ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – It’s been a mystery for months. Students and staff at Nichols Junior High in Arlington have been saying that something in the school has been making them sick: Now, the Arlington NAACP has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to shutter the school until the district can provide answers.
“It’s a human rights and a civil rights issue,” says Arlington NAACP President Alisa Simmons, adding that AISD school leaders “ought to be ashamed. So if they’re not going to advocate and provide a safe and humane educational environment for those students, we’re going to fight for those people.”
Simmons says the civil rights group works with the district on a number of initiatives and isn’t looking to be adversaries. Nevertheless, they believe the district’s actions to address to the issue so far have been inadequate.
“Nausea, vomiting headache, blurred vision, passing out– it’s not a mold issue,” insists attorney Lee Merritt. Merritt is representing the local NAACP and says hundreds of students and staff have complained of symptoms since September.
Meanwhile, Arlington school officials say they, too, have ruled out mold as the source of the “sick building syndrome”; but, stress that they have also examined the plumbing, cleaned dirty HVAC coils and even replaced carpet and the office copier.
“We’ve found a variety of different things from rust and dust on air conditioner coils that have been replaced, to something the industry calls ‘dirty socks syndrome’, which we’ve done some HVAC balancing work to address,” says district spokesperson Leslie Johnston, “so we continue to address anything that is found, but just as the staff and families are frustrated we’re also frustrated.”
Parents have been kept informed through emails, and letters sent home with students. Parent Bettina Page says her daughter has not complained of feeling ill—and yet the lack of firm answers is becoming troubling.
“Until today, I trusted that they were checking into it and that everything was going to be okay,” says Page, “now, I’m not so sure.”
District officials provided a monthly breakdown of everything that has been tested since the symptoms surfaced in September—and they’re still trying, in spite of assurances that nothing identified so far can explain the mysterious illness.
“We actually have plant services staff member who goes by every morning, and checks the building and walks around and makes sure there’s nothing that needs to be addressed or if there’s anything that could be an issue, so we are taking it very seriously and check that every day,” says Johnston.
Detailed reports of all of the testing performed at the campus has also been posted to the school website.