Group protests Arlington ISD over "health threat" at junior high

A small group protested outside of Arlington ISD Thursday evening claiming the district is doing nothing about what they call a "health threat" at Nichols Junior High School.

The group said something in the school is making students and employees sick, and there's a lawsuit in the works.

But the district says they've investigated and have found nothing wrong.

Kaneia Harris's 13-year old son is one of the students who reported feeling sick while at Nichols Junior High.

“I know it's something. There's something there. You can smell it when you walk in the building,” she said. “Like a metallic taste in his mouth, dizziness, weakness of the limbs.”

Harris says her son is on antibiotics and now uses an inhaler, but doctors still can't figure out what's wrong with him. She is concerned, but he still attends Nichols.

The district says there has not been a significant drop in attendance this year.

According to Arlington ISD, around 70 teachers at the school have also reported illnesses, prompting a group to protest the district's handling of the issue at Thursday night's board meeting.

“Our concern is for everybody in that building,” said Arlington NAACP President Alisa Simmons. “Everybody needs to breathe.”

But AISD says most of the complaints are coming from the same 21 people. The district also says they had city, county and federal agencies, like the Environmental Protection Agency, do extensive testing and found minor issues — but nothing that would cause a major widespread illness.

“There were a couple places where we had sanitary sewer leaks and those were repaired,” said AISD Spokesperson Leslie Johnston. “We had some air balancing issues.”

And the district says any issues they did find have been fixed.

“We have done extensive testing on air pressures and levels,” Johnson said. “We've done mold testing and we've done thorough cleanings of the building.”

The lawsuit pending against the district claims negligence in testing and refusing to properly investigate or close the building while people still continued to become sick.

But according to AISD, a report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found that “many of the alleged illnesses are the result of persons feeling sick only after they saw others claim illness."

“Find out what is making people sick in that building. Figure it out,” Simmons said. “Until such time you do that, remove the students and staff from that building.”

The school district says no additional testing is scheduled. But if they need to do additional testing in the future, they will do so.

A hearing for the lawsuit is scheduled for May 1.