School Officials in Pennsylvania Hid Asbestos Risk

children sitting in a school

Asbestos has plagued American infrastructure for generations. At the beginning of the 20th century, laborers used asbestos liberally in new buildings as insulation, unknowingly exposing many blue-collar workers to the carcinogen. Today, many older buildings still contain asbestos in the walls, risking exposure to those who live or work there.

In September 2020, inspectors found dangerous levels of asbestos and lead throughout a school district in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Additionally, they discovered that the district superintendent knew about the exposure and did nothing to limit its risk to schoolchildren.

Informed by Inspectors, the Superintendent Failed to Act

Three school officials face felony charges of child endangerment over the cover-up of lead and asbestos exposure throughout the school district. A released grand jury statement claims the officials ignored inspectors’ reports about dangerous lead levels found in drinking fountains.

Since 2016, former Superintendent Alexis Kirijan, former Director of Operations Jeffrey Brazil and current maintenance supervisor Joseph Slack, failed to repair the errors and misled employees and the public about the danger. Inspectors found dangerous levels of lead in over half of all tested water fountains and dangerous levels of asbestos in 74 different areas.

E-mails between one of the school’s principals and Kirijan detail instances of collapsed ceilings and student desks covered in plaster. Crumbling drywall and ceiling tiles often create high-risk areas of asbestos exposure. The recorded conversation allegedly reveals the extent of the cover-up orchestrated by Kirijan.

Both the former Superintendent and Director of Operations resigned in 2019, neglecting to inform their successors of the problems. Now, the two face charges in both a civil felony lawsuit and a federal criminal lawsuit.

Resulting Criminal Charges for School Officials

All three officials face felony charges. Between the civil and federal cases, the offenders may spend up to five years in jail and pay $10,000 in fines for each charge. However, many of these cases end in settlement.

Those facing asbestos exposure can take legal action to secure coverage for medical expenses and damages. A local lawyer familiar with asbestos law can assess your case, recommend medical professionals and draft a comprehensive settlement.