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School district settles lawsuit with family of kindergartener sickened twice in one week

The Beaverton School District has settled a lawsuit out of court with the family of a kindergartener who suffered a serious allergic reaction after being given peanut butter despite a known severe allergy.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Beaverton School District recently settled a lawsuit with the family of a 5-year-old who suffered a severe allergic reaction to peanuts she was given at McKinley Elementary.According to a federal lawsuit filed in 2018, a 5-year-old girl enrolled in McKinley Elementary School was given a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, despite records indicating the student was allergic to peanut and egg products.

The lawsuit claims the student, identified only as A.V., had recently started kindergarten at McKinley in Beaverton in September 2017, when she was served food products with known allergens twice within a week's time. The first time, she was given a breakfast bar with both egg and peanut product, the complaint states. After breaking out in hives, A.V.'s parents, Anna McFaul and Benjamin Vidic, were told she was given the snack by accident.

Seven days later, the child was served a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from the school's cafeteria.

"A.V. had told the cafeteria staff she could not have peanuts prior to being served the sandwich, but she was told the sandwich contained only sunflower seed butter," the lawsuit states.

McFaul and Vidic said their daughter's teacher noticed she wasn't feeling well and sent her to the office with a suspected fever.

When the child's father arrived at the school, the lawsuit alleged, he found her alone and unsupervised down the hall from the front office.

"A.V.'s responsiveness was slow, her mouth was blue, her breathing was labored, and she was covered in hives. Mr. Vidic quickly recognized A.V. was having a strong allergic reaction and was in anaphylactic shock," the lawsuit alleged. "Mr. Vidic picked up A.V., as she was unable to walk, and rushed her to his vehicle."

Doctors told the child's parents she was having a severe allergic reaction and was at risk of organ failure.

District officials confirmed BSD paid $71,700 to the plaintiffs, in addition to $47,800 in attorney fees, for a total of $119,500 to the family. The settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing or liability, the district noted.

Prior to their child starting school, McFaul and Vidic provided instructions on administering Benadryl and an EpiPen in case of allergic reaction. They provided explicit paperwork documenting their child's food allergies, according to the complaint.

*The parents later found out that cafeteria staff

routinely didn't use the lunchroom computer system to log student lunches, in an effort to expedite lunch lines, according to their legal complaint.

"We were not informed the School District was not using its safety system until after we met with the Superintendent and staff," Vidic later clarified in an email.

The plaintiffs said district officials refused to change processes or protocols to ensure student food safety, so they pulled the child out of McKinley.

*District officials said that before the lawsuit was filed, staff reviewed their meal purchase practices to ensure a point of sale system was being used, which alerts staff to students with allergies.

"No other changes to policy or practice were warranted," the district stated.

"As part of the settlement the District agreed to communicate with all staff regarding severe allergic reactions and how to identify a child experiencing one," a statement from the school district reads. "We also agreed to ensure that all lead cafeteria staff will be trained to identify a severe allergic reaction, symptoms, treatment and emergency responses. Lastly, the District agreed to include a link on our website to information for parents of students with severe allergies to better request accommodations."

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Portland, alleging violations of federal disability laws, negligence, and discrimination based on disability.

*This story has been updated to include comments from Beaverton School District and clarification about when the plaintiffs were notified about lack of adherence to protocol.

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