HEALTH

Parents File Federal Lawsuit Over Lead in Newark School Water

By Brenda Flanagan
Correspondent

“You send your kids to school for an education, not to be poisoned,” said Anthony Brown.

For six years, Brown and Gwendolyn Booker’s two kids attended Newark’s schools, including Louise Spencer Elementary where they claim their kids drank water tainted with toxic lead,
damaging them physically and mentally. They say the kid’s blood tests came back positive for lead and yesterday, they filed a federal lawsuit.

“We live in the United States of America, the 21st century, 2016 and we got to worry about drinking water?” Brown asked.

“We’ve had the homes tested of the families that have joined this lawsuit and they’ve come back negative for lead so the only source of lead, as we understand it at this point, is directly from the schools,” said Aymen Aboushi, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

The couple joined another family in the lawsuit against Newark’s state-run school district, its superintendent, the city and Gov. Chris Christie, among others. The suit claims defendants knew about the lead problem since at least 2011, but, “Rather than do something meaningful, the defendants sought to cover it up, put ineffective filters in, didn’t change them when they were required to, and then gave themselves and other administration officials access to bottled water leaving our children and our teachers to drink the tainted water in Newark schools,” Aboushi said.

When news broke back in March that 30 schools tested positive for lead, the district and the city provided bottled water, while state officials stepped in to retest facilities. The city offered clinics to test kids blood lead levels, but attorneys say officials downplayed the risk and offered no real solutions.

“People are thinking after listening to media reports of defendants that this is OK, so our kids drank some lead. There’s no long-term effects. And that’s just not true. And that’s one of the reasons
we’re filing this class action. We want people to come forward and we want to hold the defendants accountable,” Aboushi said.

“This is serious. This is not about listening to elected officials. This is about you taking your child, having your child tested, getting those results and dealing with what’s going on. Join onto this lawsuit so we can move forward. There is a problem, there is a major problem,” said community activist Donna Jackson.

The school district said it hasn’t seen the lawsuit. The city refused to comment on pending litigation. The governor’s office didn’t respond.

The suit demands a jury trial it also asks the court to order defendants to remediate the the harm caused by lead exposure and it asks for class action status.