Home > Health, Parenting, Safety > small steps toward justice

small steps toward justice

Two years ago, I submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice.

My older son’s school had recently changed owners. I was sad to see the old owner go; she’d been so sweet to both my sons. On the other hand, she’d had to close the school baby room, which meant I’d had to move my then-infant son to a school that cost more than twice as much.

The new owners would be reopening the school’s baby room. If I could move my younger son back there, I’d pay half as much for his daycare. I was relieved by the prospect.

Unfortunately, two factors converged against his enrollment.

First, he’d recently been diagnosed with a severe egg allergy. Where he went, so went his EpiPen.

Second, the new owners had updated the school’s student handbook. The new handbook stated that the school did not accept responsibility for administering epinephrine.

I scoured the Internet for information on the Americans with Disabilities Act. I found confirmation that severe food allergy is classified a disability; rightly so, given that it’s hard to pursue life, liberty, or happiness from a state of temporary or enduring allergy-induced non-breathing.

Beyond that, I gathered a few other pieces of information to share with the school’s new owners. Most important was that their policy of refusing to administer epinephrine and instead waiting for emergency medical personnel to do so was illegal. That precise question had been answered almost two decades prior. As I wrote in “Epinephrine: Saving lives, when administered“:

In 1997, the Department of Justice entered into settlement with La Petite Academy (http://www.ada.gov/lapetite.htm). The academy’s allergy response policy prior to settlement was to wait for paramedics to deliver epinephrine to the suffering child. This was determined to be unacceptable. The settlement included a new EpiPen policy requiring the academy to immediately administer medicine per the child’s medical authorization form.

The DOJ additionally addressed this in its ADA FAQ for child care providers (http://www.ada.gov/childqanda.htm). In its answer to question 19, it states that children “cannot be excluded on the sole basis that they have been identified as having severe allergies to bee stings or certain foods.” It continues by stating providers must be prepared “to take appropriate steps in the event of an allergic reaction, such as administering a medicine called ‘epinephrine.’” It is clear based on the La Petite Academy settlement that waiting for a medical professional to deliver epinephrine does not qualify as an “appropriate step.”

The new owners weren’t interested. That being so, I submitted my ADA breach complaint to the Department of Justice.

Several months ago, my littler boy outgrew his egg allergy. I did not outgrow my absolute sorrow at the thought of “any mother’s baby [dying] needlessly” because a caretaker chose not to administer potentially life-saving epinephrine.

I don’t care less for other people’s babies because I didn’t birth them.

So when the DOJ contacted me to inform me the school would be changing its policies and training its teacher to administer epinephrine, I was relieved. While I know from my research that there are still many schools that won’t administer, this small group of schools will. That means a small number of kids who are safer now than they were two years ago. It’s not everything, but it’s a start.

Still, it hadn’t really hit home.

Yesterday, though, a friend I’d made through the school texted me that she’d just read an article about the settlement. I found the article, hollered right in the middle of my older son’s birthday party, and did an impromptu dance on my lawn.

For me to know was one delightful thing; for others to see the article and, perhaps, to understand they have more rights than they might realize, another kind of delight.

Two years ago, I submitted a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Two weeks ago, that case was closed, in favor of life, and today?

Today, I rejoice each
small step


Lifesaving so easy, even a five-year-old can learn it in under a minute

  1. Mehreen Mansoor
    October 1, 2017 at 8:50 am

    Learning these basic forms of first-aid is crucial to our community. Unfortunately, in many countries, people don’t give a s*** about it. It’s sad.

    • October 1, 2017 at 8:57 am

      It really is. It still boggles my mind that this one-minute procedure was described as “too complicated” for mere teachers. Arguments that my five-year-old mastered it in seconds were not persuasive.

      I think things like this can feel like an abstraction to many people, but none of it’s abstract in the real world. Rather, it’s the material difference between someone (or many someones) living and dying. I wish it were easier to make these interventions seem less like abstractions and more like the lifesavers they are.

  2. October 1, 2017 at 11:35 am

    Good on you! That’s great news (also great that he’s outgrown his allergy).

    • October 1, 2017 at 12:42 pm

      Thanks! When we got his test results back, we had a weekend of celebration involving ingredients that hadn’t been allowed in the house for a long while. J still dislikes eggs a la carte, which I certainly understand given the circumstance. 🙂

  3. October 1, 2017 at 11:44 am

    Each small step towards justice build the foundations for future strides in that direction.
    Thank you.

  4. Deb
    October 1, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Congratulations Deb! Your fight may save a child going to that daycare although knowing the disregard the owners had about this process in the first place I tend to think that I would not be taking my child there even now that things have changed.

    • October 1, 2017 at 12:47 pm

      I wouldn’t leave my child there. It was clear to me that fiscal gain was held higher than child welfare–that’s to say, they were willing to accept the benefits of taking on children while rejecting some of the costs of doing so, regardless of legality. I’d be concerned that this kind of thinking would lead to risks in other arenas.

      I remain so grateful for the totally opposite tack taken where Littler is now. I pay more in money, but I pay far, far less in fear.

  5. October 1, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Good job!

  6. October 1, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    That’s so awesome!!! Your post a long while ago about focusing on being for and not against had a huge impact with me. I’ve chewed on it and it’s helped me to reframe so many things. This is a wonderful example of living for. Thank you, Deborah.

    • October 1, 2017 at 12:48 pm

      Thanks! I’m so glad to hear that. ♥ It’s taken me a while to get back there, but I feel far, far more solidly there than I ever was before. It’s such a better feeling.

      • October 1, 2017 at 12:51 pm

        I’m so happy to hear that! Me, too, and yes, it is.

  7. October 1, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    That’s great! Any victory for life is a victory for all.

  8. October 4, 2017 at 12:19 pm


  9. October 9, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    What all of the above said! One person who is informed can make a change. Congrats!

  10. October 16, 2017 at 7:09 am

    Catching up I decided I would start reading at the beginning of Oct., it is the best I could do. I love finding you a warrior! Great job ❤

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