Lawsuit says Kanawha school board ignored mold problem

By Justin Anderson | Apr 13, 2009

CHARLESTON – The mother of an Andrew Jackson Middle School student and a teacher are jointly suing Kanawha school officials over sickness they say is related to mold at the school.

Pamela A. Lawson and T.M., a youth, by and through her mother Myesha McNeil filed a lawsuit March 26 against the Kanawha County Board of Education and Superintendent Ron Duerring.

Lawson and T.M. both have gotten sick from mold in the school, a problem ignored by school officials, the complaint says.

The complaint says the mold problem began when one of the air conditioning systems at the school broke down prior to the 2008-2009 school year and wasn't repaired. A second air conditioning system broke down in the summer of 2008, the complaint says.

The plaintiffs claim school board officials were aware of the problems, but failed to fix them and opened the school for the current school year.

Lawson reported to work on Aug. 21 and four days later fell ill with flu-like symptoms, the complaint says. She continued to feel sick until on Aug. 28, she was too ill to get out of bed. Lawson sought medical treatment on three occasions in early September, the complaint says.

She tried to come back to work on Sept. 11, but was too sick and told the principal she would not be coming to work the next day. The principal allegedly told Lawson to "make sure you tell the doctor that you have been exposed to mold."

Lawson said she was ordered by a physician to remain off work until Sept. 25. She was then hospitalized from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4, the complaint says. The severity of her illness caused her breathing problems that, at times, made her afraid she was going to die, the complaint says.

Lawson is now required to be on oxygen because of the illness, the complaint says.

T.M., a student of Lawson's, also became ill and had to seek medical attention. Eventually, she transferred to another school, the complaint says.

The lawsuit claims that the defendants were aware of the mold problem, but concealed it from the public, students and employees of the school.

In addition to compensatory and punitive damages, the plaintiffs are asking the judge to order school officials to have each school tested for mold by an independent company chosen by the court.

Cynthia E. Evans is representing the plaintiffs. The case is before Kanawha Circuit Judge Charles King.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-536

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