Mother suspects school made her child sick


A big "Do Not Enter" sign covers a classroom at South Granville High School. It's no longer being used after a leaky roof a few months ago caused damage to the ceiling and to the floor. Those floor tiles were made with asbestos -- the type experts say shouldn't pose a health risk. But at least one parent is concerned mold may be a problem in the classroom and throughout the school.

"She started having progressively worsening asthma attacks," parent Denita Lehman said.

She says her daughter suffered dizziness, later a cough and swollen tonsils as recently as this month, which may require surgery.

Her asthma management plan from the doctor tells her to avoid known irritants -- mold.

The Lehman's say they took pictures inside the school showing mold around air units in different classrooms and the women's locker room.

"If you look, you can see the mold there, and if you magnify it, you can see it growing," Lehman said describing the photos. "From what the teacher told me, it's been there the entire time."

The I-Team sent the pictures James Bonner, an environmental and molecular toxicology professor at NC State.

After viewing the photos, Bonner said, "In my opinion, the images definitely show mold contamination that could exacerbate and cause an asthma attack in a child with pre-existing asthma. If I had a child with asthma, I would not want them in this room."

"It's disgusting," Lehman said. "It's absolutely disgusting that my child is sitting there breathing this in."

ABC11 took her concerns to Stan Winborne, the public information officer for Granville County Schools.

"Less than two months ago, we had an inspection done and it did not show any mold problems within the schools," Winborne replied. "That's the information we're acting on now."

He showed the I-Team the report which found small amounts to no mold in a few rooms that were inspected. Winborne showed ABC11 those classrooms.

The air unit in one classroom has some rust but no obvious mold. But next door on the other side of an accordion style divider, ABC11 found an air unit that appears to be covered in mold according to the expert from NC State.

You can see spores on the unit and what looks like black mold in the ceiling tiles.

In the hallway, water spots in the ceiling with what appears to be black mold growing there too.

ABC11 asked Winborne for another interview.

"I'm not sure what it is, but I think we probably need to as a school district take a look at it and make sure that everything is okay," he said. "In light of the concerns of this parent, I'm sure that our director of safety and our maintenance department needs to come in and determine whether or not we should hire an additional expert to come in and do an additional evaluation."

The toxicology expert at NC State agrees and cleaning up the school is all Lehman wants.

"It's the fact that that's my baby and you're letting her get sick," Lehman said.

School leaders point out South Granville is a very old building, but they say their students' health and safety is of the utmost importance. So with that possible mold being discovered while ABC11 toured the school, they say they will have it evaluated and cleaned up.

They also say they'll be removing those asbestos tiles this summer when school is out. Experts say those are likely not causing a problem.

For more information about mold, click here.

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