By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The school department has been ordered by the Department of Agricultural Resources to stop having students use Clorox disinfecting wipes to clean desks and tables.
A parent of a Huckleberry Hill School student has raised concerns about how disinfectant wipes were being used in his daughter’s class. He also raised concerns about how students wiped down lunchroom tables with paper towels after a staff member sprayed a disinfectant.
According to Superintendent of Schools Jane Tremblay, the parent originally complained to Huckleberry Hill School Principal Brian Bemiss about the activity before taking the issue to the state.
“He did not want his child to participate in cleaning activities because of the materials included in disinfectants,” said Tremblay. “He felt his child should be coming to school to learn how to read and write.”
Tremblay said Huckleberry Hill took the child off of cleaning duties. She noted school officials contacted the parent when his daughter was scheduled to participate in the activities to see if he changed his mind about the activity. She said the parent never changed his mind.
Afterwards, the parent complained to the Department of Agricultural Resources. According to a letter of warning from the Department of Agricultural Resources’ Pesticide Division, the parent complained that his daughter “had been told to clean tables with cleaning products.” An inspector from the department conducted an investigation after receiving the complaint.
Attorney Nicholas Di Mauro, who is representing the parent, told the Villager his client made the complaint because the school department is “in violation of the law.” Di Mauro made similar comments in an interview with WBZ Channel 4 last week.
“Children should not be exposed to any of these chemicals,” Di Mauro told WBZ. “This is a serious safety issue in my client’s opinion.”
According to the letter, the investigation revealed Huckleberry Hill violated Massachusetts General Laws c.132B Section 6A. The section of the law states, “No person shall use a registered pesticide in a manner that is inconsistent with its labeling or other restrictions imposed by the department. No person shall use a pesticide which is the subject of an experimental use permit inconsistently with the terms and conditions of said permit.”
The label for Clorox disinfectant wipes states “Keep out of the reach of children.”
The Department of Agricultural Services ordered the school department to “cease and desist having children use products that have Keep out of the reach of children on the label.” The Department of Agricultural Services also ordered the school system to “keep these products in locked cabinets or closets and away from student access.”
Additionally, a complaint was filed with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), but Tremblay said no action was taken.
Tremblay said the school department is complying with the letter of warning and is keeping disinfectants away from children. She also said the school department has changed its practices and is having students clean their desks with warm water.
Di Mauro said his client still has concerns about students using warm water to clean their desks because students could be exposed to viruses or bacteria if they wipe down tables without using disinfectants.
“They have not ceased and desist, and what’s more alarming is they are now having kids use water to clean tables and floors,” said Di Mauro. “(Students) are being asked to touch things that haven’t been disinfected and they could spread viruses and bacteria.”
Additionally, Di Mauro told WBZ his client opposes the cleaning activity because “kids are engaging in janitorial services.”
“My client is a taxpayer in the town,” Di Mauro told WBZ. “There’s no reason why his child should have to come to school and be required to clean tables and floors.”
Tremblay said the school system launched the cleaning activity at the elementary schools and middle school to teach students about respecting their surroundings.
“This has nothing to do with cleaning,” said Tremblay. “This is about being a respected member of our community and taking pride in our surroundings. We expect kids to pick things off the floor and keep their desks neat and tighty. It sets up a good learning experience for students in their early years.”
According to WBZ, Di Mauro and his client are pondering their next move.