Virginia teacher back at work after Chemistry class explosion injured students

Posted at 10:58 AM, Oct 31, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-31 12:15:07-04

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. — A Dinwiddie High School Chemistry teacher is back at work one year after an explosion in their classroom during a science experiment, according to a spokeswoman for Dinwiddie County Public Schools. The explosion, on October 12, 2022, happened during an experiment using methanol.

Four students and a teacher were treated for injuries. One student was so badly injured, they were hospitalized in the intensive care unit.

CBS 6 learned the Dinwiddie Sheriff’s Office and the Dinwiddie County Division of Fire and EMS presented the findings of their investigation into the incident to the former Commonwealth’s Attorney for Dinwiddie County, Ann Cabell Baskerville.

Both said it was up to her whether she wanted to press charges against the teacher.

She opted not to press charges.

We reached out to Baskerville to learn more about why, and we are waiting to hear back.

Since then, Dinwiddie County Public Schools told CBS 6 the teacher is back to work at the school.

CBS 6 was the first to report that the school did not follow several of the recommendations made by the United States Chemical Safety Board (CSB).

The CSB is an independent, non-regulatory federal agency that investigates the root causes of major chemical incidents.

Through a public records request, CBS 6 learned the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry cited Dinwiddie County Public Schools six times for occupational safety and health violations.

The state issued the citations earlier this year, and five of them are considered “serious” violations.

Among the violations:

  • The state found the school system did not have any personnel responsible for implementing the lab safety standard program.
  • An employee was not trained to wear personal protective equipment when conducting experiments with hazardous chemicals.
  • There were not standard operating procedures for handling benzene and methanol when used in this demonstration.

The citations did not carry any monetary penalties, but the school system was ordered to fix the issues.
CBS 6 reached out to Dinwiddie County Public Schools about the citations, and a spokesperson sent us the following statement:

Dinwiddie County Public Schools met with OSHA representatives to review and discuss the citations. While it is true that some of the findings were serious, it is essential to note that they did not impose any fines. DCPS has worked diligently to correct the items cited by OSHA and has done so. We remain committed to maintaining a safe school environment for students and staff and appreciate OSHA's support throughout this process.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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