A prestigious Melbourne private school has been slammed by a coroner who found it directly responsible for the death of a student who was fed beef satay despite having a known peanut allergy.
The Sydney Morning Herald cited coroner Audrey Jamieson as saying Scotch College was ignorant of recently released guidelines on anaphylaxis and showed a lack of respect to people with dietary preferences or requirements when it gave 13-year-old Nathan Francis the meal that claimed his life.
Two other cadets with a peanut allergy had the same meal.
The boy’s mother had informed the school of his allergy before Nathan attended the annual college army cadet camp at the Wombat State Forest in March 2007.
The inquest heard Scotch College bought ration packs from the Australian Defence Force in a bid to save $39,000.
But because the packs are not sold to the public, and since people with allergies are not permitted to join the army, they were not subject to food labeling legislation.
"This lackadaisical approach to the distribution of the ration packs possibly represents a certain mindset about the ‘type’ of boy/man that should be in the army/army cadets, but at a minimum represents a lack of respect or prejudice towards those with dietary preferences and/or requirements," Ms Jamieson said.
"The systematic failures may have commenced at the level of the army, but whatever lay behind and drove the process of distribution, it lacked rigour at the Scotch College level and operated in a way without regard to the consequences.
"Scotch College failed to exercise reasonable care and attention to the medical and food allergy information provided and known to them at the time preparations were being made for the camp."
In a finding delivered on Friday, the coroner said Nathan’s death was directly related to the college’s failure to take reasonable steps to ensure the health and safety of the boys attending the cadet camp.
She said his death could have been prevented if the college had exercised reasonable care and attention.
Ms Jamieson said college staff at the camp had an unacceptable level of complacency towards student safety.
The inquest heard there was a 10-minute delay in Nathan receiving his EpiPen (allergy treatment injector) because a staff member felt "uncomfortable" administering it.
Outside court, Nathan’s father Brian thanked the coroner for her strong findings.
"To say Nathan’s death has devastated our lives is too simplistic and understates the horror that has torn through our family," he said.
"Scotch college could have so easily prevented Nathan’s death.
The family reached a confidential settlement with the school and the ADF following a Federal Court ruling that the army pay a $210,100 penalty over Nathan’s death.