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Parents of four Newark Public School students have filed a proposed class-action lawsuit claiming the district and other city and state officials “poisoned” thousand of students by deliberately exposing them to toxic levels of lead from March 2011 to the present, which caused gastrointestinal- and cognitive-health problems.
The complaint, which names New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Superintendent of Newark Schools Chris Cerf among the defendants, also alleges the district made a conscious decision to conceal the elevated lead levels present in schools’ water supplies from children, parents, and teachers, even after the information became public in March 2016 after testing from the Department of Environmental Protocols.
“Since [then] the Defendants have done nothing but attempt to cover up their actions, mislead parents and teachers, and make it difficult for the parents to get their children tested for lead,” the suit reads.
The suit also claims that the defendants “haphazardly and secretively installed filters” into some water sources to combat the issue but that the district failed to provide adequate maintenance, which would take as little as five minutes, twice a year.
“The Defendants intentionally failed to change the filters for years despite the requirement that these filters be changed every six months,” the suit claims.
The district left some filters unchanged for “more than five years after they expired,” according to the complaint.
Further, the suit claims the defendants drank bottled water, instead of the schools’ water, while leaving students to consume lead-infused water on a daily basis.
No level of lead in the blood is considered safe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Exposure to high enough levels can cause an array of serious health issues in children and pregnant women, especially.
Some who drank the water, according to the suit, experienced “life threatening and irreversible bodily injury.”
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The district has not yet been served with the lawsuit, but it’s working to communicate with the community, said Dreena Whitfield, a spokesperson for Newark Public Schools, in a statement emailed to Business Insider.
The statements reads:
At Newark Public Schools, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority. That is why we have taken proactive measures to share water quality results broadly with the public; to engage experts to create a new baseline for water quality in our schools; and to go beyond efforts taken in the past to solve this historic issue once and for all.
With the suit, the parents are seeking a jury trial, compensation for damages, and the establishment of a medical fund as well as the appointment of a monitor to oversee water operations in Newark Schools.