LYNNFIELD (CBS) – News flash: elementary schools are full of germs and most classrooms probably have a stash of disinfectant wipes to help teachers get through the year.
But a Lynnfield parent is upset about how those cleaning wipes were used in his daughter’s class at Huckleberry Hill School. And his concern caused the state to intervene.
Attorney Nicholas Di Mauro, who represents the parent, told WBZ students were using Clorox disinfecting wipes to clean their classroom desks and tables. They also helped wipe down lunchroom tables with paper towels after a staff member sprayed a disinfectant.
“Children should not be exposed to any of these chemicals,” Di Mauro said. “This is a serious safety issue in my client’s opinion.”
After filing a complaint with the Department of Agricultural Resources, a pesticide inspector sent a “letter of warning” to Lynnfield Public Schools. The letter said the school had violated a section of state law about using a pesticide in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.
“Cease and desist having children use products that have ‘Keep out of reach of children’ on the label,” the letter said. “Keep these products in locked cabinets or closets and away from the students’ access.”
Superintendent Jane Tremblay said the school is following those orders. Students at Huckleberry Hill are still helping wiping down lunch tables, but staff members are just using warm water.
“This has nothing to do with cleaning and everything to do with being a community member,” Tremblay said. “If I thought for a minute that we were endangering anyone’s health or putting anyone at risk, we would never have this practice.”
As school dismissed on Friday afternoon, several parents told WBZ they supported the “life lesson.”
“I don’t see a problem with it. I teach my son at home to wipe down the table. Little responsibilities go a long way with children,” said Josephine Farley, who has a kindergartner.
But other parents agreed their kids should not be handling disinfectants, and wondered why the cleaning is part of the curriculum.
“The school environment, I don’t think that’s the place for them to learn how to clean. I think parents should be responsible for that,” said Carmine Guarracino, who has a fourth-grade daughter. “What’s the use of using warm water if it really doesn’t clean?”
Di Mauro, the attorney, said the use of warm water continues to pose a safety concern. Without disinfecting anything, students could be exposed to viruses or bacteria as they wipe tables, the attorney said.
After also receiving a complaint, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education declined to take any formal action, according to a letter obtained by WBZ.
Di Mauro said he and his client are now weighing their next move.
“The kids are engaging in janitorial services,” he said. “My client is a taxpayer in the town. There’s no reason why his child should have to come to school and be required to clean tables and floors.”
Katie Gronendyke, a spokeswoman for the Department of Agricultural Resources, told WBZ the warning letter to a school for cleaning products is unusual. She said the department typically gets involved with pesticides like weed or pest control.