DPS kindergarten teacher wants the district to do more to inform parents about rodent problem

Posted at 11:18 PM, Oct 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-12 23:32:14-04

A Detroit Public Schools teacher tells 7 Action News a rat problem at her elementary school is making her sick and she wants the district to do more to protect students.

Kerrigan Karaffa is a kindergarten teacher at Blackwell Institute. She’s been teaching for nearly 20 years.

She said last week, while reaching into an old storage box, she grabbed a book and rat feces fell on her hand, within hours she started noticing the infection and she went to get medical attention.

“I had an infection in my bloodstream, I'm taking four antibiotics for it,” said Karaffa.

She said the rodent problem at Blackwell Institute is common knowledge, there are plenty of pictures and videos shared between staff.

She said school officials are also aware.

"Yes, they have said yes there's a rodent problem but they haven't done anything to fix it and now someone has gotten sick,” said Karaffa.

Karaffa has sores on her hands where she came in contact with the feces, she was sick in bed for several days and according to her doctor she’s not allowed back to class until Friday.

She wants the district to tell parents.

"These parents do not know,” said Karaffa.

She says her kindergarten students are at risk, since they play on the floor often.

"Some of them are still putting their hands in their mouth,” said Karaffa. "I can't imagine if one of my students came into contact putting it in their mouth or touch it.”

She’s speaking out and sharing her story in hopes DPS will do more to protect students.

"I think that we as a whole and Detroit Public Schools need to do a better job of cleaning up our schools,” said Karaffa.

Detroit Public Schools did speak with 7 Action News. 

A spokesperson said their Environmental Health and Safety Department has toured Blackwell. She said the district is already taking aggressive action and they’ve contracted with a pest control company.

They released the following statement to 7 Action News:

Upon learning of this incident, the district immediately launched an investigation. Preliminary findings indicated that improper food storage, improper closure of external doors, and structural openings were all potential contributors to a pest issue. The district's  Environmental Health and Safety Department has implemented an aggressive action plan that includes strategically placing screens over vents on individual classroom unit ventilators, implementing a stringent food storage protocol, and launching an aggressive eradication treatment plan for both the interior and exterior of the facility on weekends until there is no evidence of pests. In addition, the dumpster will be relocated and an assessment of the sewer system will be requested by the district to analyze the lines and positions. The district is committed to responding to issues related to student and staff well being, and will continue to implement an aggressive treatment plan until the issue is resolved.

The district is working with a licensed pest control contractor and our methodology aligns with state laws for Integrated Pest Management in schools.