Parents file lawsuit against DMUSD after sophomore left school with high blood alcohol content


Two parents filed lawsuits against the Del Mar Union School District after their daughter, who was in second grade at the time, left school on the afternoon of April 1, 2022, with a rate of blood alcohol level of 0.23%.

Legal claims are usually a prerequisite for legal action against a government agency such as a school district. Requiring legal claims before a lawsuit is filed gives a school district the opportunity to pay a claim or try to negotiate a settlement without litigation.

An initial application filed in June was rejected, and two other applications filed in September are still pending. Shavon Lindley, the student’s mother, said she was still hoping to get more information about what happened that day in April before making a decision on whether to sue in justice.

A school district investigation concluded that the student ingested hand sanitizer by licking it off his hands, according to documents provided to the Del Mar Times (a publication of the UT Community Press) and obtained through a records request. public.

The student, whose name is withheld by the Del Mar Times for confidentiality reasons, left school at Del Mar Hills Academy feeling dizzy, according to the legal allegations. Lindley emailed her daughter’s second grade teacher from the emergency room at Rady Children’s Hospital asking for information. A substitute was in class that day.

“Trying to see if anything happened today to help doctors figure it out,” she wrote, according to emails provided by the district. “Did she fall? Eat something different? »

Doctors eventually diagnosed the 8-year-old with a blood alcohol level of 0.23%, nearly three times the legal limit for driving, according to legal allegations and a police report.

Lindley said in an interview that her daughter told her the water in her water bottle tasted like lemonade when she drank it at school that day before she had symptoms. The complaint filed in June alleged that the water bottle had been tampered with.

The American Association of Poison Centers reported a 70% spike in cases due to hand sanitizer consumption comparing January to August 2020 to the same period in 2019, with the COVID-19 pandemic fueling a surge in sanitizer products . By far most cases were in children up to age 5, but ages 6-12 also accounted for many cases.

Poison control centers, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other organizations have continued to warn against children consuming hand sanitizer, especially while at school.

The Del Mar Hills Academy used a 75% ethyl alcohol hand sanitizer with no particular scent. But school nurse Beth Anderson wrote in an internal email that “if she got the sanitizer on her hands and lips and then drank from the bottle, it might indeed taste lemony.”

“We discussed that there was a higher concentration of alcohol in hand sanitizers and if she actually ate it, it could raise the blood alcohol level to 0.23 with very little,” said Anderson said in another email.

But based on her daughter’s account, Lindley said she still believes the water bottle was tampered with. The district took steps to ensure the student’s water bottle was secure and she was not consuming hand sanitizer, according to the emails, but Lindley said she believed that the district had not done enough to notify parents and take action to prevent a repeat incident.

“My daughter is unprotected right now because no one is doing anything more,” Lindley said. “And other kids are at risk of it happening to them.”

Andrea Sleet, principal of Del Mar Hills Academy, said in an email that “the safety of our students is always a top district priority.”

“Through the investigation, we discovered that one of our students had probably consumed hand sanitizer,” she said. “As a result, we have taken steps to ensure that students no longer have access to hand sanitizer at our school. We are not aware of any other students consuming hand sanitizer.”

Sleet said “the district’s investigation and evidence does not support a conclusion that anyone tampered with the water bottle.”

The family alleged in the legal complaint that the school “failed to provide medical treatment to the Claimant despite her exhibiting obvious medical symptoms”, including dizziness and falls, and “endangered the life of a child to an extreme extent”.

Two other lawsuits filed Sept. 28, one for the student’s parents, allege the school and district acted in “negligence” and caused “extreme emotional distress.”

The dollar amount of claims that have been filed is just over $1 million, which includes compensation for nearly $27,000 in medical bills.

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