Second lawsuit filed against school board

Second lawsuit filed against school board
The Weakley County Board of Education will face another contender in the legal arena with the filing of a second lawsuit claiming contact with mold has had adverse affects on two more Westview High School students.
A suit, filed Dec. 20 in Weakley County Circuit Court, alleges Carol Hinman’s two high-school age children have suffered at that hands of mold contamination at the public school.
Hinman has been the advocate voice of a group of “concerned parents of WHS” since August. She has been vocal at Weakley County School Board meetings where she was approached her concerns on Oct. 4 and when a legal response was given from the Board’s attorney on Dec. 6.
Last month’s meeting Hinman addressed board members and posed concerns involving her two children that had recently tested positive for exposure to toxic mold.
The WHS parent also presented pictures of what certain types of mold look like and their effects on the human body, as well as the students’ physician test results to board members that showed penicillium notatum and cladosporium herbarum found in her son, Griffin Pochop. Pochop is a senior at Westview High School.
Hinman’s daughter, Dominique, has reportedly tested positive for “dangerously high levels of aspergillus.” Dominique has attended Westview since August of 2006, according to the lawsuit.
After hearing Hinman’s request for immediate remediation of the public school and the demand for the resignation of Weakley County Director of Schools Richard Barber, board chairman Gordon Morris asked the board’s attorney Larry Cagle to respond. Cagle assured the group of people on hand the December school board meeting that, “A lot of people have gone through these buildings … experts on both sides; not one person has said it is unsafe for students. I have known some of these board members for 20 years and I know they would never put students in an unsafe building.”
Hinman has since filed suit against the Weakley County Board of Education and Barber in his official capacity as superintendent of Weakley County schools for common law negligence, for public nuisance, for compensatory and punitive damages and recovery of costs and attorneys’ fees.
The suit alleges since Griffin Pochop’s attendance began at Westview High School in August 2004, he has suffered an increase and worsening of symptoms including extreme daily fatigue, coughing, congestion, allergy symptoms and an inability to feel rested. There are nine symptoms that reportedly improve and/or dissipate during school breaks, summer months and on weekends, according to the suit.
His sister’s symptoms allegedly range from allergic reactions to headaches daily after Chemistry class attendance.
According to the lawsuit, the HVAC system at Westview High School malfunctioned during the summer months of 1998 and caused water to saturate the indoor areas of the school building and generate toxic mold growth inside the public school.
“Approximately two weeks passed before the 1998 malfunction was discovered, by which time vent covers, walls, floors, ceilings, library books, chairs, desks and other fixtures were covered with “slime” (mold and mildew),” the suit reads.
The board is accused of using “self-help” with the manual removal of water and observable mold. Since that time, Westview has apparently harbored reappearing toxic mold throughout the building.
The lawsuit also contends that Barber, former assistant superintendent Steve Ramsey, director of safe and rug free schools for Weakley County Lorna Benson and maintenance supervisor Royce Bates were all personally notified that toxic mold at Westview was causing students to be ill. Testing of the school for mold did not commence until Aug. 9, 2007 when toxicologist Dr. Richard Lipsey, Dr. Elliot Horner, attorneys, board members and parents went throughout the building and tested areas for mold.
Lipsey’s report shows dangerous levels of toxic mold from the stachybotrus, penicillium, aspergillus and cladosprorium families, the suit reads.
According to www.mold-help.org, “Stachybotrys is a greenish black mold that grows on material with a high cellulose content … This mold requires very wet or high humid conditions for days or weeks in order to grow.
“Individuals with chronic exposure to toxins produced by this fungus reported cold and flu symptoms, memory loss, muscle aches, sore throats, diarrhea, headaches, fatigue, dermatitis, intermittent local hair loss, cancer, and generalized malaise. The toxins produced by this fungus will suppress and could destroy the immune system affecting the lymphoid tissue and the bone marrow.
Weakley County Public Safety Director Jamison Peevyhouse has conducted two inspections, one in 2005 and one in 2007, and reported to board members that areas of the school building house “mold-like” substances.
Barber is also accused of specifically directing a faculty member at Westview not to discuss the mold situation at Westview with anyone other than himself or WHS principal David Byars, according to the lawsuit filed Dec. 20.
The suit cites the Board has a duty and responsibility to students, faculty and staff to provide a building free from conditions that endanger them. By not providing immediate remediation, the Board is accused of negligence.
Hinman has requested a permanent injunction against Westview’s continued use as a place for students to attend classes until it has been deemed by professionals the school is free of toxic mold and byproducts, according to the suit.
Hinman and her attorneys have requested a jury to hear the case.
This is the second lawsuit filed against the Weakley County Board of Education claiming Westview students are suffering from exposure to mold within the school building.
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