School board close-lipped on mold issue
By Sabrina Bates, Chief Staff Writer
It was an emotional display after Weakley County School Board members adjourned their meeting Thursday night without offering any type of discussion concerning mold issues at Westview High School. Several parents, as well as students, turned out for the meeting that had an item on the Board’s agenda noted “Concerns regarding Westview High School.”
“Because of a pending lawsuit, we have been advised by our attorney not to discuss this issue publicly. Do I have a motion to adjourn,” Weakley County School Board Chairman Gordon Morris asked during the brief board meeting.
“Are you going to walk away and ignore our plea or are you going to give us a date. Do not ignore your stewardship to these children. This is unacceptable, you have complicated the issue dramatically,” Carol Hinman, a WHS senior parent, stated to the school board.
Shortly before the start of the board meeting, Weakley County Public Safety Director Jamison Peevyhouse provided board members with a copy of a detailed report after he made surprise visit to the Martin school for an investigation. The report lists areas of condensation and findings of “mold-like substances” within Westview. TOSHA were also recipients of Peevyhouse’s report.
The Weakley County Board of Education, Superintendent of Schools Richard Barber, Weakley County, H & M Construction and air quality professionals are the targets of a lawsuit filed by a former Westview High School student and his parents, Richard and Julie Joost.
The Joosts contend their son is seriously ill as a result of mold throughout the public school. The lawsuit states he experienced 26 medical symptoms he had never experienced before attending Westview. Apparently, the Joost’s son has to undergo daily intravenous treatments because of a severe allergy to mold and his alleged exposure to various types of mold while he was a student at the Martin school.
“Don’t respond to the lawsuit, respond to the parents that are here. If you do not, you are cowards and irresponsible as stewards to these children,” Hinman fired at school board members Thursday night.
“I must go back to my original statement — because there is litigation pending, we cannot open this up for public discussion,” Morris reiterated.
A group of students that were on hand displaying signs stating “Mold, mold, go away, don’t come back another day,” formed a line directly in front of the school board members that remained after the meeting.
“Why won’t you just help us? How can you expect us to learn if our teachers are getting sick too?” the students asked.
“We are trying very peaceably to work this out,” one parent sounded.
“We’re not leaving until you leave,” Hinman’s son, Griffin Pochop, told board members.
With that, school board members gathering their belongings and exited the classroom at Martin Primary School.
Joost attorney Larry Parrish was on hand during the meeting. Parrish said he attended the meeting in the hope that conversations could begin concerning the issues at the public school. While he was not inviting relationships with other parents, Parrish remained after the school board meeting to address legal questions to Westview parents.
According to circulating emails, other students are being tested for possible mold contact or illnesses as a result of mold contamination and “concerned parents of Westview” are considering legal courses of action.
To see the full, detailed report of the WHS inspection by the public safety director, visit The Press’s Web site at www.nwtntoday.com.