State Ruled Not Liable For Peanut Allergy Reaction in School

In 2005, a student at Maryland's Hillcrest Elementary School was given a peanut butter sandwich at lunchtime by a cafeteria employee. The 5-year-old girl had a peanut allergy, and eating the sandwich resulted in an anaphylactic allergic reaction. Fortunately, she survived.

The child's mother, Nicole Pace, filed a suit against the state, alleging that the state had violated the National School Lunch Act by feeding her child a peanut-butter sandwich. According to the York Daily Record, Judge Clayton Greene Jr. recently ruled that the state is not liable for the girl's allergic reaction.

In dismissing the case, Judge Greene wrote that the School Lunch Act “Merely establishes a subsidized lunch program for the benefit of all children at participating schools, and does not impose a specific statutory duty of care towards children with food allergies.” The girl had been served a peanut-butter sandwich because she didn't have enough money to purchase a school lunch. In such cases, the school serves either a peanut butter sandwich or a bologna sandwich.

The school is reviewing its policies, says Christa Williams, the Frederick County Public Schools' health specialist. Some updates in protocol have already been made since the 2005 incident, she said.

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