BREMERTON, Wash. -- At first embarrassed and shy to tell her story, a Kitsap County teenager is now opening up about being teased at school for her food allergies.
But it’s not just teasing that has her mother concerned.
The Bremerton family says a recent prank at school went too far.
“Every time I sit down for a meal, I have to fear for my life, every time I pick up a fork,” student Zoe Stevens said.
The 14-year-old has a severe allergy to nuts; even touching nuts can be deadly to Zoe.
“They think my stomach will just hurt, or I will throw up, but I die if I ate it,” Zoe said.
The two EpiPens and a bracelet that identifies that she has food allergies is a survival tool but she says it’s also made her a target for bullies.
“I’ve been bullied about it, teased, people try to throw stuff in my food,” Zoe said.
She added that a boy at Klahowya Secondary School in Silverdale threw a peanut into her pasta knowing she has a nut allergy.
“The kid threw something. I wasn’t sure what it was but it landed in my lunch; the person was still laughing about it and everything,” Zoe said.
Zoe's mother, Monique, is terrified it might happen again.
“I want people to understand it's not a joke. I want parents to teach their kids,” Monique Stevens said.
The Central Kitsap School District says they disciplined the boy in this case. But officials declined to describe the discipline.
“They said they were sorry and they would make sure to talk to the boy,” Monique said.
The family is not after the boy; instead they are demanding the district hold an educational seminar for all their students and teachers on food allergy dangers.
“We want the kids educated because the statistics say one in 13 kids have a food allergy -- that's two in every classroom,” Monique said.
After our calls, the district said it is considering working in the lessons into health or sciences classes.
But Zoe also wants to take it a step a further, hoping the district will ban nuts from all their schools.
“The opportunity to not have nuts in school is like telling somebody in a wheelchair they can’t have a wheelchair ramp,” Zoe said.
We posed that question to the Central Kitsap School District whether it’s possible to make all their schools a nut-free zone. The district said it would consider it.
The district also released this statement Wednesday afternoon:
Each year we ask parents to complete a confidential health information form, which includes information on allergies. Schools work with families to determine age-appropriate precautions and practices needed to support the safety and well-being of students with allergies. In our elementary schools, this may include letters home to parents or extra handwashing. At the middle and high school levels it may include a nut-free table in the cafeteria, signage or other precautions.
Because we cannot guarantee an allergy-free environment, our focus is on minimizing the risks associated with allergies. When concerns arise, we take the opportunity to review our practices and make changes as needed. Our goal is student safety. Ultimately, we want all students to be food allergy aware.