TOXIC MOLD NEWS STORY- A Teacher’s Nightmare
Santa Ana, CA – Denise Byrd, a teacher of 15 years in the Santa Ana Unified School District, (SAUSD), became ill with lung damage and other secondary physical problems around March 2001, when the portable classroom she worked in was discovered to have serious toxic mold infestation.
The results of the District’s own testing showed Denise Byrd’s classroom at Jefferson Elementary in Santa Ana, had one of the highest Toxic Mold counts among 15 other classrooms that were tested. The other teachers in the portables also filled out surveys and had similar symptoms as Ms. Byrd. Ms. Byrd was forced to go into the same classroom when she returned around September, 2002, where again she became ill along with other students. Ms. Byrd lost her jury trial, Denise Byrd vs. SAUSD, in Sept., 2004 for failure to accommodate. The case was lost due to improper use of evidence and other puzzling reasons. “There was and is plenty of evidence that the opposing side committed perjury which gives a good reason for a case to be overturned and re-tried”, states Denise.Byrd. She feels that her legal team was inept and is looking for someone to represent her in a malpractice case since her time is crucial.
The District Attorney’s Department of Insurance Fraud has opened up an investigation to this case involving workers compensation insurance with the teachers of Santa Ana. Claims that doctors of the District are told what to say in the medical reports. “They are not giving the teachers an honest medical report which is to covering up the problems of SAUSD.” said Byrd. “I would like the case to go to the Grand Jury for retrial or even the State Grand Jury.” said Byrd.
This classroom had not been properly cleaned and now has been removed from Jefferson Elementary in Santa Ana to an unknown area. Denise Byrd’s teaching materials and books of 20 years are missing. “The superintendent, the board, risk management, Human Resources, and the principal – all have gone quiet about where these materials might be.” states Byrd.
In the last 5 years, Ms. Byrd has been paying her own medical bills, because the District denied she was injured on the job even though the District’s own tests and many witnesses have proof otherwise … and there is also doctor’s proof”, Byrd states. She has paid her own legal expenses to try to get some justice and proof that Santa Ana has been hiding about the poor air quality that has affected so many teachers and students.
“There was no safety plan in action and to my knowledge, still does not exist,” Byrd states. The parents were not notified about the REAL conditions of the portables. By law, parents have a right to know if their child has been exposed to any lice or contagious diseases within 24-48 hours. Why was this covered up? Why did the parents not get the test results of what their children had been breathing in? Now, classroom #37 has been removed and Denise Byrd’s 20 years of teaching materials have been removed. Why would a classroom be removed and personal materials, books of a teacher be removed?
Dr. Gunnar Heuser released Ms. Byrd to return to SAUSD around July 2005, on the condition she be given a clean classroom. One without water damage, mold, or toxic chemicals to teach in. For the past year, Ms. Byrd, who is on the re-employment list and has all excellent scores on testing and is a fully qualified teacher with tenure and seniority, has not been placed back to work for the District.
The District has placed many emergency credentialed teachers and long term substitutes into positions that Ms. Byrd was qualified for. Even after continuous pleas by CTA California Teachers Association attorney, Marianne Reinhold, and Byrd’s unanswered letters to Superintendent Al Mijares, the Board of Education, and Human Resources , she still is being ignored.
Denise Byrd has lost her lifetime saving from teaching and is now losing her small home/condo of 13 years. She has nowhere to go. ” If a person has been released by their Dr. and is capable under normal circumstances to perform top quality teaching, then why would a school District bypass a wonderful teacher to hire less qualified personnel or emergency credentialed teachers?” states Byrd. If the District would have hired Denise Byrd back in September 2005, she would not be losing her home. Denise Byrd, never got to start the school year of 2005-2006 that is ending now.
On June 21, 2006 Denise Byrd filed a complaint with the Department of Fair employment and Housing. “According to the Law, the District should have re-hired me back in the summer of 2005, for this last school year 2005-2006. Because of their stalling, this has caused tremendous financial hardship, which is forcing me to move from my home. I have even had a CTA (California Teachers Association) Attorney fighting for my positions since September, 2005. The District is playing political checkers. The SAUSD is one the five largest school districts in the state of California so I find it difficult to believe there is no place for a teacher with my excellent record.” said Byrd.
According to public records, there have been approximately 200 new teachers hired – emergency credentialed teachers, substitute teachers, long-term and short-term positions, and many, many other positions in which Byrd could have been easily placed.
“Why would the District not re-hire a qualified and great teacher? Why are they stalling?”
The clock is running out for Denise Byrd.