Prohibiting Chewing Gum

Chewing gum in school used to be a no-no. One lawsuit wants that to be the policy again. I’m Amy E. Feldman.

A student in Chattanooga, Tennessee suffers from a disability called misophonia, a disorder in which hearing sounds of eating food or chewing gum causes her to have panic attacks. Her high school lets teachers decide whether to allow eating in class, and as a result she claims she can’t take classes where it’s allowed. She asked the school to accommodate her disability by prohibiting students from eating or chewing gum in her classes, but the school refused.

Now, under the law, a public school must make reasonable accommodations of policies where necessary to avoid disability discrimination, unless it would alter the nature of the program to do so. On the one hand, the school says treating students like adults who can decide when to eat helps their growth and independence; on the other hand, back in the day that was the policy so it doesn’t seem so unreasonable in order to help this girl. But the court has refused to dismiss the case, so we will see whether she wins her fight for the right to prevent others from chewing in class.

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