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Lawsuit Claims PCBs in Classrooms Made Kids Sick At Monroe Alternative School

Paula Wissel
Parents Jill Savery (l) and Stacy Mullen-Deland say they and their children suffered health issues from exposure to PCBs in Sky Valley Education Center.

A group of parents in Monroe is suing the school district and the state of Washington, as well as Monsanto, saying toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in the classroom made their children sick. One of the 36 people suing, Jill Savery, says she loved the education her kids were getting at Sky Valley Education Center, an alternative school in the Monroe School District where parents are heavily involved.

But she’s angry the district put the program in what she contends was a toxic building that had PCBs in old light fixtures and caulking.

“I started to have heaviness in my chest like I felt like a ton of bricks was sitting on it and that would be walking into the library where many families sat,” Savery said.

She says her daughters would get headaches, stomachaches and rashes when they were in the building. Other families had similar complaints or worse.

Stacy Mullen-Deland, a teacher and parent, is also part of the suit. Choking back tears, she says her son developed a serious thyroid condition.

“He had to be on heart medication for six months. He couldn’t exercise for six months. And we’re a family who people called the healthiest people they ever met,” Mullen-Deland told reporters at a news conference in the Friedman Rubin Law Offices in downtown Seattle.

She says the doctor’s diagnosis was chemical poisoning. 

For its part, the Monroe School District says they worked with environmental contractors to clean the areas where PCBs were found, closed areas when necessary and conducted indoor air quality tests to insure the building met safety standards.

The manufacture of PCBs was banned by Congress in 1979 when the chemicals were found to cause cancer. Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of PCBs in the United States and is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in King County Superior Court on Tuesday.

Paula reports on groundbreaking legal decisions in Washington State and on trends in crime and law enforcement. She’s been at KNKX since 1989 and has covered the Law and Justice beat for the past 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.