Food Allergy Bullying Allegations in Texas Football

Mar 22, 2024

By John T. Wendt

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Peanut allergy is the most common cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, a medical emergency that requires treatment with an epinephrine (adrenaline) autoinjector (EpiPen, Auvi-Q, others) and a trip to the emergency room.”[1]  An allergic response can occur quickly within minutes after someone is exposed.  The response can be seen in hives or swelling, tingling around the throat and mouth, digestive problems, and shortness of breath.  Anaphylaxis symptoms can include, swelling of the throat that makes it difficult to breathe, constriction of airways, loss of consciousness, and a severe drop in blood pressure (shock).[2]

“Food allergies are a serious disease affecting over 33 million Americans, and even the slightest exposure to a food allergen can trigger anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction. Bullying, particularly when it involves a severe health risk like a life-threatening food allergy, is entirely unacceptable. About one-third of school-aged children with food allergies report that they have been bullied because of their allergies.[3]

One commentator noted that, “Millions of American schoolchildren of all ages suffer from food allergies, and increasingly, bullies target these children because of their allergies. If a bully exposes a victim to an allergen, food allergy bullying can sicken or kill within minutes. Food allergy bullying is already responsible for many hospitalizations and at least one death. Most food allergy bullying happens at school, and schools play a crucial part in addressing and preventing bullying.”[4]  A recent study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology found that 17 percent of youth ages 9–15 years reported single item food allergy bullying and 31 percent multi-item bullying.  They also reported 51% overt, 66% non-physical food allergy bullying, and found that food allergy bullying was most common among classmates.[5]

Such an incident occurred at Lake Travis High School near Austin, Texas.  Lake Travis is a perennial powerhouse in Texas high school football with six state championship titles and a 2023 record of 11-3.  The Lake Travis Independent School District (LTISD) confirmed that two varsity football players spread peanut butter powder and peanut products on teammate Carter Mannon’s lockers and clothes knowing that the teammate had a peanut allergy.  The school district said that the offending students were disciplined but would not say how.[6]

According to his mother, Shawna Mannon, most of his teammates knew of Carter’s allergies, but two players started asking the 6-foot-4-inch offensive tackle questions about peanuts.  Reportedly the asked, “so if you’re allergic, could peanut kill you?” Carter replied that “it absolutely could kill me, and I have to carry an EpiPen and never leave home without it.”  Then if peanuts got put on his uniform, “would that kill you?” Carter said, “possibly it could.” Then they asked about what would happened peanuts were put on his cleats. [7]

Shawna Mannon recalled that the next day as the players were dressing for the game before getting on the bus, one of the two players started to throw peanuts at Carter.  Carter then opened his locker, grabbed his jersey and cleats, put them under his arm and then saw peanuts and kernels all over this uniform and locker.  Shawna that withing minutes big hives occurred on Carter’s arms where the cleats had touched.  She also claimed that Carter saw one of the bullies had a video of the other putting the peanuts in the locker.  Reportedly when one of the bullies was showing the video, some teammates laughed, while others said, “this is not OK. You could have killed him.”[8]

Immediately after the locker room incident, Paul Norton, the superintendent of the LTISD, notified the LTISD police department for potential criminal charges and submitted a report to the Assistant District Attorney’s Office. [9]  The office determined that criminal charges were not warranted.[10]  Shawna Mannon claimed that the two football players were disciplined by sitting out two games and were removed from the locker room for the season, but she wanted something stronger.  She said that “They might as well have loaded a gun and put it to his head because this is a fatal thing for my child…”[11] 

Seeking stronger discipline against the bullies and as a deterrence, the Mannon family filed a grievance with the school.  Carter faced retaliation as he was taunted and found a peanut butter granola bar in his backpack.[12] LTISD admitted that while they had looked at potential criminal charges, they did not open a bullying investigation until after she spoke in front of a LTISD School Board Meeting.[13]

According to Texas Education Code §37.0832  “‘Bullying’ means a single significant act or a pattern of acts by one or more students directed at another student that exploits an imbalance of power and involves engaging in written or verbal expressions, expression through electronic means, or physical conduct that occurs on or is delivered to school property or to the site of a school-sponsored or school-related activity or on a publicly or privately owned school bus or vehicle being used for transportation of students to or from school or a school-sponsored or school-related activity that: (i) 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 to the student’s person or of damage to the student’s property; (ii) is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive enough that the action or threat creates an intimidating, threatening, or abusive educational environment for a student; (iii) materially and substantially disrupts the educational process or the orderly operation of a classroom or school; or (iv) infringes on the rights of the victim at school.”[14] 

