Mother furious at school’s response to carbon monoxide situation


NEW BROCKTON, Ala. (WDHN) — A New Brockton mother is angry at what she says is a lack of communication between the high school and parents during an emergency situation.

Thursday afternoon, New Brockton High School evacuated its student body after four students began showing elevated carbon monoxide levels in their blood.

The four students were suffering from nausea, dizziness and headaches while they were in school, making it seem like they were under heat stress at the time.

“I spoke with my daughter, and she told me a bunch of her classmates complained of a headache during first period yesterday, and then she told me during fourth period, which was their P.E. time, that kids started passing out, throwing up, crying, just having all kinds of problems and everything,” Diane Siniard said.

Siniard’s daughter told her that one girl even had trouble waking up when medics arrived.

Later that night, another four students would show up to the emergency room with high carbon monoxide levels as well. Both incidents prompted a joint investigation as to where the CO exposure was happening.

“This morning we have just completed our third sweep of the school,” said James Brown, Coffee County EMA director. “We have tested all buses to ensure there are no leaks of carbon monoxide at the school.”

This led them to believe students were exposed to the hazardous gas somewhere else, since no traces were found at the school. The Alabama Department of Public Health was said to be interviewing students Friday to try to figure out where they might have been exposed.

“We want to try and find where this is happening,” Brown said. “Do they go to the same church? Did they go to the same party? We’re looking for all of those (types) of similarities.”

Around 3 p.m. Friday, Coffee County Schools Superintendent Kevin Killingsworth sent out a press release saying there would be further testing this weekend, but that agencies had declared the high school safe. Students will be able to return to class Monday.

But regardless of the source of the exposure, parents like Siniard are questioning why the school didn’t alert parents sooner and are criticizing the school’s communication.

A Lack of Communication

During the first incident, Siniard said no calls were given out to parents except for those whose children were sent to Medical Center Enterprise.

“My daughter called me at 3:15, told me volleyball practice had been canceled, and I asked her why,” she said. “She said she didn’t know. I picked her up, and that’s when I found out all the carbon monoxide stuff had been going on.”

Siniard said this left parents in an uproar just trying to figure it out what was going on. According to her, the students were not allowed to call their parents about the situation.

“The school did not make a post until 5:30 last night letting us know what was going on when they should have made phone calls,” she said.

This is one of the posts made by the New Brockton High School Facebook page, this one signed by Principal Alonzo Barkley

“No parents were called to tell us that kids were getting sick,” Siniard added. “Kids were calling home to get picked up because they were, you know, feeling nauseous and getting dizzy.”

She said that when parents asked questions, all they got was a “no comment.”

“This morning, they started calling at five o’clock,” she said. “I got six phone calls, in English and in Spanish, telling me school was canceled, but they couldn’t make one phone call yesterday to let everybody know to come pick their kids up, that there was something wrong at school? Something’s fishy; something’s not right.”

This has left Siniard “madder than Hades.” She said the school needs to communicate better with parents during these types of situations.

“We are pissed off, we want answers, and you better let us know what the hell is going on next time,” Siniard said.

Watch the extended interview with Diane Siniard below. App users may have to click here.

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