Teachers' Suit Calls for Tweedy School Closure

Times Staff Writer

Fourteen teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District filed a suit last week in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking the immediate closure of pollution-plagued Tweedy Elementary School in South Gate.

Claiming that tenants of an adjacent industrial park present a continuing health threat to the staff and students of the school, the plaintiffs also requested that the industries named in the suit pay the cost of relocating the school.

Among the industries cited is the Purex Corp. A chlorine gas leak from the company's South Gate plant forced an evacuation of the school last year.

The suit also names the Los Angeles Unified School District, the county Board of Education, the cities of South Gate and Los Angeles and the state of California for having "abdicated their responsibility to provide an education for the children of South Gate in a clean and safe environment that is free from toxic damages," according to documents filed with the court.

The teachers, none assigned to Tweedy, are all members of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union that represents 26,000 classroom teachers in the district. According to UTLA President Wayne Johnson, the teachers brought the action as taxpayers.

Belinda Stith, assistant legal adviser to the school district, said that the district had not yet been served with the suit, to the knowledge of its legal department. "I've not even seen it so I just couldn't comment," Stith said.

Pam Good, a spokesman in Phoenix for Purex's parent company, the Dial Corp., also deferred comment. "This is the first I've heard of it, and until we see the papers on it, we wouldn't be able to comment," she said.

Johnson said the union first became aware of pollution problems at Tweedy several years ago when teachers at the school reported noxious odors and began to suffer from headaches and other ills they attributed to contamination of the site.

"There are very serious concerns that what the students and teachers have been exposed to may present long-term health problems," Johnson said.

Johnson said the suit was filed after repeated appeals to the school district for remedies failed. "The district would listen to us," he said, "but absolutely nothing would be done."

Last year the school district conducted medical examinations of Tweedy students after parents expressed concern about the safety of the site. District officials have said that the school is safe but hope to relocate it to a site with fewer contamination and pollution problems.

Federico Sayre, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the teachers had requested that the alleged polluters bear the financial burden of relocating Tweedy because "the hens want the foxes to pay to move the henhouse."

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