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Should schools ban perfume?

December 27, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Should schools ban perfumes if one student is allergic? That's what one Pennsylvania state legislator is proposing.

Marcia Hahn, a Republican, is proposing that schools in that state ban people from wearing perfume or body spray if a student in the building is allergic to fragrances. The "fragrance free schools" proposal was inspired by a high school student in the state who is so severely allergic to Axe body spray that he had to be hospitalized and is now being homeschooled.

Pennsylvania school administrators have said such a ban would be extremely difficult to enforce, according to an article in earlier this month, and I can see their point. I suspect it would also be an infringement on the rights of other students to prevent them from wearing perfume or cologne.

But another Pennsylvania case left me feeling more sympathetic to the allergic student. Last month a federal judge tossed out a civil rights suit filed by parents on behalf of their tree-nut allergic son against the Fox Chapel Area School District. Unlike in some other recent cases, the parents in this case apparently weren't asking that all nuts or tree nuts be banned from the school. The parents' chief complaint seems to have been that the boy was forced to sit alone at a "food allergy table" that was actually a desk set apart from the lunch tables. The boy's doctor had recommended that he be seated at the end of a rectangular table with a two feet buffer zone from other students at the table, and that the others at the table also be those who had agreed eat a tree-nut free lunch. That sounds fairly reasonable to me, particularly since many schools across the country already make similar accommodations. The parents claimed that one other parent in the class had even agreed to send her child to school with a tree-nut free lunch so their son wouldn't have to eat alone at the table.

However, the principal at this particular elementary refused that accommodation because the school's tables are "round" and the rectangular tables were activity tables that would look too different from the rest of the tables. The school also did not have appropriate chairs for the rectangular tables, according to the principal and head nurse. In their lawsuit, the parents also claimed the boy was being teased by his classmates, that the problem wasn't adequately addressed by the school district and that the boy was exposed to tree nuts at a school Halloween party. When they pulled the boy from school and enrolled him in an online charter school, Fox Chapel Area School District charged them with a truancy violation, which was eventually dropped. The school district disputed the parents' assertions.

But, though he deemed the school's response to the lunch table situation imperfect and not adequately explained, Judge Arthur Schwab noted that the school district had come up with four different plans for accommodating the boy's allergies and the parents had rejected all of them. Schwab wrote that the school district had taken reasonable steps to accommodate the boy's disabilities and include him in class activities. He said a school is not required by law to grant all of the specifications required by parents or to make substantial modifications to the programs used for all students in a school to accommodate one student. I suspect that ruling would apply in the case of perfume too.

The tree-nut allergic student case was T.F. et al v. Fox Chapel Area School District


Article Comments



Dec-29-13 11:24 AM

Finally, something I can sink my teeth into. Public schools should incorporate nothing offensive, religion, perfumes, the list grows long. I find sports funded by taxpayers gruel and offensive. They should be removed from schools because of the injuries children innocently incur.


Dec-28-13 2:27 PM

if it is a public school it should be sutable to the public, the same idea of no religion in school no perfume or anything offensive to the public. they are there to learn not to put on a show. do that on your dime not the public dollar.


Dec-28-13 10:01 AM

There is perfume in a lot of places. For instance most deodorants have perfume. The insecticides used in rest areas to keep the flies down contain perfume. Many household cleaners, soaps, detergents, and on and on contain perfume. Maybe if health education in schools would point out that too much is not good. Axe might be a special case, it's caused problems with people not considered sensitive to perfumes. *******newsfeed.time****/2013/10/31/school-shut-down-and-kids-hospitalized-after-6th-grade-boys-spray-too-much-axe/ As for the doctor's office, that's because people take a bath in perfume before going to the doctor. Plus the fact that odors help the doctor diagnose.


Dec-28-13 8:48 AM

Sounds like the problem is solved with home schooling. It is insane to expect the world to bend at every persons needs. The case of the tree-nuts seems like a personal problem to me and that person is going to have to learn to live with it or die unhappy. The parents need to step up and raise the child they bore.


Dec-28-13 8:30 AM

Some people feel the need to take a bath in it..

A year or so ago the wife and I went to a movie in the theater.. There were only about 10 of us in the movie..

One women was loaded with perfume.. She sat down two rows in front of us..

We got up and moved clear to the back seats.. Another couple did the same..

After the movie I stopped by the mens room.. another guy was in there made the comment that was the worst experience ever due to the smell.

Many people are allergic to that and to the soap isle in the grocery store.


Dec-28-13 4:26 AM

One of my family members is sensitive to perfume so I never got in the habit of wearing it. But I don't know that you can legally hold schools to the standard of a doctor's office.


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