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Mom wages war on kid's school when staff feeds peanuts to allergic son. AITA? LEGAL UPDATE

Mom wages war on kid's school when staff feeds peanuts to allergic son. AITA? LEGAL UPDATE


When this mom is furious with her son's school, she asks Reddit:

"Son has a peanut allergy, school continues to give him or allow him to get peanuts. AITA?"

This has been an ongoing issue since the second day of school, where he was given peanut butter crackers. We sort of brushed it off as a new school year, new students, teachers a bit frazzled dealing with first graders no real big deal.

His allergy isn't really severe but still not fun to deal with and can potentially become life threatening.

We had already informed the school of his allergy before the year started and even talked directly to the teacher about it because the default snack during the day if no other parents brought in a snack is peanut butter crackers.

We even offered to purchase a special alternative for him, but they said it was unnecessary as they have other alternatives.

So we figured the issue was over when a few weeks later it happened again, this time they claimed he grabbed another students snack and ran off to eat it before they could stop him.

Now my little one can be a little bit of a hard head and I can potentially see this happening so again we talked to him about peanuts and how dangerous they are to him. He continued to adamantly deny doing that and said Mrs gave them to him.

We then decide a meeting with the principal is in order, not to blame the teacher or accuse her of lying but to hopefully get this under control. Again a few weeks of no more issues, then it happened again.

Once again the story is "he grabbed it and ran off and ate the whole package before we caught him". Okay so a 6 year old managed to grab an unopened package of crackers, elude a teacher and an aide and eat the whole package before he's caught?

He's crying and swearing to us he was given them, and after so many incidents we have to start believing him.

Another meeting with the principal and teacher gets us a "Do not worry! This won't happen again". We have another long sit down with our son to explain that even if it's given to you, ask to make sure it doesn't have peanuts or other nuts in it.

Then, the very next school day (the meeting was on Friday) he's given another snack of peanut butter crackers but this time he asks if there is nuts in it and then he's given the alternativ

We figure it kind of sucks that the kid has to be the adult right here but at the end of the day he's learning to ask about nuts.

We send an email to the principal detailing the issue and say that the next stop is the school board if he is given peanuts again. We get a response back "if he's asking now what's the problem? He should have known to ask to begin with. We are teachers not parents."

We have no issues for a while until this week. Some parent brought in PB & J sandwiches for snack time and he was given one. He forgot to ask about nuts but thought "it was only in the crackers".

We find out the parent was aware of a nut allergy in the class (it's on the parent snack sheet) and brought in just a jelly one that was made separate from the peanut butter one's. He was not given this one. We spent a day at the hospital.

We've had endless talks with him about nuts and do our best to teach him but some of the blame has to be on the teachers here right? Do schools not have an obligation to deal with allergies?

The school lunch seems to have zero issues with this and has never given him a nut when there are several things on the menu rotation that contain them. He gets a special tray that was no where near any nuts. This is in Indiana, any help is appreciated.

Before we give you OP's update, let's take a look at some of the top responses:

thesemood writes:

I grew up with a tree nut allergy, so my parents had to deal with the same issues you're facing now. It's great that you're so proactive in teaching your son to stand up for himself -- my mom did that for me, and it's a skill that comes in handy!

Sadly, people can be really stupid about allergies, and it puts kids at risk. Lots of parents and teachers would tempt me to ignore my mom's rules and eat the class treats.

Thank god I said no, because more than once those treats contained nuts. It's a heavy burden to put on a 6 year old, and your principal is way out of line blaming your son for these reactions.

You say your son's allergy isn't severe, but any allergy that could be life threatening is severe... and the school should be taking it seriously. IMO they're violating your son's rights and the ADA by giving him peanut-contaminated food. But the reality is that it's difficult to prove ADA complaints, or even get them resolved (I've tried).

Here's what I would recommend: Buy a novelty lunchbox and fill it with special treats for your son. Bring it to school and insist that they put it in the classroom. At snack time, he gets those snacks, and nothing else. (I was obsessed with the Lion King, so we had a 3D Simba lunchbox that was, frankly, very rad.)

Tell your son to stop accepting food from the teacher(s), full stop. He can only have food at lunchtime or from his special lunchbox. If the school complains, remind them that they've already caused an allergic reaction three times and you need to protect your son.

Can he read? Start teaching him to read ingredients labels, and to recognize the word "PEANUTS". There are lots of big words in ingredients labels, but the allergens are usually listed in bold and repeated at the bottom. Make it second nature to check all his food -- this has saved me more than once as an adult.

