Seattle mom Christal Duyungan couldn’t rely on going to her neighborhood school. “Our reference school was one of the schools they were considering closing down,” she says. “We knew that that school would end up on the chopping block, so I thought, I’m just going to look elsewhere.”

“A lot of the schools that I looked at were alternative schools, which don’t have neighborhood boundaries. These schools are very popular and they’re particularly harder to get into. We put John Hay Elementary as our number one school and we got in.”

“Schools are slowly jumping on the bandwagon as to figuring out how to be safe for children who have anaphylactic reactions to different things,” she explains. “I really wanted to put Salmon Bay School higher on the list, but I chose not to. I felt it wasn’t the safest school for my son to be in, although it’s a really good school. I wrote a little blurb at the bottom of the application explaining why we wanted to go to John Hay.”

Duyungan said she simply stated that the school would be safer for her son than other schools. Many schools are not yet adequately prepared to handle an emergency anaphylactic reaction, which would require educating staff on food allergies, stocking emergency medicine (usually epinephrine) and training the staff on how to use the medicine.

“They say that it doesn’t make a difference to write a note, but these are human beings making these decisions and John Hay is not an easy school to get into.”

Duyungan also shares this cautionary tale of two families that went too far in trying to land a spot in their first-choice school:

“Last year there was a huge deal where two families lied about where they lived. These parents were part of my son’s co-op. One said they lived at a residence of a relative when they didn’t. Another actually rented out an apartment. A family that lived in that cluster [as groups of neighborhood schools are called in Seattle] knew. As soon as they heard that these other families got in and they didn’t, they approached the school district to deal with it. They put their friendship on the line. These are families that carpool together. The woman who blew the whistle actually contacted a friend that she knew at the Seattle Times and an article was put in the paper. It just blew me away! I was like ‘Oh my gosh, look at the lengths people will go to!’ ”

Additional resources


The Picky Parent Guide: Choose Your Child’s School with Confidence by Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel,Armchair Press, Ross, California, 2004.

Online resources:

The Web site for Parents for Public Schools, an organization that champions public education, offers in-depth information on how to help support our public schools. provides useful guidance to parents seeking to learn more about New York City public schools.

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Updated: March 11, 2016