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Parents, officials: DOE's response to toxins in schools too slow

Weeks after the city announced that students at a Bronx elementary school had been exposed to toxins for years, parents and lawyers from New York Lawyers for the Public Interest are renewing their call for city officials to protect students against another toxin found in schools: PCBs, which are present in older light fixtures.

The NYLPI filed its lawsuit in federal court over PCBs in July and today it participated in a press conference at City Hall about the issue.

At the press conference, parents, teachers union president Michael Mulgrew, and several City Council members argued that the Department of Education should test schools more thoroughly for dangerous chemicals and promptly inform families when it finds them.

The city has said it is working to test school buildings and remove hazardous light fixtures, and that PCBs are an issue in schools nation-wide. Workers were replacing lights at the Brooklyn School for Global Studies when I visited the school this morning.

Asked today during a school visit whether he was concerned about the threat of PCBs in the schools, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the city was working on the issue but that he would be sending his grandson to school tomorrow without fear.

But Miranda Massie, legal director of NYLPI, said the DOE’s response has been insufficient.

“This is an administration that doesn’t want to give parents information,” she said. “I want to emphasize that today is about parents’ right to know.”

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