Nurse Sues School District Over Mold Problem

A school nurse sued the school district for workers' compensation after she claimed mold in the building made her sick.

Valerie Boodaghians claims she was exposed to a fine dust in August 2004 when she opened her office a week prior to the start of the school year. Some mold types can have a systemic effect on the body due to their toxic nature. "I became ill but worked the first three days of school," said Boodaghians, who has since been transferred to another elementary school.

The plaintiff said she was diagnosed with fungal laryngitis in the spring of 2005 from exposure to the school mold. "Because the fungus was in my body for seven months, I developed multiple medical problems," she said. Boodaghians was treated for laryngeal nerve paresis, a partial paralysis of her vocal cords, at a special medical facility outside her hometown that required her to travel

“I believe there is still a mold problem because so many people are getting sick in that building," she said. The defendant in the suit claims the school board refused to pay her workers' compensation benefits because she was "chronically ill" prior to being hospitalized for the fungal infection. The school was closed one week to rectify a mold problem in the year prior to Boodaghians' hospitalization, according to Ahearn.

Since the start of the 2003-2004 school year, air quality tests have been clean.

"Each and every time that someone has expressed concern [with mold], we immediately run air quality tests and they all have come back negative," the superintendent said. "At some time in the future, if we run a test and it doesn't come back clean, we will remedy it."

Following the 2003-2004 school closing, a humidity alarm system was installed, which is triggered if humidity rises above an acceptable level which could lead to mold, according to the superintendent. In addition, the district is reviewing bids for a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system. 

Boodaghians said the fact the school is considering a new HVAC is an admittance a mold problem still exists. But the superintendent said the school addressed the problem. "There is a certain small population in any building that may, on occasion, have an allergic reaction to something that may be there," he said. “But the district has nothing to hide."