In case you don't already know, F.A.R.E. has been the #1 resource on food allergies for literally decades.

MOST IMPORTANT: Are there Epi-Pens at school? Where are they kept, and do teachers know where they're kept? Can teachers name the signs of a dangerous reaction? Will the school administer Epi-Pens in an emergency?

My biggest fear here isn't that they'll give your son peanuts again... it's that they'll give him peanuts and then ignore a life-threatening reaction. If they're clueless enough to keep giving your son peanut butter crackers, what will they do if he goes into anaphylactic shock?

You're right, the school has an obligation to protect your son and they're failing him. This needs to go to the school board, the superintendent, and whoever else holds power over the school.

Trust your instincts: this feels like a big deal because it is! Don't wait for them to make him sick a fourth time. Good luck!

lifeofyou writes:

My son has a severe tree but allergy. In fact, the first instance of it was when I sent him with pistachios (he wanted to try them because his friend had them) and we found out when he had an anaphylactic reaction at school.

He is older than your little guy (10) and is very good about asking about ingredients and reading labels. Even so, the school has notices on the door to his class, epi pens in the nurse’s office, an action plan for both the nurse and teacher, I send in separate snacks for parties (they bring their own snacks daily) and he sits at a nut free table for lunch.

All of these should be standard precautions your school takes to protect him and others. And this would absolutely be a hill I would die on in regards to the school district. I would email the Superintendent with a CC to the principal.

The email would state exactly what you said here and also I would add that this is the last time you have a discussion with them. You inform them if it happens again, an attorney will be retained to protect your child’s health. Definitely get a 504 if you don’t have one already.

If you do have one contact the 504 administrator for the district and tell them the school is in violation multiple times over. I would also consider asking for a class room switch to a more competent teacher.

And definitely send in your own snack. If it is against the rules just tell them that them negligently trying to kill your kid is against the rules too. I am sure you are aware, but but allergies can progressively get worse. This needs to be fixed.

sourpatch writes:

You’ve gotten good advice here on how to handle the behavior and lack of action by the school. I just wanted to throw a suggestion out there that you should pack a snack for your son to bring from now.

Clearly you can’t rely on the teachers to not give him peanuts, and it’s too much responsibility for a 6 year old to figure out the ingredients of his snack everyday.

Just tell them you are opting out of the “class snack” and will be providing your son a snack from home everyday. I’m sure that’s something you could have his doctor write as a recommendation if need be.

railroader writes:

I would go straight to the School Board ASAP, once or twice would be a simple matter of getting a section 504 plan, but messing up this many times is unforgivable, and needs to be dealt with impunity. They are potentially threatening your child's life, and as such, you should deal with this with equal seriousness.

That said, you should still get a 504 plan in place to put the school within range of violating Federal discrimination laws by continuing to ignore this.

You may also want to consider seeking damages related to the Hospital visit to get their insurance on their case. (and potentially the district lawyer). That will definitely give them a kick in the ass to be more careful.

anxiouskick writes:

My friends kid is coeliac. Can't even touch gluten and the amount of times her old school would call my friend to say "oh she accidentally had some so-and-so" was ridiculous.

It stopped for a while when they called and they'd given her birthday cake and said she needs picking up before she's sick. Except my friend travels across our very long county as part of her job and was an hour away. Guess who was sick all over the school?

They were good for a few months but by then, she had decided to move both her kids to a different school and miraculously not had a single incident in school since (and her dairy intolerance has even improved a bit).

Edit to add - This doesn't even scratch the surface of how shit that school was and why I didn't want my kids going there despite it being in the same village and us not having a car at the time. I told my wife I'll send my kids to that school after I dance on that headteachers grave.

bemydarkling writes:

Over ten years ago I worked at a special needs preschool. The kids were high functioning, but because they were very young we had some over protective parents.

One mom decided she wanted her kid on a completely gluten free diet, and that meant no physical contact with anything containing gluten (including paint and play-doh).

He also couldn’t be in contact with some of the chemicals in our cleaning supplies. It was voluntary, not health-threatening, but we followed those rules to the T all year.

We had one slip up where he ate a goldfish cracker off the floor but we immediately noticed and followed procedure (get him to the nurse for charcoal).

