As promised, News Hits attended Monday’s hearing before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood. Followers of this column know that some parents of children who are scheduled to attend the new Beard Elementary School on the southwest side have taken the Detroit Public Schools and DPS CEO Dr. Kenneth Burnley to court. They seek an injunction to keep the school, which was built on land contaminated with PCBs, lead, arsenic and other toxic material, closed till they are certain that the site is clean and safe.
News Hits went expecting brief oral arguments and a speedy ruling. No go. We sweated through about 2 1/2 hours of testimony certain that we would blow our deadline. As you can see, we made it. But this little nugget won’t contain the judge’s ruling. Hood adjourned the hearing due to a pressing trial; witnesses are to return Wednesday, Aug. 15. This, of course, does not mean nothing newsworthy went down. If nothing else, there was human drama in the packed court room, where 70 onlookers were admonished by Hood for sometimes snickering and cheering. News Hits heard Vera Carrillo, who has two children scheduled to attend the school, testify that she has been trying to find out if the site is safe. Even Burnley himself called her at home in July and assured her he would give her an answer to this question, she said.
“But no one got back to me,” said Carrillo.
According to Carrillo, the DPS has made little effort to inform parents about the contamination or include them in the decision-making process. Although the DPS agreed to meet with the parents’ Citizens Review Board, which was created in May, Carrillo said district representatives have not attended a single meeting.
A construction worker who worked at the site about three months testified he wasn’t told that the site was contaminated or how to prevent exposure to the toxic soil until two iron workers became ill.
Rest assured News Hits will stay on this story.Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]