- Shawna Mannon’s teenage son Carter is severely allergic to peanuts.
- During one of Carter’s first football games as a varsity player at Lake Travis High School in Texas, his mom got a call from another parent, who told her that some of his teammates had put peanuts in his locker. .
- The children were disciplined responsibly, but Mannon thought it was not enough and filed complaints.
AUSTIN (KXAN) — Carter’s mother dreads getting a call about her allergy.
When he was young, his family discovered that he was allergic to peanuts. Now that he’s a teenager, he doesn’t leave his house without AirPods — and an EpiPen in his pocket. Her mom carries several EpiPens in her purse. He said he has a few minutes to react if the dust and oils from the nuts come into contact with his mouth or eyes.
During one of Carter’s first football games as a varsity player at Lake Travis High School, his mom got a call from another parent, who told her that some of his teammates had put peanuts in his locker.
“He’s on his way to the game,” said his mother, Shawna Mannon. “I don’t know if he’s OK. I just need to know what’s going on. ”
Despite what happened in the locker room, he played the game. Afterwards, he told his mom about the peanut falling from his jersey hanging in his locker. She tells him how she washes her hands immediately before touching her face. And how the hives were starting to crawl up his arm. He said he could still see the hives as he told her the story.
“I think the hardest part is, one, it’s his teammate. You know, you have this brotherhood and football, and it’s frustrating that it’s his teammate,” Mannon said. .
He later learned that his teammates knew about the severity of his allergy before filling his locker.
“A couple of teammates on his varsity football team asked about his peanut allergy and asked if it was going to kill him,” Mannon said. “He said yes, of course.”
More than a month later, Mannon stood before the Lake Travis school board in November. He was angry. Children are disciplined responsibly, but he expects it to be on a different level. They were sat out of some football games. He was told that the district’s athletic director and head football coach would determine the discipline.
The district said it worked with other law enforcement agencies and consulted with the district’s assistant district attorney’s office, but ultimately, the school district’s police department decided criminal charges were not necessary.
“These boys are being given little consequences,” Mannon told the school board in Nov.
After the first incident, Mannon said her son found a peanut butter granola bar in his locker.
The district admitted it did not open an investigation into the bullying until after she spoke before the school board. When it was over, school officials decided that what happened to Mannon’s son was not bullying.
‘Not enough is happening‘
The district said it determined the legal elements of bullying were not met. The Texas Education Code defines bullying as “an act or pattern of acts that physically harms a student or materially disrupts the educational process.”
“I don’t know what else to call it,” Mannon said.
Neither State Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio. Over the years, Menendez successfully passed legislation to give districts more power to investigate bullying in schools, including defining cyberbullying and allowing districts to expel students who engage in it. threatening the lives of their classmates. The law is named after 16-year-old David Molak. He took his own life in 2016 after being harassed and threatened in text messages and on social media. Despite changes in Texas law, Menendez said he still hears concerns from families who feel school districts are not taking bullying seriously.
“That’s not happening enough. That they will report. The report was made, but they still did not see the discipline, in some cases,” said Menendez.
Nexstar’s KXAN found that since September 2021, the Texas Education Agency has received more than 500 complaints about bullying occurring on Texas public and charter school campuses and the districts’ policies for handling incidents. The data shows that the agency sends the majority of complaints back to the local school district to resolve the complaint process.
The agency said it cannot guide school districts in handling discipline regarding bullying because school districts have control. Agency officials said districts should consult with their legal counsel to ensure compliance with state laws on bullying, including the requirement for local boards of trustees to adopt a policy and necessary procedures regarding the prevention of bullying.
Data obtained through open records requests show that of the hundreds of complaints, 13 landed in the agency’s compliance review unit and resulted in the TEA ordering a district or charter to make changes. But it was unclear what changes the districts were ordered to make. The agency told KXAN that documents detailing the state-mandated changes are confidential.
There have been at least 60 bullying complaints referred to units that investigate teacher misconduct and special education where it is unclear whether this led to the TEA ordering the district to make changes.
Sen. Menendez said that before the next regular session, he wants to ask an existing legislative committee to research bullying in Texas schools.
“I want to see – thanks to this and others – what we are doing as a state to focus on creating a safe environment. What does a safe environment mean?”
Bullying protections in America
Across the country, some states are doing more than Texas to prevent bullying. Many recognize that bullying can include, but is not limited to, bullying based on characteristics such as race and sexuality. Texas law does not address protected groups.
Many states also require school districts to review their bullying policies on a cyclical basis. New Jersey has one of the strongest bullying laws in the country. It requires school districts to review their policies annually with experts. Texas is not.
Football season is over, and Mannon’s son is 16. He said things have calmed down in the months since the incident. She did not file a complaint with the state, but she did file a complaint with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. He is also in the midst of a complaint with Lake Travis ISD. He and his attorney argued that the district did not follow its policy when it allowed the athletic department to determine discipline. He met with the school district for a grievance hearing in January.
The district told KXAN Tuesday that the TEA investigated the incident and concluded that the district “addressed all concerns about potential bullying and food allergy compliance and found no violations of law or policy .”
“I hope now. I really hope they do the right thing,” Mannon said. “[This] making it difficult for him to relax and enjoy playing football. And that’s exactly what he wanted. He just wants to play football.
Digital Data Reporter Christopher Adams, Investigative Photographer Chris Nelson, Director of Investigation & Innovation Josh Hinkle, Graphic Artist Christina Staggs and Digital Director Kate Winkle contributed to this report.
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