Looking back it was a little absurd that we catered to all her demands, but if we could do all that then these teachers could remember one child’s single allergy. It’s not like he was allergic to a long list of things!

dreamingforwards writes:

None of this surprises me. I’ve had a dairy allergy my whole life and dealing with my elementary school was frustrating. My parents had a year long back and forth with the school just to convince them that it wasn’t fair that the only drink included in school lunch with milk.

Teachers would give me food that I couldn’t eat, but like the kid in this post, I didn’t know that. I knew I couldn’t have ice cream, but the “frozen fudge pop” didn’t say ice cream so I thought it was fine (I was 7).

That ended with me leaving school early and missing the next day. My parents ended up having to pack me my lunch and snacks because they couldn’t trust the school district.

Thankfully, my parents were part of the reason they started adding big red allergy warnings to students lunch account info, which meant lunch ladies could stop a student and let them know they couldn’t eat that food (though I was 16 by the time that was implemented so it wasn’t too helpful for me.)

I can only hope the school system gets better for kids with allergies, because my god was it a minefield to navigate.

ilovejenu writes:

Oh this makes me angry. I have had a tree nut allergy for decades now, and I'm sorry but "we are teachers not parents" is the weakest most pathetic statement in response to what should be a simple request. It's not that hard to turn that room into a nut-free room.

My mom's school has a whole nut-free section in the main cafeteria and it's monitored. (They are just there to make sure all students are ok. In case of accidental exposure).

My allergy has gotten worse with every exposure. Luckily it has been years since I needed to go to the ER, but have had a few small reactions needing Benadryl. But every coworker, friend, acquaintance, fam member knows.

They will say they brought brownies, for example, and immediately say they didn't use nuts, or there were no nuts in the house at the time of baking, or my nut free treats were made and packaged before moving on to the nut batch.

Good examples of how they handle me needing to be nut free. That other mother who made the just jelly sandwich esp for him, gets applause for understanding, but how did your son not get that one? That shows blatant disrespect for children and I fear for your sons safety.

I'm so glad that you got a lawyer, not that you should have to get a lawyer for such a small, easily correctable thing. There should not even be a nut option snack in that classroom at all. Easy, done.

Note to parents about no more nuts allowed in class. They don't like it? Their child changes rooms. Not your son with the allergy. And the fact that they moved him to special needs?

You are right, those of us with allergies aren't special needs, and that is completely insulting. Good luck to you on your issues with these unbelievable people. Your child is 6, prob still doesn't 100% understand the risk, as is understandable.

Poor kid was put to blame, a scapegoat and that is so not cool. Those people shouldn't be near children. Many hugs to you and your son. He's got a great mom.

And now, OP's legal update about the situation:

The past 3 months have been long and expensive but it's finally resolved. Now I can't go into a lot of the details after but I can go over some of the details that happened during.

We contacted a few attorneys and finally found one we were comfortable with and then the fun started. We first sat down with the principal and teacher with our attorney and he didn't say anything except he needs to talk to someone else and not us.

Our attorney then began collecting documents and statements/affidavits from our pediatrician, another doctor and even got another opinion. Then he began having us get documents from the school, some of which they said we couldn't have but our lawyer assured us we could have them.

So he sent the school district some nice letters and a few phone calls later we had everything.

Talking to our insurance and the hospital was the easiest part of this entire thing which I thought would be more complicated and our insurance even offered their attorneys services to our attorney which turned out to be quite helpful with some of the other issues that came up along the way.

He spent about a month going over everything, talking to doctors, getting more statements and reaching out to other parents etc.

During this time our child was moved from his normal classroom and placed in a special needs classroom. Something we did not agree to or with, our child has no developmental problems and an allergy hardly is a special need.

So our lawyer then starts having us request more documents, same act with the school and he had to send off letters and phone calls to get the new stuff related to him being put into a special needs classroom.

The lawyer began sending letters about how the school district is punishing our child with the move to a more restrictive classroom and a different curriculum and magically the next day he's back in a normal classroom.

Finally after 3 months of mostly playing the game with the school district getting them to give us the paperwork and requests they are legally required to did we all finally sit down with the school districts attorney and our attorney.

Now I can't go into a lot of the details but I can tell you they settled without us moving onto the next step of having our meetings in a courtroom. Lawyers are expensive, and so are hospital bills.

I just hope all of this doesn't make our child a target for the rest of the year. We are going to be moving and changing jobs over the summer hopefully.

Thanks for all your help and advice guys and girls, the plans everyone brought up for us to look over was incredibly important because we already had them on file with the school.

What do YOU make of OP's dilemma? What would YOU do in her situation?

Sources: Reddit
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