A school safety expert witness with a laboratory safety specialty advises on a case involving a fourth grade private elementary school student who was encouraged by his substitute teacher to taste and swallow what turned out to be a corrosive liquid resulting from a failed science enrichment demonstration involving dry ice by a contracted outside education company’s presenter. The record shows that the hospitalized student received severe burning of the mouth and esophagus with potential long term ramifications. Following the incident, the school’s president/CEO issued a formal statement that the student did not ingest dry ice.
The contacted presenter had been hired by the student’s science teacher who had been absent from school on the day the activity took place. The school secured the school’s physical education teacher to cover for the science teacher for supervision purposes.
The legal complaint, originally filed by the student’s parents, alleges that the school failed to provide appropriate duty of care in order to protect the student and keep him out of harm’s way.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- Did the school failed to provide appropriate duty of care in order to protect the student and keep him out of harm’s way?
Expert Witness Response E-007741
I have extensive experience as both a science teacher and district science administrator and, an OSHA trained school district safety compliance officer and consultant. The school had the duty to provide a safety trained competent science teacher to oversee the demonstration. When planning for a guest speaker, the teacher and school administration also had a legal and professional responsibility to address legal safety standards (e.g. OSHA standards and/or state labor department employee safety regulations) and better professional practices (e.g. national science professional association’s position statements). These safety standards, regulations and statements are there to protect the students and the teacher as an employee. They require chemical safety and management training for the teacher and student safety training. They also call for the review of outside presenters’ demonstrations to insure that all safety compliance issues are addressed which potentially could put the students or teacher in harm’s way.
Resulting from the work of the expert witness, a number of serious questions were raised about the school providing for the appropriate safety compliance training or oversight of the presenter’s demonstration to protect both the teacher as an employee and student relative to hazardous chemical use and exposure. Numerous legal standards and professional safety compliance expectations in dealing with hazardous chemical management and references to previous court cases proved extremely helpful to the lawyer’s representing the plaintiff in settling the case in the plaintiff’s favor.