Parents Say School Accused Them of Lying About 7-Year-Old Daughter's Peanut Allergy

parents peanut allergy girl

If there’s one topic that is almost ALWAYS touchy amongst parents of school-aged children, it’s food allergies. My kids’ school handles it as best they can, from what I’ve seen: peanut snacks are forbidden in the classrooms, but they are allowed in packed lunches because there’s a special table in the cafeteria for those who are allergic. Whatever their exact policies are, they seem MUCH better than the policies at Ashland City Elementary School in Tennessee, which is currently being served with a lawsuit from the parents of a 7-year-old girl with a peanut allergy. The parents allege that the school not only failed to ensure the girl’s safety — they accused the parents of making up their daughter’s health condition.

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The girl’s parents are contending in a federal lawsuit that someone from Ashland City Elementary School filed a complaint with state officials that suggested they were abusing their child through Munchausen by Proxy. Munchausen by Proxy, as you probably know, is a sort of mental illness where a caretaker either makes up symptoms or causes them in some way (like by poison or medication) in order to make it look like their child is sick.

More from The Stir: My Mother Made Me Sick: One Woman's Story of Surviving Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy

Defendants in the suit are Chip Roney, principal of the Ashland City Elementary School, and the Cheatham County Board of Education. The parents are only identified by their initials. The lawsuit states that the parents received a visit from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services on September 30, which was the same day a contentious meeting had occurred between the child’s mother and the principal.

The trouble began after the parents talked to the principal about creating a peanut-free table in the cafeteria, because they were concerned about their daughter being isolated from her classmates. It’s not clear how the principal responded to the suggestion, but I’m guessing he said no, which led to the meeting ending unpleasantly.

The suit also alleges that on November 6, Chip Roney telephoned the mother, who recorded the call. Roney allegedly complained about the mother distributing an educational flyer about food allergies to her daughter’s classmates. In that conversation he also reportedly barred the girl’s parents from the campus, saying the flyer “baffled everyone’s mind” and amounted to “peanut free propaganda.”

DCS’s investigation found the report “utterly unsubstantiated,” according to the complaint.

As for the school district, they won’t comment on the specific allegations, but a spokesperson said,

The district’s top priority is the safety of its students and it works to comply with all federal, state, and local laws.

If the parents’ side of the story is true, the principal and the school district violated the Americans With Disabilities Act in a MAJOR way — and also violated the family’s First Amendment rights by tattling to DCS. That’s considered harassment and creating a hostile environment.

I always assume there’s more to a story that what you can read in a news item, but it certainly sounds like the school behaved horribly in this situation. Their job is to help protect this girl by doing what they can to ensure she’s not exposed to a deadly allergen, not complain to Children’s Services in the hopes the parents will get in trouble. I mean, what if the parents lost custody of the daughter because the school was being so petty? My god.

I hope this gets resolved and the girl is able to get her education in a safe environment. If I were these parents, I’d be switching schools in a heartbeat.

What do you think about this story?


Image via stevendepolo/Flickr

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