(Weakley County, TN) “My mother devoted 37 years to that school.
Day in day out. Anything they asked, she was there,” said Celia Rogers.
She still feels the pain of losing her mother, Joan Lois Moody, last year.
She was 72, and worked as a custodian for Weakley County Schools.
But when she started at the newly built Westview High School in 1998, things changed.
“Started out head, nose and throat, but it was kind of vague. It would get worst,”
It started the first year after the Westview High was built.
A pipe burst during the summer.
When students returned things were a mess.
Former Westview Chemistry teacher Marion Pitts remembers it, “There was moisture on the lockers, the table tops. There was moisture everywhere.”
The school system’s response…
“They used big fans. We were told to stay out of the building while they did that. They got things dry so we could get back in the school,” said Pitts.
Pitts said the storage closet in her chemistry lab was especially bad, “I noticed some black things on the ceiling tiles, coming down from ceiling tiles onto the walls. Some black growth started forming.”
She said custodians like Joan Lois Moody were told to wipe down the mold.
“She told me she was cleaning with a bleach and water solution. She wore a mask,” says Pitts. “They told her to step out, take a break when ever she felt a little light-headed or anything.”
Pitts had no major health problems from the mold.
But Celia Rogers believes it was the mold exposure that started her mother’s downfall, “She never could get relief. The only relief she could get was in the summer when she didn’t go to work.”
Attorney Larry Parrish had heard it before.
He filed suit on the behalf of two students who got sick at the school.
One of them was a football player, “He got so he had these respiratory problems, he couldn’t breathe. He was fatigued.”
In fact, the mold situation at Westview got so bad students left classes, and with teachers and parents, protested right there in the streets.
Some even documented the demonstrations, to get the school system to do something.
When professionals were finally brought it, Marion Pitts said the testing found mold in the vents, library and her chemistry room.
“They were told how much it cost to remediate it and what would have to be done to remediate it, and they chose not to do that. They didn’t want to spend that money,” said Parrish.
Parrish’s lawsuit against the school system was eventually settled in 2010 for almost $800,000 dollars.
“They went to all these totally ineffective means to clean it up and exposed all these kids and all these employees for all this amount of time,” said Parrish.
Parrish is now representing Celia Rogers in a suit against Weakley County, the funding agency for the Weakley County Schools.
The County School Superintendent would not discuss the school system’s stance in the mold issue.
But in court documents, Attorneys for the County and the Maintenance Company Joan Lois Moody worked for, said there was no willful intent to harm Ms. Moody and the case should be dismissed, because it falls under worker’s compensation.
Last month a judge agreed.
Attorney Parrish and Celia Rogers are appealing.
” If they just are allowed to sweep it under the carpet other people will be harmed,” said Rogers.
Experts say while mold is all around us and on average not dangerous, there are forms that cause serious respiratory problems when you are exposed continuously and in confined areas, even in a school.