posted on February 01, 2012 13:25
LeRoy School District superintendent Kim Cox has released a new statement to the community today, once again outlining district efforts to find an answer to the strange "Tourette's-like" illness plaguing 15 students.
Cox adds extensive criticism for national media outlets, saying their coverage has been a distraction from the mission to return to normalcy.
Full statement below:
Letter to the Community
February 1, 2012
Over the past few days, activities that have occurred in our community with respect to environmental testing by a representative who claimed to be working on behalf of Erin Brockovitch have taken center stage. This has been a distraction and taken us away from our mission to return normalcy to our school District, which every medical professional says is critical for the health and well-being of all students in our schools. As we have communicated, we have been working closely for months with numerous medical professionals, the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. All of these agencies and professionals from these agencies have assured us that our school is safe. There is no evidence of an environmental or infectious cause. Environmental causes would not discriminate. We would see a wide range of people affected.
The community should take assurance that the Department of Health concluded extensive reviews of both the epidemiology and the clinical evaluations and found no evidence of environmental or infection as the cause of the students’ illness. Again, an environmental exposure would affect many people. The school was tested for total Volatile Organic Compounds by an independent firm. The school is served by the Monroe County Water Authority. This system is monitored on a regular basis. In addition, we have just been informed that water samples taken from the inside of the school as an additional precaution have been tested and determined to be safe. The treating physicians at the Dent Institute ruled out PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders associated with Streptococcal infections), a condition that sometimes causes this behavior. The Gardasil vaccine was ruled out because many of the girls did not receive the vaccine.
In addition, to help assist the district with assessing all aspects of this situation, we hired our own independent environmental expert to conduct a review of the findings and offer alternative approaches if needed. This was done not because we questioned the state medical professionals or federal agencies, but to help reassure the community. There are also some individuals who are attempting to connect the 1970 Lehigh Valley Railroad train derailment that spilled Trichloroethene (TCE) to the school. In fact, the TCE plume has been shown as moving in the opposite direction of the school, some three miles away.
The individual who came onto school property this past Saturday did not identify himself, did not show his credentials, and did not contact us ahead of time to offer assistance or coordinate with our efforts. Nor did this individual demonstrate that the testing approach was in accordance with scientific methods. It was clearly staged as a publicity stunt with members of local and national media invited to participate. We know this because the media arrived well in advance of this individual. In fact, one member of the media entered the school without permission and interrupted the preparations for an on-site program. Of course they were asked to leave. I am charged with keeping this entire school, staff, students and grounds safe. Not knowing this individual’s intention, I had no idea if he was there to get something or leave something.
Our administration and staff are exceptional and have been diligently working under stressful situations to try to maintain a supportive educational environment. This has been extremely challenging given the irresponsible tactics and programming by the national media. Speculation and reporting of erroneous information by those who have none of the information that has been compiled over months of study by leading professionals is confusing our community. It is also heightening the level of anxiety of all our students and especially jeopardizing the recovery of those affected students, many who had recovered or been showing signs of improvement. These kids want to get better. As a community, we need to support each other and these students by ensuring our school environment is nurturing and safe. I want to thank the members of our local media who have been engaging in responsible reporting.
I know we all want what is best for the children. We are all frustrated, tired and saddened by this turn of events as it is affecting the entire community. I am confident we will work through it, but I do believe it will take some time. My role as Superintendent of this District is to ensure I am providing the best possible educational environment conducive to learning and allowing our children to excel to the best of their ability. I am not an environmental scientist or medical professional, and therefore, cannot always be the spokesperson for highly technical and medical explanations nor answer questions that require in-depth technical knowledge. Questions of this nature must be addressed to those professionals and answered by these professionals. I have been trying to increase the direct communication from these agencies as well as putting forth new information as it is received. I know it is frustrating not to have definitive answers or wait for test findings. I want to assure you that all technical professionals involved are doing everything they can to expedite the process and communicate any new information as it is received.
I know this has been an emotionally hard situation and we all hope for the speedy recovery of our students. Please know we welcome your questions and suggestions, and take all under consideration. We will continue to communicate with you as soon as we have new information to share.
Kim M. Cox
Superintendent of Schools