Teacher accused of bullying student with scented candle

Dylan Stableford
The Lookout

A high-school Spanish teacher in Hiawassee, Ga., is being accused of "bullying" one of her students, who suffers from a severe nut allergy, by burning a scented candle containing nut oil and apparently triggering an allergic reaction.

The teen's mother, Shannon Baldwin-Nguyen, says the teacher, Lynn Swanson, knew about her daughter's allergy and was warned by the school nurse not to burn the candle in the classroom, but did so anyway.

According to CBS Atlanta, 16-year-old Danielle Nguyen saw the nurse seven times during Swanson's Spanish class last semester for what her mother described as allergic reactions, and was treated with Benadryl. When it was determined the classroom candle was causing them, Baldwin-Nguyen told the network, Swanson agreed to remove the candle. But her daughter kept breaking out and wound up failing the class. Baldwin-Nguyen filed a complaint, alleging Swanson "later admitted to lighting the candle all semester but blew it out" before her daughter entered the room.

"I feel that Lynn Swanson knew what she was doing," Baldwin-Nguyen said. "But she repeatedly burned the candle, day after day after day."

"I never thought I'd be bullied by a teacher," the daughter told CBS Atlanta.

The school district issued a statement to CBS Atlanta, saying it had taken additional steps to protect students with severe food allergies and had "removed all candles from classrooms."

About 3.3 million Americans suffer from nut allergies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And according to the American Academy of Dermatology, fragrances from air fresheners and scented candles are the leading cause of "cosmetic contact dermatitis," an increasingly common condition that affects more than 2 million people.

"I've been seeing more and more adults who are having problems with air fresheners," Stanley Fineman, an Atlanta allergist, told USA Today last fall.

According to WebMD.com, symptoms can range from classic "allergic" reactions (such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes) and skin reactions (itching and hives) to headaches, dizziness and respiratory issues, including difficulty breathing.