Teacher says school lacked transparency after sewage pipe leak

Posted at 11:30 PM, Apr 17, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-18 05:44:12-04

The public is hearing for the first time from a teacher who says fellow teachers, and potentially 30 plus elementary school students, fell ill after a sewer pipe leak.  

RELATED: Parents say plumbing leak went unattended at school

The teacher claims the school district wasn't transparent about the situation.

WPTV-TV is not identifying the teacher to ensure they will not face retribution from the St. Lucie Public Schools.

"They're adults. Act like an adult. Do your job. Don't hide behind something," the teacher says.

Multiple teachers said an awful smell stared lurking in and around two portable classrooms right after spring break, around March 22.

Soon after the smell, the teacher claims something started happening to students and teachers that had class nearby, including 10-year-old Gidaya Ruby.

"We got really sick. And started getting headaches and coughing. We felt like we couldn't breathe," Ruby said Friday.

This teacher, with what they claim is a newly acquired tremble, showed WPTV-TV a new inhaler.

"Right now, I'm on seven medications," they say.

The school, in its letter, says it found out about a problem on April 5, and ordered the executive director of facilities to address it.

But an internal email from the facilities director obtained by NewsChannel 5, appears to contradict the letter.

The April 6 email says the work order was placed sometime the week before. The email goes onto blame "human error."

"How would you feel if that were your child sitting out there knowing there was a work order placed prior to April 5?" they say.

Before WPTV-TV met Gidaya, and all the parents of her classmates that suffered from the same symptoms Friday, they were at a town hall-style meeting at Lawyer Jeff Vastola's office.

"They're trying to Band-Aide the problem. They're putting kids at risk. Kids and teachers," Vastola says.

In Monday's letter, the school says all air tests came back clean, and no one's safety was at risk. The teachers said the testing took place only after the school aired out the portable classroom.

"100 percent can you say, nobody was ever in danger and can you say, 100 percent sure, that there's never going to be long term effects?" the teacher questions.

They only plan to sue if there are long term health effects. They are focused on making sure everyone is healthy first, and then making the public aware.

WPTV-TV requested an on-camera interview Friday and again Monday to get answers to several specific questions, but so far, they haven't agreed to one.