BLACK VOICES

Family Says Child With Dairy Allergy Died After School Gave Him Grilled Cheese

The school knew about his life-threatening condition, the boy's parents say.

11/10/2017 15:27 EST

A pre-K school in New York is under investigation following the death of a boy whose parents claim he was given a grilled cheese sandwich despite school officials having been warned of his allergy to dairy.

The parents of 3-year-old Elijah Silvera said they were summoned to Harlem’s Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services on Nov. 3, where their son was gasping for breath as his airway was swelling shut.

School officials did not call 911, according to Elijah’s family, and he was instead taken by his mother to a local hospital. Despite their best efforts, doctors were unable to save the child’s life.

Elijah’s father, Thomas Silvera, told ABC News that an adult at the school had given his son a grilled cheese sandwich and the food caused his son to go into anaphylactic shock. Silvera said the boy’s mother had previously told the school their son had a severe allergy to dairy and had provided medications and paperwork. Had the school followed protocol, he said, the child’s death could have been prevented.

“I’m pissed off that this had to happen to my son,” Silvera said Thursday.

New York City officials have since shut down the school, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“We will get to the bottom of what happened here,” Christopher Miller, press secretary for the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, said in a statement.

The Seventh Avenue Center for Family Services did not immediately return a request for comment.

Elijah’s parents and his older brother are heartbroken over their loss, according to a GoFundMe page set up by a family friend.

“It is an unimaginable time for everyone who loved Elijah, in particular for his 5-year-old brother Sebastian, who struggles to understand that his brother is truly gone,” reads the GoFundMe page, which the family shared with news outlets. “We dread the upcoming holiday season without our little boy. We are lost.”

SayingGoodbyeToElijah/GoFundMe.com
Three-year-old Elijah Silvera and his 5-year-old brother, Sebastian.

According to the GoFundMe page, a portion of the money raised will be used for funeral expenses and a second, independent autopsy.

“It is unclear where responsibility for Elijah’s death will fall,” the fundraising page explains. “We want to find out exactly what caused Elijah’s death and that will mean sorting out exactly where, if any, breakdowns may have occurred.”

As of Friday afternoon, the page had received almost $50,000 in donations.

Elijah’s family did not return a request for further comment.

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