Mom sues school district after her son’s football team allegedly placed peanuts in his uniform, despite his severe allergy

A Texas mother has filed a lawsuit against her son’s school system, alleging that his football teammates put peanuts on his clothing and inside his cleats despite knowing they might be dangerous.

Shawna Mannon claimed that school administrators failed to adequately discipline the teammates and did not halt the repeated bullying of her son, Carter, a sophomore offensive lineman on the Lake Travis High School football team in Austin. Carter is referred to throughout the lawsuit as C.M. The incident made global headlines in November when Mannon protested to the school board because the coach only suspended the offending youngsters for two games.

The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, seeks $1.5 million and accuses the Lake Travis Intermediate School District of violating Carter’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, as well as creating a “hostile educational environment.”

Mom sues school district after her son's football team allegedly placed peanuts in his uniform, despite his severe allergy

The school system told Law&Crime that it takes bullying and harassment seriously.

“We responded immediately when we learned of this situation, conducting a thorough investigation,” the company said in a statement. “We disagree with the allegations in the lawsuit and look forward to responding through the proper legal channels.” The safety of our students and staff is our top priority. Given that this is now a legal matter, we do not intend to make any further comments.

According to the lawsuit, Carter and two of his teammates were discussing dinner arrangements on October 5 when one of them mentioned Texas Roadhouse, a restaurant known for serving peanuts. Carter, who is “severely” allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, and shellfish, told the other boys about his allergy and gave them his EpiPen, which he usually keeps with him in case of an allergic reaction, according to the lawsuit.

The youngsters allegedly questioned Carter if “throwing peanuts on him, pouring them in his locker, or putting them in his uniform could be fatal,” and he said yes. Following the chat, the two boys “unlawfully” entered the football locker room, and one of them, named as “Student G,” took a can of peanuts and “proceeded to empty the contents all over C.M.’s uniform and inside his football cleats” and around his locker, according to the lawsuit.

The other boy, described as “Student B,” allegedly recorded the incident but returned the next morning and attempted to clean up the locker.

The next day, as the team prepared for a game, Carter entered the locker room, and Student G tossed peanuts at him, according to the lawsuit. According to Mannon’s lawyers, Carter dodged the peanuts and went to his locker, where he overheard Student B showing fellow teammates something on his phone and discussing what he and Student G had done to him.

Mom sues school district after her son's football team allegedly placed peanuts in his uniform, despite his severe allergy

According to the lawsuit, Carter spotted all of the peanuts scattered in front of his locker, as well as on his shirt and cleats. According to the lawsuit, Carter’s coach handed him a clean jersey and cleats for the game. He did not eat the peanuts, but he did acquire hives on his arms that lasted several days.

Mannon approached the head coach, Hank Carter, the following day to discuss the problem. Carter, according to the lawsuit, promised to “handle the situation.” A few days later, Mannon met with the school’s assistant principal, who allegedly informed her that Carter would handle any discipline. However, the lawsuit claims that the school failed to follow district and state standards requiring administrators to intervene and sanction offenders when bullying occurs.

Student G allegedly boasted about his “attempted murder” and identified himself as a “killer.” Mannon’s lawyers further claim that Student G was spared further punishment because he was a team star.

The harassment apparently continued on October 30 when another student placed a peanut butter granola bar in Carter’s backpack. Even when Mannon and the superintendent, Paul Norton, met on November 8, school administrators failed to address the issue, according to her attorneys. The school did launch an inquiry after Mannon’s widely publicized speech to the school board, but Assistant Principal Sandy Surdy allegedly ruled last month that “bullying, as defined by law and LTISD policy, has not occurred,” according to the lawsuit.

“This conclusion seemed to rely on C.M.’s alleged lack of desire for a schedule change or expressed fear of attending school,” according to the complaint. “However, Surdy’s report omitted key elements, such as C.M.’s indicated desire to leave the football team due to unrelenting bullying and his ultimate move to another school district to avoid the harassment and life-threatening assaults. Despite this, Surdy acknowledged that the events of October 6 and following bullying occurrences had had a negative impact on C.M., resulting in a “not entirely positive” school atmosphere.

Carter has subsequently relocated to another school because the bullying and harassment became so severe. Mannon told the Austin American-Statesman, which first reported on the complaint, that she filed it after exhausting all other options.

“We had done our due diligence,” she told the publication. “We’re going the legal route because we didn’t get what we wanted.”

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