A Texas mom is speaking out about the dangerous peanut allergy incident that her son, Carter, a student football player, recently endured.
Shawna Mannon tells Allergic Living that it all began the night before a road game for the Lake Travis High School varsity football team. Carter, 15, and a few teammates from the suburban Austin school were discussing where the bus should stop for dinner. One of the players suggested Texas Roadhouse. But Carter piped up that he couldn’t go to a place famous for peanuts because of his peanut allergy.
Most of the team were aware of the 6-foot-4 offensive tackle’s severe allergy, but two players hadn’t known. Mannon’s son told her they started to ask questions like “so if you’re allergic, could peanut kill you?” He replied that “it absolutely could kill me, and I have to carry an EpiPen and never leave home without it.”
If peanuts got put on his uniform, “would that kill you?” Carter said, “possibly it could.” Then they asked about if peanuts were put on his cleats. The questions grew irritating. Mannon said her son thought, “Why would they ask these things?”
The next day, October 6, the team showed up to dress for the game and get on the bus. One of the previous day’s questioners began flicking something at Carter. He looked at the ground – it was peanuts! Carter recalled saying: “Dude, knock it off. Why would you do that?”
The teen opened his locker to get ready for the game. “He grabbed his cleats and put them over his arm,” says his mom. “Then he grabbed his jersey and peanuts fell out of it.” That’s when he saw peanut kernels all over the locker. His mom said it sunk in: “this was very deliberate.”
Peanuts in Locker on Video
Mannon says that within minutes, big hives began emerging on her son’s arm from where the cleats had touched. Carter washed his arms and hands thoroughly.
He left the locker room feeling shocked, and wanting to get away from any peanut dust. The teen felt on edge. “He didn’t know if they were going to jump out at him and throw something else,” says his mom.
Carter headed to the school’s big indoor field, and saw one of the kids who had been teasing him. Mannon says this teen “had taken a video of the other boy putting the peanuts in my son’s locker.” He was showing it to other teammates, laughing about “this is what we did to Carter.” (While some laughed, others said, “this is not OK. You could have killed him.”)
That’s when Carter was certain of who was behind the peanut placing. It was later determined that the boy who took the can of peanuts to the locker had poured them over Carter’s cleats. (Mannon says someone went back and dumped out the cleats – but peanut dust remained.)
The mom contacted her son’s coach as soon as she heard. She described the locker incident and noted that half the team was on the bus, yet her distressed son couldn’t even wear his gear. “Another coach called to say, ‘we take this very seriously, we understand the severity of it.'”
She appreciated that “because all it would take would be to get peanut on his mouthpiece or to rub his eye and he would be in the hospital.” The teen tests “off-the-charts for his peanut allergy.”
The coach gave Carter a new jersey and cleats so he could play. “But he still had hives on his arm when he got home,” says Mannon.
Discipline Questions in Locker Incident
Paul Norton, the superintendent of the Lake Travis Independent School District (LTISD) confirmed the locker incident in a letter to parents and staff. He says the LTISD police department investigated and submitted a report to the Assistant District Attorney’s Office. No determination from that has been released.
Allergic Living asked the superintendent and school officials to comment on the incident and the disciplinary action, but we have not received a response. We also asked whether police retrieved the second teen’s video, which Mannon says was deleted from his phone.
Regarding discipline, Norton says in his letter that “our administrators applied consequences.” Citing federal privacy laws for minor students, he says “the details of those consequences cannot be made public.”
But in the Lake Travis High School community, word got around. Mannon thinks the discipline has been minimal. She knows the two perpetrators were benched for two games, removed from the Varsity locker room, and had to run extra laps. “If there was other punishment, I wasn’t told about it.”
Other local parents say the two students also had a two-week suspension from school.
It’s worth noting that Texas schools, including Lake Travis High, have strict anti-bullying policies. For comparison, so tough are the state’s 2023 anti-vaping measures, that any student caught with an e-cigarette device faces temporary transfer to an alternative school.
At a meeting of the school board on November 15, several parents spoke in support of Carter and tougher discipline. Some called for the two students behind the peanut incident to be expelled.
One man thumped the podium to ask the trustees: “Where is the leadership on this board?” Other parents carried signs about one in 13 kids having food allergies. One parent’s sign said pointedly: “they knew it could have killed him.”
Football Player’s Allergy Backlash
Shawna Mannon spoke at the meeting as well. While others called for greater penalties, she spoke of how the teens endangered her son. Plus, he is still being targeted over his peanut allergy. She told the board that since news of the incident spilled out “my son has faced backlash and retaliation almost daily.”
Mannon further explained to Allergic Living that because the football team is getting attention in the Texas media for the allergy incident, some older students “are making his life difficult.” They’re leaning on him about “why can’t you just get over this?”
“It has been pretty tough, but there are also kids on his team who support him,” says Mannon. She adds that the local community as a whole has been highly supportive of her family. “They have rallied around us. Everyone pretty much has the same response, ‘how could kids do this to another kid?'”
She stresses the bigger point that this was no mere prank, that this was dangerous. Carter could have ingested peanut dust. Her husband Jason Mannon remains “outraged by what happened.” As his wife notes, “When your child is put in harm’s way intentionally, it takes it to another level.”
Carter’s mom closes by saying: “I hate that this has happened to my son. I’m a big believer in ‘there has to be something good in this somewhere’. We’re waiting for that. But I think, if nothing else, [the situation] is raising awareness of food allergies and that they’re nothing to be messed with.”
Letter-writing campaign: No Nut Traveler’s Lianne Mandelbaum has started a write-in campaign in this bullying incident. See her post on Facebook here.