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School says teen football players put peanuts in allergic boy’s locker — but says it’s not bullying

“They were like, ‘A peanut could kill you?’ Carter said, ‘100 percent.’"
/ Source: TODAY

The mom of a high school football player says his teammates put peanuts inside his locker after learning he has a severe allergy. The school says it happened, but it wasn't bullying; the mom says she wants more accountability.

Carter Mannon, 16, was diagnosed with a peanut allergy as a baby, after he reached inside a jar of peanut butter and broke out in hives. As he grew, Carter's allergy got worse.

"It's off-the-charts severe," Carter's mom, Shawna Mannon, tells TODAY.com.

Carter understands that eating peanuts can be lethal, his mom says. He reads food ingredient labels and carries an EpiPen in case of allergic reaction.

"As parents we prepare our kids to leave home ... but it's hard," says Shawna. "We've been lucky — up until this point."

As a sophomore at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas, Carter is one of the youngest players on the varsity team. He loved school and football, his mom says, until a scary incident in October 2023.

Carter told his mom he mentioned his peanut allergy during a team conversation about where to eat dinner, and showed players his EpiPen.

Carter Mannon, a former student at Lake Travis High School in Texas, is allergic to peanuts.
Carter Mannon, a former student at Lake Travis High School in Texas, is allergic to peanuts. Courtesy Michelle Ellisor

"The players were kind of giving him a hard time about it, because Carter is a big dude," she says. "They were like, 'A peanut could kill you?' ... Carter said, '100 percent,' and that if peanuts touched his eyes, nose or mouth, he could go into anaphylaxis."

Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening allergic reaction, according to the Cleveland Clinic. EpiPens treat anaphylaxis by giving a person epinephrine, which is adrenaline.

After the players' conversation, Shawna says, two players went into the locker room that evening; one boy placed peanuts in Carter's locker, while the other filmed. Shawna says she was told by officials that the video was deleted.

A spokesperson from the Lake Travis Independent School District confirms to TODAY.com that two football players put peanuts in Carter Mannon’s cleats and jersey in his locker, after Carter communicated he was severely allergic to peanuts and could potentially die from contact. The district also confirms that one boy filmed the other placing peanuts inside Carter’s locker.

"I believe that the boy who filmed later said, 'Maybe this wasn't a good idea' and (at some point) they went back ... and tried to clean it up," says Shawna, based on what she says another parent told her.

The next day, when Carter was standing by a ping-pong table in a recreational area, Shawna says one of the two boys flipped peanuts in his direction. The mom of one of the boys tells TODAY.com her son says this didn't happen.

"Carter didn't realize they were peanuts until he looked down at the ground," says Shawna. "He said, 'Dude, we just talked about this' ... he went into the locker room to get his stuff. He grabbed his cleats ... and jersey ... and peanuts fell out of his jersey."

Within seconds, says Shawna, Carter developed hives on his arm. He threw down his gear and walked to the football field. "He wanted to be in an open area so he could see if anyone else came at him," she says.

Shawna Mannon says she wants more accountability from Lake Travis High School in Texas after her 16-year-old son Carter's football teammates put peanuts in his locker, knowing he is allergic.
Shawna Mannon says she wants more accountability from Lake Travis High School in Texas after her 16-year-old son Carter's football teammates put peanuts in his locker, knowing he is allergic. Courtesy Shawna Mannon

Carter washed his arm and did not need his EpiPen, says his mom. He played the game, wearing a pair of loaner cleats. "He was so lucky," says Shawna.

Shawna says she spoke to school officials and the football coach after hearing about the incident. The mom says the assistant principal informed her that discipline would be handled by the football department.

The district tells TODAY.com: “Under our Student Code of Conduct and Extracurricular Code of Conduct, school administrators, coaches, and directors work together to review all facts and circumstances surrounding a particular event and determine appropriate disciplinary action or sanctions. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, the District cannot discuss or disclose matters pertaining to student discipline.”

According to Shawna, the two boys were benched in uniform for two football games, were made to run laps at practice and are banned from the varsity locker room.

A spokesperson from the Lake Travis Independent School District tells TODAY.com via email that the actions against Carter were not bullying and did not warrant criminal charges.

"After hearing the parent’s concerns, campus administration reached out to the parent regarding potential bullying," the spokesperson wrote in part. "Under our Student Code of Conduct and Extracurricular Code of Conduct, school administrators, coaches, and directors work together to review all facts and circumstances surrounding a particular event and determine appropriate disciplinary action or sanctions."?

The spokesperson said the peanut incident did not meet the definition of bullying under the Texas Education Code, which defines bullying, in part, as something that "has the effect or will have the effect of physically harming a student, damaging a student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of harm."

"Upon concluding our investigation, it was determined that the legal elements of bullying were not met," the spokesperson said.

According to the school district's statement, the district consulted the Assistant District Attorney’s Office and the County Attorney’s Office "to review potential criminal charges," adding, "These agencies did not open a?case regarding this incident. Instead, these agencies and their representatives provided guidance to the district. Working with the agencies identified in the previous response, the Lake Travis ISD Police Department determined criminal charges were not warranted. As a result,?Lake Travis ISD Police closed its case on December 6, 2023."

The district said in the statement that "awareness and education activities on food allergies have either occurred or are in the planning stages?at our campuses" including a video, an assembly and an upcoming community event.

Shawna says she spoke with the parents of the two students, who appeared remorseful and sympathetic. "Our family is big on forgiveness ... I don't have any intention of dragging these boys' names through the mud," she says.

The boys were warned against retaliating, but trouble escalated, says Shawna.

"As the season progressed ... the kid who put the peanuts in Carter's locker said things like, 'I'd do it again,'" she says. "It was very clear that he was not remorseful."

The mother of one of the boys involved tells TODAY.com that she disputes that part of the account. She confirms that her son placed peanuts in Carter’s shoes and says that after realizing it was a bad idea, he removed the nuts. She says her son has apologized profusely, and believes that her son did not understand the severity of Carter’s allergy. She also says that her son did not retaliate against Carter after the first incident.

Shawna says someone put a peanut butter granola bar in Carter's backpack and students mocked her daughter, who is a senior at the school. Shawna says some people accused her family of "ruining the football season."

“This wasn’t handled well enough in the beginning to send a clear statement to these kids,” she says. “It did not deter them.”

The district spokesperson said they were unable to comment on the granola bar incident or anything beyond the first incident in October.

Shawna submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights. The next step in the process will be an investigation, the family's attorney tells TODAY.com.?

Carter and his little sister have withdrawn from Lake Travis High School (his older sister is a graduating senior) and Shawna says the family is selling their home to attend school in another district.

"I hope the school continues educating students and faculty about food allergies ... weaponizing someone's allergy should be criminal, just like poisoning or attacking with a deadly weapon," says Shawna. "This is as fatal to Carter as a gunshot."

According to the advocacy group Food Allergy Research & Education, approximately one-third of children with food allergies say they have been bullied for their condition.

“We all just want our kids to be safe,” Shawna says. “We want kids to learn hard lessons so they don’t do it in college or after, when the consequences can be so much greater.”


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