When you send your children off to school every morning, little do you know that their classrooms and school buildings may be riddled with asbestos. Even more surprising is that school administrators are not necessarily required by law to remove the asbestos, even if they are aware of its presence in their buildings.
In fact, while federal law says that schools must inspect for asbestos and create management plans to eliminate or reduce the dangers of asbestos exposure, they are generally not required to get rid of the asbestos unless it is already severely damaged or likely to be disturbed by renovation or demolition, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
For instance, in many cases, schools are simply required under federal regulations to implement an "operations and maintenance" (O&M) program if asbestos is found, or assumed to be present, in their buildings. Essentially, an O&M program is a work plan designed to:
- Keep asbestos-containing materials in good condition
- Prevent the release of asbestos by minimizing disturbance or damage to asbestos-containing materials
- Ensure clean up of asbestos fibers already released
As you can see, an O&M program does not necessarily require the automatic removal of all asbestos-containing materials in schools.
In addition, even if the asbestos-containing material is already damaged, schools may still not have to remove it. For example, if damaged or significantly damaged asbestos-containing thermal insulation is discovered somewhere in a school, the local education agency is simply required to repair the damaged area. Only if repair is not feasible must the school remove the damaged insulation.
However, it is crucial to remember that the regulations governing asbestos in schools are quite complex. Indeed, the rules that apply may be quite different depending on the situation - meaning the information above should not be considered legal advice. To make matters even more confusing, state and local agencies may have their own asbestos standards, which are generally stricter than those imposed by federal law.
Given these complexities, you should always consult with an experienced attorney should you or your child ever be exposed to asbestos in a school. A skilled attorney can explain your rights and help you seek the justice you deserve.