Nuts Welcome at Faith-Healing School

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A Christian Scientist school refused to train its staff or protect students with nut allergies, but told a girl the ailment was “‘all in her head,'” and could be cured with “faith-healing and prayer,” her parents claim in court.
     Kelly Van Halen, Baron Rogers and their daughter sued Berkeley Hall School Foundation, school administrator Winnie Needham and admissions officer Natalie Miller, alleging breach of contract, fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress, in Superior Court.
     Berkeley Hall School is on Mulholland Drive in Los Angeles. The parents say they paid it $13,000 in tuition.
     “Plaintiffs are the parents of Stella Rogers a minor school-age child with a severe nut allergy,” the complaint states. “Stella was re-enrolled in – but was forced to leave – the Berkeley Hall School after defendant refused to enforce its own ban on nut products, refused to train its staff in the use of the ‘Epi-Pen,’ (after agreeing to do so) and even refused to hire a nurse to care for students in the event of a medical emergency,” the complaint states. (Parentheses in complaint.)
     Since nut allergies may cause anaphylactic shock and even death, most U.S. schools keep measured doses of adrenaline in devices known by the brand names EpiPen or Twinject, to treat allergic reactions.
     But Stella’s parents say Berkeley Hall relied on a higher power, refusing to equip the school with an EpiPen or even a first-aid kit.
     “Defendant refused to hire a nurse even after parents of students at the school offered to pay the cost of hiring the nurse,” the complaint states. “After defendant breached repeated promises that it would enforce its nut ban and Stella was effectively forced out of the school, defendant refused to comply with its own tuition refund policy unless the plaintiffs signed a general release of claims and a nondisclosure agreement which would have kept confidential the allegations set forth below. Plaintiffs refused and brought this suit.”
     Stella’s parents say that after they paid $13,000 tuition, the staff and teachers did nothing to stop students from eating nuts at school.
     “This reflected the religious belief of the teachers and staff at Berkeley Hall that Stella’s allergies, and the allergies of the other students, were not actually caused by nuts and had no actual physical cause – but were instead ailments to be cured with ‘faith healing’ and prayer,” the complaint states.
     “In fact, teachers and staff at Berkeley Hall commented ignorantly that Stella’s allergies were ‘all in her head’ and within the very first week of the Fall 2010 semester at least one student (seated immediately behind Stella) was allowed to eat nuts and staff at Berkeley Hall – who were supposed to enforce the ban – were seen by plaintiffs eating nut products despite the purported ban which they were charged to enforce.”
     The parents claim the school lied to them, and told them that the student behind their daughter had to eat nuts for diabetes.
     “Moreover, after assuring plaintiffs that their staff would be shown how to use a portable epinephrine injection device, defendant informed plaintiffs that it could do nothing to intervene medically to help Stella except to call 911 and request paramedic assistance,” the complaint states. “This was consistent with the staff’s Christian Science beliefs, which defendant attempts to conceal from the public since deciding to expand its enrollment and revenue base among non-Christian Science families who do not reject modern medical science.”
     The family seeks punitive damages. They are represented by A. Douglas Mastroianni.
     Berkeley Hall School did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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