish constantly. Maybe they can come up with something for you before you go on an expensive law suit.

The kids here know the chef's and the dining hall managers make sure they know who has food allergies and make all kinds of accommodations. It is possible. Just go to the kitchen and make an appointment with the head chef.

It's worth a shot!

-Margaret
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#12 Gemini

 
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Posted 03 August 2009 - 07:45 AM

I NEED TO CLARIFY SOMETHING!

I do NOT attend the University of Georgia. I attend Kennesaw State University! I do not want to give UGA a bad name.

Also, I did not sign a contract. I own a home and do NOT live on campus. This is a university-wide mandatory meal program that ALL students are responsible for. They are starting the program this semester, Fall 2009, and it is mandatory because they could not get enough funding from the state. I had absolutely no choice in this meal program. It has already been added to my fees and has to be paid in TWO weeks!!!


Without going overboard and threatening lawsuits, I REALLY think all this is going to take to resolve is a letter from an attorney, again explaining why you cannot partake in this meal program and I am pretty sure the school will comply with your exemption. The school is pushing your buttons, all in the name of money, and they are banking on the notion that you will just pony up the money and shut up about it. However, you have a medical issue, backed up by a medical doctor, and the school cannot refuse this request. I am sure a good attorney will be more than happy to point out that they are breaking the law so don't get all stressed about it. You may have to pay an attorney a fee for a letter but they almost always do the trick! ;)

Whatever you do, don't pay anything to this school for any meal plan until you talk to an attorney.
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#13 KSUmarlow04

 
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Posted 03 August 2009 - 09:24 AM

UPDATE:

First I would like to thank everone for their advice and support. It is nice to know that I have so many people who are behind me on this issue. It also verifies that Im not making too big a deal out of this.

I received an e-mail back this morning from the head of the committee saying "The committee reviewed all of the documentation submitted and denied the request. Decisions by the committee are final."

My school has over 20,000 students. Although it would be nice of them to dedicate a portion of the kitchen, use gluten-free appliances, order gluten-free food, etc. I do not believe this would be possible. Since the school has already stated that they did not receive enough funding from the state, I do not think they would have the funds to accommidate individuals with special needs. Also, they do not even have a dietician available right now so Im not sure I trust any of them to tell me what to eat. I realize this and that is why I am requesting to not be a part of the meal program all together.

Here is what I have done so far:

1. I contacted the Dept. of Justice who oversees the Americans with Disability Act. She suggested that I do the following things in this order: 1) Contact the Dept of Education, since this is a public university, and file a complaint through the Civil Rights Hotline. 2) Contact the Disabled Student Support Services through Kennesaw State University. 3) File a private lawsuit in federal court

2. I contacted the Celiac Sprue Association who suggested that I find a local chapter in my area because they may have advocacy people willing to help.

3. I left a message for the President of KSU, the Chancellor of the Board of Regents in GA, and the director of the Health Clinic on campus. No response yet, but it has only been one day.

4. I contacted the Atlanta Legal Aid Society who does pro bono cases for low income individuals (college students def. fall into this category). The lady I spoke with took down all of my information about the case and asked that I send her all of the documents that I have. She said she would call me back later in the week to let me know if they would be willing to take my case.

5. This afternoon I am going to try calling several new stations and newspapers in Atlanta to see if they would be willing to air/write about my story. I think getting some negative publicity to the school, and information about Celiac Disease out to the public would help a lot. Most people think that Celiac is all about "Dont eat this this or this" and that it, but its SO much more!

Any more suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for the help!!
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#14 KSUmarlow04

 
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Posted 05 August 2009 - 05:58 AM

UPDATE #2

After bugging everyone I can at the school for the past 3 days, they have decided to re-review my case with the committee again today. Im not sure if they have any intention of granting me the exemption but hopefully they take everything I have said into consideration and just give me my money back!

When I spoke to the Director of Culinary Services at KSU yesterday I asked her if she would be able to guarantee that I would not be sick from the food they chose to serve me and she said no. I also asked if they school would be willing to pay for any medical expenses if I did get sick on campus. To that, she also said no. How can they have the right to force me to purchase a meal plan if they can not guarantee my safety and health and then not take responsibility if I do not get sick.

I have contacted several news stations and newspapers but I have not heard anything back. If I am rejected by the committee again today I am going to step up my game and get the public involved in this.

One thing is for sure, Im NOT giving up!
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#15 momxyz

 
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Posted 05 August 2009 - 06:30 AM

keep the pressure on, and keep us posted!
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