Former teacher says Fairfax Public Schools made her sick with toxic mold

A special education teacher has filed a workers’ compensation lawsuit against Fairfax County Public Schools, claiming officials failed to properly remove toxic mold that had compromised her immune system during the coronavirus pandemic.

Susan Lux, who taught at Belvedere Elementary School in Falls Church, filed her complaint Friday with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. She says she became immunocompromised with chronic inflammatory response syndrome after sitting next to a moldy 28-year-old HVAC system in her classroom from March to May 2021.

The 25-year-old veteran teacher says the illness has forced her to throw away all contaminated belongings – including her car, clothes, shoes and carpet. She spent about $50,000 on medical bills, prescriptions, doctor trips and a new carpet.

“The mold has been a real nightmare for me and other teachers. They are afraid to speak out because of retaliation,” Ms. Lux, 51, told The Washington Times. “It’s been a huge financial and emotional hardship.”

Fairfax County school officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission did not respond to an email.

Ms. Lux, who taught Fairfax County schools for 17 years, said Belvedere Elementary had 53 dehumidifiers running continuously while she worked there in 2021.

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Belvedere teachers returned to campus for blended instruction in March. Ms Lux said co-workers informed her of the mold issues after she complained of sudden fatigue and joint pain in April, leading her to request a check of the HVAC unit, which took place on May 4.

After HVAC technicians cleaned the unit on May 7, she lost her voice and developed a rash on her arm, forcing her to begin discharge on May 21. She remains on leave from Fairfax schools and says she now works as a special education advocate.

Internal county facility documents show 20 years of water and mold intrusions in his classroom. Ms. Lux obtained copies of the mold reports through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and provided them to The Times.

According to its complaint, the school did not have a filter available for its HVAC unit and relied on “untrained caretakers and HVAC workers instead of employing mold remediation companies to clean up mold in a manner safe and effective”.

“There was no professional remediation and that’s common in Title 1 schools, which is also an equity issue,” she said, referring to the federal grant program for preschoolers. schools with a significant percentage of students from low-income households.

Indoor mold has become a growing concern due to the increased likelihood of it triggering allergies, causing infection, or becoming toxic by feeding on the moisture trapped inside air conditioning units.

According to guidelines issued by the Environmental Protection Agency, school boards were required to develop and implement a plan to test and remediate mold in public buildings, starting July 1 last year.

Public schools in Fairfax County have received more than $188 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding to reopen safely when classes resume Aug. 22 — but apparently aren’t spending any funds for mold remediation.

According to the school district‘s website, it is spending the money on COVID prevention and mitigation efforts, programs to make up for instructional time lost during the pandemic, and computer upgrades.

At the school board’s Feb. 24 public hearing on ESSER, 13 school employees unsuccessfully requested that the district dedicate some of the money to professional mold remediation, the Fairfax Times reported.

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