School Trustee Resigns After ‘Joke’ About Shooting Allergic Students

in Parenting & School
Published: November 30, 2014

Update on article below: Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Connection Team (FAACT) and FARE have both been in touch with the Clawson School District. The district superintendent has agreed to food allergy and anaphylaxis training for staff and board members in the new year.

Our original Dec. 1 article:

A Michigan school board trustee has resigned after a flippant comment about “shooting” children with food allergies.

The shocking remark was made during the Clawson Board of Education meeting of November 10, following the food services director’s update on implementing new school nutrition guidelines. When the question was thrown open to the audience about other issues facing Clawson schools, one person raised having to deal with “too many allergies,” while another said his elementary school has “at least one kid in every class” with a food allergy.

It was then that Clawson trustee Linda Grossmann remarked: “Well, you should just shoot them.” She threw up her hands, as if to wave off her comment, as some other board members laughed nervously. Another (unnamed) trustee commented: “Put them all in the same classroom.” The meeting simply continued on.

The video of the meeting – with the provocative comments starting at approximately the 24:00 mark – was streamed live and uploaded in full onto the Internet. The clip of Grossman’s comment provoked outrage from the food allergy community, and has been viewed almost 70,000 times on Facebook.

“Food allergies are a serious illness and suggesting that these children should be shot, even in jest, is outrageous and unacceptable from a public official,” said FARE (Food Allergy Research & Education) CEO Dr. James Baker, in a statement that called for an apology and the board member’s resignation. “When the leadership of a local public school district is joking about children with food allergies and school violence, and fellow board members are reacting with amusement, it is abundantly clear that there is a lack of respect and empathy for families managing food allergies.”

After the outcry, Grossmann submitted a letter of resignation, which she shared with a local newspaper, apologizing to school board members, the district and “everyone for my distasteful and inappropriate joke.” The Clawson school board also published an apology on its website saying, “We were stunned and saddened by a comment recently made by a member of the Board of Education of Clawson Public Schools …. It does not represent the views of our district nor our Board of Education.”

However, allergy organizations say that the comment and the laughter that followed from other board members and the public in attendance is evidence of a deeper issue.

“What we saw in this Board meeting is, I am sure, the tip of a problem that may run very deep in the Clawson school district,” Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America president and CEO Dr. Cary Sennett wrote in an open letter addressed to the Clawson Board of Education.“Tone begins at the top: the Board of Education must establish its commitment to address food allergy awareness and training at all levels within the school, including at the school board level.”

In the letter, Sennett added that the remarks are particularly upsetting given that children with food allergies are at higher risk of bullying. Studies suggest that approximately one-third of food-allergic children have been bullied or harassed because of their allergies.

FARE, AAFA and the FAACT food allergy organization have all offered their services to help educate the Clawson School District about food allergies and what needs to be done to keep students safe.