STRIKE THREE: New Rochelle Board of Education Deletes False Statements Inaccurately Attributed to Westchester County Department of Health


NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New Rochelle Board of Education has published a third version of a "timeline" for the July 16-17th asbestos exposure incident at the George M. Davis Elementary School. The change came about after reporting by Talk of the Sound and action by Westchester County Legislator Sheila Marcotte who has relentlessly pressed the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH) to obtain a full retraction by the District after a series of inaccurate statements regarding the incident were falsely attributed to the WCDOH.

The first version of the timeline was published on August 5th and read into the record of a school board meeting by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak on August 6th. A second version was published on August 9th (dated August 8th). Today's version is dated August 15th but was not published until today, August 16th.

The school district was forced to publicly acknowledge the asbestos exposure incident at the Davis School after reporting by Talk of the Sound led the district to send tile samples to be tested by an independent laboratory on August 2nd. When the tests came back "positive" for chrysotile, a type of asbestos, the district contacted the Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH).

According to WCDOH spokesperson Heather McGill, Dr. Adrienne Weiss-Harrison told WCDOH that all files were removed from the school intact and were thus "non-friable". Talk of the Sound has previously reported that the tiles were smashed into thousands of small pieces and were thus "friable" meaning that asbestos particles were released into the air at the school.

In addition to falsely reporting to the WCDOH that all tiles were removed intact, school officials attributed a number of false conclusions and inaccurate statements to the WCDOH.

Despite being forced to retract any reference to the WCDOH in their latest version of their timeline statement -- published today on both the City School District Web Site and the George M. Davis School web site -- the District has sought to portray the new timeline document as nothing more than an "accommodation" to the WCDOH.

STATEMENT RE: Asbestos at Davis Elementary School

As an accommodation to the Westchester County Health Department, because certain language had not been cleared for publication by its department of public information, the School District’s statement regarding asbestos at Davis Elementary School has been revised. The statement continues to reflect the facts that (1) the results of testing of the floor tiles were reported to the WCHD immediately after the results became known, and (2) the District discussed with the Health Department the full implications of those tests results, as well as the results of air quality tests. While the accommodation was made to remove certain references from the statement, the Health Department acknowledges that these discussions have taken place.

Please click here to view the updated statement from the District regarding an asbestos incident at Davis School.

The statement seeks to convey the false impression that the revision came about simply due to a procedural communications issue with no significant change. A careful reading of the three documents shows the opposite to be the case:

Davis Asbestos Statement August 15, 2013 (version 3)

Davis Asbestos Statement August 8, 2013 (version 2)

Davis Asbestos Statement August 5, 2013 (version 1)

Click the image below to see the August 5th version (version 1) with markups indicating which statements were removed per the demand for retractions by WCDOH:

AsbestosTimelineChangesFinal 455

Drawing out and collecting the five sentences improperly attributed to WCDOH provides a way to both understand the significance of these statements and to help explain why the District both put them into the first version of their timeline and why they were reluctant to remove them.

It is not what the district is still saying but what they are now not saying.

Statements Attributed to WCDOH Now Removed from Davis Asbestos Timeline

[Westchester County Department of Health (WCDOH)] informed Dr. Weiss that they do not consider this incident to have resulted in an exposure to asbestos.

Therefore, no adverse health consequences are expected.

The Department of Health shared with Dr. Weiss that they would not expect test results to be within the normal limits if asbestos fibers had been released within the previous several days.

Therefore, WCDOH staff informed the district that they do not consider the work done on the floor in the Principal’s Office at Davis School to have resulted in asbestos exposure to individuals who were in the building.

As individuals were not exposed to asbestos at Davis School, per the WCDOH, no action is required.

So, the District is no longer claiming:

A. The incident did not result in exposure to asbestos.

B. That no adverse health consequences are expected.

C. That tests being in "normal limits" on August 5th indicates no asbestos exposure 20 days earlier (July 16-17th).

D. That the work done did not result in asbestos exposure to individuals who were in the building.

E. That individuals were not exposed to asbestos at Davis School.

F. That no action [by parents] is required.

What we have instead is a statement by the District that no longer claims that the incident did not result in exposure in asbestos, no longer claims that no adverse health consequences are expected, no longer claims anything about how long it would take for asbestos to settle, and is no longer claiming that parents need not take action as a result of potential asbestos exposure from this incident.

Not only is the District no longer making these claims but, as Talk of the Sound reported previously, the District is sending their own employees to be tested for asbestos exposure at Mt. Sinai's testing center in Yonkers, NY.

As the District is no longer making these claims and telling their own employees the opposite, it may be the converse is the case: that the incident did result in asbestos exposure, that adverse health consequences are expected, and that Davis summer program parents should have their children tested.

The District has still not sent any communications to parents who received an e-mail/robocall last week contained yet another false statement inaccurately attributed to the WCDOH.

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