No Cease Fire In War Of Words Over Arlington ‘Sick School’ Complaints

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ARLINGTON (CBS11) – No cease fire Thursday in the battle over whether an Arlington school is making staff and students sick.

On Thursday night, critics are planning a protest rally at district headquarters at 7:00 p.m. to keep up the pressure on the school board regarding concerns about Nichols Junior High.

“Essentially they have said,`because we can’t find the problem, therefore there is no problem’,” said attorney Lee Merritt who is representing families. “I think that’s just poor logic.”

In what has become a war of words and dueling statements from lawyers, attorney Merritt fired the latest volley.

Merritt is dismissing a school district retained attorney’s statement attributing the mysterious illness at Nichols Junior High to “heightened awareness”—essentially saying that victims felt sick after others complained.

“The hysteria premise is insulting,” said Alisa Simmons, President of the Arlington branch of the NAACP. “It marginalizes a group of people who are physically ill.”

The local NAACP branch is pursuing the lawsuit, saying the situation is a matter of “environmental justice.”

Several Nichols parents have also been added as plaintiffs. They are asking a judge to order the district to close the school until the source of the air quality issues have been identified and fixed.

“To their credit, they’ve done some testing,” said Simmons. “But they have not uncovered the source of the air quality issues—so they don’t get credit for trying and giving up.”

The complaints of students and staffers experiencing headaches, nausea and dizziness first surfaced last September.

Since then, school district hired consultants have checked the HVAC systems, plumbing, crawl space underneath the school, and even replaced some office equipment.

All, including the Tarrant County Health Department, found no credible evidence of something at the school making students and staffers ill.

Meanwhile, school officials have extended an offer to the plaintiffs to have an independent laboratory of their choosing perform additional testing. So, what then, if nothing is found?

“If at the end of our study it is concluded that what our doctor opined was not causing the sickness; but, individuals who enter the building on a daily basis continue to feel sick, I think you must get them out of the building. I will not be satisfied with ‘we didn’t find the answer, so we give up’,” said Merritt.

No word yet on when a judge will weigh in on the plaintiff’s request for an injunction ordering that the school be closed.

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