It may be mid-October but its the last day of school for two sisters in the Los Gatos Union School District.
Shuly and Joe Edwards said their 9-year-old and 7-year old have been kicked out of Van Meter Elementary after they pushed for a better “504” plan – safety guidelines provided for students with disabilities.
The Edwards said the school kicked them out because their girls have extreme nut allergies.
Superintendent Diana Abbati says the allergies had nothing to do with the decision, and everything to do with an investigation confirming that the family does not live in Los Gatos.
The family said four previous schools have also asked them to leave, with administrators citing the girls’ severe, life-threatening nut allergies as the reason.
The family said the timing of this ejection is suspect.
“These are little children. They’re happy, they love life, they’re super positive, love their friends, love school,” Shuly Edwards said. “Every school we’ve been to doesn’t want them there.”
The mother-of-three fought back tears as she described what has been a hellish ordeal for her family. She said if her daughters Ella and Sarah get a trace amount of peanut or tree nut in their mouth, nose or eyes, it could be life-threatening.
Edwards said the principal shot down requests recommended by the girls’ doctor to have the school provide nut-free classrooms, and to send letters to the parents of students in the same classrooms as her daughters, warning them that the girls suffer from such an extreme case of food allergies.
“One of the things they were saying was we’ve never had to do anything for anyone else – why you?” Edwards added that there were two unsuccessful meetings with the principal and multiple unreturned calls to the superintendent before she finally got the message that sent her reeling.
“I get an email from the superintendent saying your enrollment is being revoked. That was last week.”
But in a phone interview, Abbati told NBC Bay Area that food allergies had nothing to do with revoking the enrollment. She said she was tipped off that the family did not live at the Los Gatos address provided, and that it was confirmed by a district-contracted private investigator, whom Abbati said investigates about four-to-five false address cases each month.
In a statement, she wrote,” In this case, let me stress that it is clear that all Board policies on residency requirements, permits and transfers were completely ignored. Someone chose to make their own set of rules, ignoring the rules that the rest of us must follow. I find it completely unacceptable that the above protocols were ignored. It is clear to us that the system was by-passed intentionally, and on behalf of our resident students that we are obligated to serve, we cannot allow this to go unaddressed. “
The Edwards showed NBC Bay Area copies of their PG&E and doctor’s bills with their Los Gatos address, and said they submitted everything on time to register the girls before the start of school August 20.
“Maybe it’s liability or it feels to them like it’s a big burden to have to protect them. These are children with life-threatening conditions, they’d rather just not deal with.”
When asked if she could understand that, she countered, “No, I think children have the right to be in school.”
The family said it plans on filing a retaliation and discrimination lawsuit Monday morning.
As for food allergy accommodations, neither the California Department of Education nor the Department of Public Health tracks this issue. It’s up to each school district to come up with its own guidelines on the matter.