Maryland’s highest court has ruled that state agencies are not required to ensure children aren’t served food to which they are allergic.
The Maryland Court of Appeals has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by a former Frederick resident who sued claiming her 5-year-old daughter was served a peanut butter sandwich despite being allergic to peanuts. The decision was released Feb. 22.
In 2005, Liana Pace, a kindergarten student at Frederick’s Hillcrest Elementary School, did not have a lunch or enough money to buy one. She was allegedly given a peanut butter sandwich, but told a cafeteria worker she wasn’t allowed to eat peanut butter.
According to the decision, “The worker mistook her protests as misbehavior and ordered her to eat the sandwich.” The girl went into anaphylactic shock and was given a dose of epinephrine to relieve the symptoms.
Her mother, Nicole Pace, sued the state of Maryland, the state Department of Education, the county board of education and Frederick County Public Schools, among other defendants. The county defendants settled out of court, and the case against the state agencies was dismissed in Frederick County Circuit Court and appealed until it reached the Court of Appeals.
The Feb. 22 decision applies only to state agencies.
Pace and her daughter no longer live in Maryland, according to the decision.
After the complaint was made, the school district conducted its own investigation and determined the child wasn’t given a sandwich, said schools spokeswoman Marita Loose. District policy is to provide a bologna sandwich if a student doesn’t have lunch money, as a cost-neutral way to make sure students get fed, she said.
“Bologna is the go-to sandwich,” Loose said.
The decision involved the National School Lunch Act, passed in 1946, which requires that free or low-cost meals be provided to schoolchildren.
According to the decision, “The NSLA was not designed to protect a particular subset of students, such as those with food allergies, but rather, to serve the needs of all eligible school-aged children.”