In 2019, some of the most common mold-related news stories carried complaints about moldy schools. As parents, this is disturbing news. There are few things more important than the safety of our children in schools or daycare programs.
And it’s already starting in 2020.
Mold Found in Florida Head Start Facilities
In a news story posted on January 6, 2020, ABC Action News reports that mold has been found at 11 Head Start locations in Pinellas County, Florida. School workers found mold in AC and pipe closets and under sinks.
Nine hundred preschool aged kids were unable to return to school as scheduled. Parents were left searching for other options for their children.
It’s time to determine why our children are exposed to toxic mold conditions in schools where they should be safe.
No Laws to Protect Kids from Moldy Conditions in School
Turns out there is no required mold testing in most school districts in most states. Or, any indoor air quality regulations protecting kids in classrooms. Although children are particularly vulnerable to mold contaminants, there is no law requiring schools to protect students from mold contamination.
Therefore, response to this situation is left mainly in the hands of parents and staff to openly complain and ask for testing and answers.
What to Do
Unfortunately, there is no clear path to report and uncover mold issues. But, here are some suggestions.
- Watch your child’s behavior and health. Does your child act fine in the morning, but returns from school with mold symptoms? These can include sneezing; runny or stuffy nose; itchy eyes, nose and throat; cough; watery eyes; wheezing; headaches; inability to concentrate; sensitivity to light. Then, there is a good chance that there is mold or some other pollution problem at the school. Also, watch to see if the symptoms subside when the children are at home.
- If the answer to #1 is yes, ask other parents or the PTA if they have noticed any signs of mold at the school or symptoms in their children.
- Ask for a school walk through. Look for excess moisture on windows, signs of mold on walls and under sinks. Molds can be found almost anywhere excessive moisture accumulates in buildings or on building materials. Look for moisture problem that are undiscovered or unaddressed. Some moisture problems in buildings have been linked to changes in building construction practices. Some of these changes have resulted in buildings that are tightly sealed. But, they lack adequate ventilation, potentially leading to moisture buildup. Building materials, such as drywall, may not allow moisture to escape easily.
- Check outside the building. Moisture problems may include roof leaks, landscaping or gutters that direct water into or under the building and un-vented combustion appliances. Generally, they result from delayed or insufficient maintenance. In addition, problems in portable classrooms and other temporary structures have frequently been associated with mold problems.
- If the answers are yes, and if your child is experiencing health issues, report the problem to school authorities. Be clear in writing about the symptoms. Offer facts about the problem. Request that mold testing be done.
- Present the outcome of your investigation to the School Board of Education. Alert your mayor’s office. Call the press (very important). If mold is discovered, there are remediation protocols that should be followed. Those include post-remediation clearance testing to ensure the remediation was done properly and there is no longer a health hazard.
States across the union have had lawsuits over mold in the workplace brought by teachers and staffs. These lawsuits are mostly rejected by the courts. And who is to blame? Are public school districts more concerned with warding off liability than they are keeping schools healthy?
As we write this article, some states are starting to pass laws that detail legal processes for landlord/tenants. But few, if any, have defined options of parents related to school mold issues. Proving a relationship between exposure to mold and specific health conditions has proved to be difficult.
Advice to Parents
Get involved and pay attention. Ask questions. Monitor your child’s health. Find out how the school budget is being spent. Know the communication channels to the Board of Education in your area. Make the press your friend.
Mold in our schools is very real. At the same time, proving mold sickness is hard. It is difficult to measure and to prove effects of mold. It is also difficult to measure and relate that measurement to actual provable illnesses.
However, the participation and involvement of parents is fundamental to implementation of successful prevention and remediation efforts.