The LTISD on their website notes that, “Bullying is a growing issue for schools all across the nation. Lake Travis ISD campus and district administrators encourage parents to work with us to provide a safe learning environment that encourages community involvement and engagement. Lake Travis ISD is committed to working together with parents to promote the health and well being of our students.”[15] 

Shawna Mannon claims that police told her that the players’ actions did not fit the Texas’ state definition of bullying.[16]  In addition, she shared an e-mail from a district spokesperson stating, “I conclude that bullying, as defined by law and LTISD policy, has not occurred. When questioned, Carter indicated that he was frustrated by these alleged actions against him, but that he was not afraid to attend school or go to football practice. (One of the teammates) and Carter share a class together, and Carter said that he did not want a scheduling change.”[17]

A spokesperson for LTSID said, “Upon concluding our investigation, it was determined that the legal elements of bullying were not met” and closed their investigation.[18]  Looking at the incident the Texas Education Agency also found that the LTISD had examined all the issues and concerns with regard to “potential bullying and food allergy compliance” and found that there were “no violations of law or policy.”[19]

Dr. Sung Poblete, CEO of Food Allergy Research & Education said, “We are deeply disturbed and saddened by the recent incident of bullying involving a student with a life-threatening peanut allergy at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas.  We condemn the reprehensible actions of students who engaged in this bullying incident and believe that such behavior should not be tolerated by the school system.  It is our hope that they have gained a greater understanding about the severity of life-threatening food allergies and will learn from their mistake.”[20]

Carter Mannon decided to change schools and Shawna Mannon said, “We feel like a fresh start for our family is going to be a big step in healing from this situation…We have three kids, so we are considering how this has impacted the girls as well. Carter has been welcomed by his new school with open arms. It has been a refreshing transition so far.”[21]  The Mannons have also filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights.[22]  The peanut incident has not gone unnoticed in Texas.  Former University of Texas star football players Xavier Worthy and Jonathon Brooks supported Carter on social media.  What everyone agrees on is that there is a greater need and awareness both of bullying and food allergies.

[1] Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Peanut Allergy – Symptoms and Causes – Mayo Clinic, (2024), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[2] Id.

[3] Sung Poblete, Statement by Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, CEO of FARE, Regarding the Bullying of a Texas Student with a Food Allergy – FoodAllergy.Org, (2023), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[4] D’Andra Millsap Shu, Food Allergy Bullying as Disability Harassment: Holding Schools Accountable Accountable, 92 Univ. Colo. Law Rev. 1 (2021).

[5] Frances Cooke, Ashley Ramos & Linda Herbert, Food Allergy-Related Bullying Among Children and Adolescents, 47 J. Pediatr. Psychol. 318 (2022).

[6] Lauren Rangel, Lake Travis HS Football Player with Severe Allergy Exposed to Peanuts by Teammates, FOX 7 Austin (2023), (last visited Mar 8, 2024).

[7] Gwen Smith, Texas Football Peanut Allergy Incident: Mom on What Happened, (2023), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Wendy Mondello, Texas District Finds Football Allergy Incident Was ’Not Bullying, (2024), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[11] Julie Moreno, Teammates of Lake Travis HS Football Player with Severe Allergy Put Peanut Products in Locker, Clothes, KSAT (2023), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[12] Mondello, supra note 10.

[13] Kelly Wiley, Teammates Put Peanuts in Allergic Student’s Locker. School District Says It Wasn’t Bullying, (2024), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[14] Lake Travis Independent School District, Health & Social Emotional Learning / Bullying Information & Prevention, (2022), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[15] Id.

[16] Moreno, supra note 11.

[17] David Bloom, Victim of HS Football Peanut Hazing Incident Transfers to New School for Safety Reasons, (Mar. 4, 2024), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[18] Mondello, supra note 10.

[19] Id.

[20] Poblete, supra note 3.

[21] Robert Cantu, Lake Travis Football Player Carter Mannon Transfers to Vandegrift, (2024), (last visited Mar 7, 2024).

[22] Mondello, supra note 10.

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