A group of Prosper High School parents are upset over how the decontamination process was handled at the school following a mercury spill in a science classroom on Sept. 22.
April Tate, mother of a 15-year-old female student, believes the protocol needs to change if an exposure incident happened again at the school. Students closest to the exposed mercury had to remove their clothes. Female students were hosed off in the women’s restroom by a male firefighter in a hazmat suit while a female firefighter scrubbed them off.
“My whole thing was that it should have been handled better,” Tate said. “These kids are so delicate right now. Being a teenager is hard, and I worry that there’s a girl in there completely not happy with her body, and people are mean and make fun of people and I would hate for something to happen to those kids.”
Tate didn’t understand why a male firefighter had to be present while the female students were being hosed down. On the day of the incident, Prosper’s female firefighter was off duty and the Frisco Fire Department only had one female firefighter on duty, Prosper Fire Chief Ronnie Tucker said.
“I have a daughter myself,” Tucker said in an interview last week. “I understand we need to protect these females as much as possible.”
Some parents of PHS students expressed their displeasure of the decontamination process over Facebook. Leah Miller, mother of another female student, is upset over the way it was handled.
“My daughter was also one of the young teen females that were told to disrobe and stand nude in front of strangers to be ‘hosed down’ then ‘scrubbed’ with what was similar of a shop broom,” Miller said.
The Prosper Fire Department is not large enough to have its own hazmat team so Frisco’s team was sent to the scene to aid in decontamination. Tucker said that the fire department thought of ways to get more female firefighters to the scene, but they were pressed for time as the decontamination process needed to begin as quickly as possible.
The female firefighter “was the one closest to (the female students) but by the same token, she only has two hands,” Tucker said last week. “Someone else had to do the spray.”
The Frisco hazmat team called Chemtrec, a public service hotline for emergency responders to obtain assistance for emergency incidents involving chemicals and hazardous materials. The team talked to a chemist to gain insight on how best to handle the situation and decontaminate all 30 exposed individuals as quickly and efficiently as possible, Tucker said.
“At the Prosper Fire Department, if there is a decision to be made, it will always be made with the proper care of our citizens,” Tucker said in an interview last week. “We follow protocol and if we over-took care of our citizens, I can live with that.”
After several phone calls, Prosper ISD has not returned the Prosper Press’ request for comment on the incident.