Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Carmel on the Case: Mold Problems in Schools Spawn Lawsuits
More legal troubles tonight for the Broward School District. Seven News has learned "fourteen" new lawsuits have been filed seeking damages due to mold contamination. Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero is "On The Case".
(WSVN) -- Mold in Broward County schools has already cost millions in clean up expenses.
And it could cost millions more if dozens of lawsuits now pending are successful.
The new suits are in addition to 20 others filed back in October.
All are on behalf of students and staff at Riverside Elementary in Coral Springs and Indian Trace Elementary in Weston.
Both schools had significant construction problems and major mold infestations.
Attorney Scott Gelfand says, "The people responsible for designing the schools failed, the school board responsible for maintaining the schools failed, the remediation contractor brought in to clean up the problems, they failed as well."
Scott Gelfand says his clients have all had allergic reactions to the mold which he says should have been cleaned up years ago.
"All of the suffering by all of the students and teachers could have been avoided."
Last year a Seven News Investigation revealed potentially dangerous molds growing in schools throughout Broward County.
At the time, Superintendent Frank Till was not familiar with Stackeybotrys or other toxic molds.
Dr. Frank Tillsays, "They're big words in the right phase they may have a big impact on kids, but the impact on the classroom, but you really would have to ask somebody who has a lot more expertise than I do."
But this year, Dr. Till hosted a school TV program about air quality with the department heads now in charge of dealing with the problem.
"One of the things we've seen some bad press about and we have the grand jury report was about some old conditions in our schools."
After a stinging grand jury report, the Broward School District has adopted an indoor air quality program designed by the Environmental Protection Agency.
It's called Tools For Schools and it is being used at three dozen Broward schools.
"Mold is here. It's been here for years but it can be stopped and we can have clean atmospheres to teach our kids."
State Senator Skip Campbell thinks more needs to be done.
He says, "We don't think anybody has done anything to effectively clean up the schools."
So Campbell has introduced this bill that would make the EPA tools for schools program mandatory - statewide.
It would require air quality inspections on a regular basis and calls for annual reports on air quality to the Department of Education.
"It's not just South Florida, it's throughout the State of Florida that we have the same problem."
South Florida parents meanwhile who were instrumental in making "Mold In Schools" an issue that would not go away - hope Campbell can convince his fellow legislators - there ought to be a law.
Don't forget, if you have a story for Carmel, give her a call at 305-627-CLUE or 954-921-CLUE.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: