Asbestos rained down on Sydney school teacher, problem covered up, study says

An investigation by the New South Wales Legislature reported that asbestos rained down on a teacher at a high school in northwest Sydney while they were eating lunch.

A survey of the school’s infrastructure said that current teachers at Castle Hill High School were not informed of the extent of the hazardous dust on the school’s grounds.

“ceiling [in the staffroom] I filed a complaint in 2018 because it was a nuisance,” social science teacher John Connell told Inquiry.

“I didn’t even think it could be asbestos. I believed them when they said all was clear.”

According to its website, the school has 2,065 students and more than 100 staff on campus.

A safety survey conducted in 2008 by Greencap, an external risk management and compliance firm, and followed up in 2014, found 76 cases of asbestos in a 59-year-old school.

John Connell told the investigation that he filed an asbestos complaint in 2018.(ABC News)

An investigation found traces of asbestos in each main building, specifically referring to materials in the ceilings, floor coverings, warehouses and student study spaces.

The teacher said he had never been told.

“We didn’t know that,” PDHPE teacher Shane Stubbs told the survey.

“It defies belief that this is not something we will hear until 2022.”

Stubbs and Connell, in their witness statements, raised many questions and concerns posed to the then principal and deputy principal, which were not answered.

“We are also not trained on how to report hazardous materials or who to call if we are concerned at school,” Stubbs said.

The chairman of the committee, One Nation MLC’s Mark Latham, called the handling of potential exposure “disgraceful.”

“It is a dishonorable and negligent situation to have these classrooms dusted with asbestos,” he said.

man sitting behind microphone at desk
The head of the investigation, Mark Latham, called the school situation “negligible.”(ABC News)

In a statement to ABC, the New South Wales Department of Education’s school infrastructure team said the school currently has no asbestos problems and the ceiling in the staff room has been fixed.

The spokesperson also said the department has installed an air monitoring system.

For Aldrin Mendonka, a single parent, that’s just not good enough.

“There is no safe amount of asbestos in schools,” he told the survey via video link.

“Parents don’t have to go through five boxes of information and go to Congress to find out if their children are infected.”

Mendonca has two children at the school, and said it wasn’t practical to move and enroll his sons at nearby Boucham Hills High School.

“Parents are asking about what happened and why there is this wall of silence, how our children were exposed in 2016, and how they may be exposed again. I need the truth of

A submission submitted by the NSW Department of Education’s Professional Ethics Standards (PES) Committee outlines its own internal investigation into the matter.

The findings of an investigation, reported earlier this year, suggested that disciplinary action would be taken against now-retired former principal Vicky Brewers and former vice-principal Andrew Mitchell.

Darryl Curry said investigative staff were responsible for repairing the site.(ABC News)

PES Executive Director Darryl Curry told the survey it was the staff’s responsibility to communicate the degree of asbestos.

“We found fraud regarding improper delegation and oversight practices,” he said.

“They failed to take reasonable steps to get staff to take action in relation to such dust.”

Education Minister Sarah Mitchell said the allegations of asbestos still on the property were “serious”.

“These allegations are very serious and are the subject of investigations by both the Department of Education’s Professional Ethics and Standards Division and SafeWork NSW,” she said in a statement.

Restoration work will be completed at Castle Hill High School in 2020, and the Department of Education has confirmed that further planned maintenance work will take place in 2021 and this year.

The commission plans to submit its findings to Congress this week. Asbestos rained down on Sydney school teacher, problem covered up, study says

Exit mobile version