Water Leak: Details of DuPont C8 Settlement

RCNN Exclusive Report by Callie Lyons

In February, DuPont settled thousands of Mid-Ohio Valley C8 (PFOA) contamination cases at a cost of $670.6 million. Until now the details and terms of the Master Settlement Agreement have remained a carefully-guarded secret. RCNN has obtained a copy of the offer made to 3,500 eligible claimants for qualifying conditions including: kidney cancer, testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

The settlement is the latest development in what began as a class action lawsuit against DuPont brought by neighbors of Washington Works in 2002 over the contamination of several water supplies with C8, otherwise known as PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid. Impacted communities include: Lubeck and Mason County, West Virginia; Belpre, Tuppers Plains, Pomeroy and Little Hocking, Ohio.

DuPont has been using the manmade compound at Washington Works since the 1950s in the production of Teflon and hundreds of other consumer applications. During that time the corporation released C8 into the air and water – contaminating the environment around the plant and sickening thousands. The substance was subsequently detected in every mile of the Ohio River.

The personal injury claims are being settled by disease category with a base award set for each medical condition – and additional payments from the extraordinary injury fund depending on the severity of the disease. For example, the base range for testicular cancer is $1.35 million; however the extraordinary injury fund could increase that amount by $250,000 if the patient suffered chemotherapy, radiation, or death resulting from the cancer. Similarly, the base award for kidney cancer is $1.35 million with the possibility of extraordinary injury funds of $250,000 – for those who have endured chemotherapy, radiation, or death.

A statement in the settlement packet explains that the numbers are not absolute and disease information and residency must be verified by a Claim Administrator:

“At this time, there is no definitive information available regarding your exact settlement value. However, we are able to confirm that if your claim is approved by the Claim Administrator that you will not receive less than the base award(s) identified for your Qualifying Condition(s) category.”

If it is determined that there is no medical record support to back a personal injury claim, the minimum recovery will be $1,500.
Due to the large number of cases, the process is expected to take six to nine months to complete. Individual attorney fees will be taken out of the settlement amount according to the original retainer signed by the plaintiff and there is a seven percent mandatory court fee that will be applied to every case. Four percent is reserved to pay attorney fees for the Multi District Litigation. Three percent will be allocated for expenses incurred for the benefit of all claimants.

People with personal injury claims who do not choose to participate in the settlement will have their cases continued in the judicial system – meaning that they may not go to trial for many years and the outcome is not assured.

The settlement itself was intended to be a secret. Participants are warned not to discuss or disclose the terms to anyone – particularly the media. Claimants are further warned that failure to keep the terms secret could result in a penalty from DuPont.

The settlement amount for ulcerative colitis is based on four tiers representing the severity of the condition. Tier One is the most serious and relates to those who have undergone surgery because of the ailment, while Tier Four relates to those who have medical records indicating chronic inflammatory bowel disease like Chron’s Disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Gastritis, or Diverticulitis. The base award for Tier One is $290,000 – $300,000. The base award for Tier Four is $20,000 – $22,000. Those who have suffered extraordinary injuries including the placement of a colostomy bag or death resulting from ulcerative colitis may be eligible for an additional payment of $200,000 – $325,000.

Individuals who have claims related to thyroid disease have been assigned a base award of $38,000 – $40,000. Those whose thyroid had to be removed due to disease may be eligible for an additional $20,000.

There are no extraordinary injury funds for pregnancy-induced hypertension or high cholesterol.

Claimants who have suffered pre-eclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension are subject to a base award of $20,000 – $22,000 for those with medical records verifying their disease and $10,000 – $11,000 for those without records.

Plaintiffs with medically diagnosed high cholesterol may be eligible for a base award of $10,000. Individuals who filed a C8 personal injury case in the Southern District of Ohio prior to February 11, but who have no proof of a related condition are eligible for a base award of $1,500.

Participants must release DuPont/Chemours from future liability and provide evidence that they were exposed to C8 in their drinking water for at least a year.

If the Claims Administrator finds the claim lacking, the participant’s C8-related disease will not be eligible for future compensation. The rejected plaintiff will receive a payment of $1,500.

Participation in the settlement does not impact class members’ right to receive medical monitoring. The C8 Medical Monitoring program (www.c-8MedicalMonitoringProgram) is available to all members of the class and was established to screen for diseases linked to C8 exposure.

While this settlement agreement pertains to old cases, newly diagnosed individuals may still file claims. DuPont and Chemours have agreed to set aside funds in future years to settle future cases.

“Persons diagnosed with linked diseases within two years may file claims before that time limit expires. They will not be included in the settlement because it only encompasses the claims which have been listed prior,” explained class counsel Harry Deitzler. “New cases will not be in the MDL (multi district litigation) and will be tried in the court where they are filed or federal court if removed by DuPont.”

The statute of limitations for personal injury claims is two years from the date of diagnosis. It is expected that people who live in the Mid-Ohio Valley will continue to be diagnosed with related conditions for some time. C8 is resistant to deterioration and will be present in the environment around Washington Works for a thousand years unless a massive cleanup operation is ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency.

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DuPont Settles MOV Cases for $670 Million

A settlement agreement is in the works to resolve more than 3,500 C8 personal injury claims. DuPont will pay roughly $670 million to settle all of the cases.

Residents of the Mid-Ohio Valley who live in one of six PFOA contaminated water districts may be eligible to file claims against the corporation if they suffer from one or more of the related diseases. The C8 Science Panel determined that exposure in Mid-Ohio Valley residents can be linked to testicular and kidney cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, pre-eclampsia and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

Today’s announcement will resolve all of the MOV cases filed against DuPont to date. Individuals who worked or lived in one of the six contaminated areas for at least a year prior to 2004 and who have developed related disease can file a personal injury claim against the corporation without having to provide their own potentially expensive scientific evidence.

If split evenly amongst the claimants, the settlement would pay out about $189,000 per case. However, class counsel Harry Deitzler said different medical conditions will be assigned different settlement amounts.

“Cancer cases will be different from other diseases,” Deitzler explained. “In typical mass tort cases, there is a “grid” proposal which provides an offer to each person based on the disease or condition from which he or she suffers.”

The plaintiff’s lead attorney Rob Bilott released the following statement:

“Today, DuPont publicly disclosed that it has reached a settlement in principle to resolve the C8 Personal Injury Multi-District Litigation now pending in federal court in Columbus, Ohio for $670.7 Million in cash.  The litigation arises from a 2001 class action lawsuit involving DuPont’s contamination of the drinking water supplies of approximately 70,000 people in West Virginia and Ohio with the toxic chemical perfluorooctanoic acid (also known as PFOA or C8).

Under a 2004 settlement of the class claims, DuPont has paid or has committed to pay over $350 Million for impacted community water filtration systems, class member blood and health data collection, class member health studies, and class member medical monitoring.  Today’s settlement in principle involving payment by DuPont of an additional $670.7 Million to address the individual personal injury claims of approximately 3500 class members who claim that the C8 in their drinking water led to one or more of six diseases linked to the contamination of their drinking water with C8.

This is a tremendous positive step toward resolving the litigation in a way that provides compensation for our injured clients without the need for additional, lengthy, and expensive trials.  We look forward to working with DuPont to finalize this settlement and get these injured class members paid as quickly as possible.”

Officials from the activist organization Keep Your Promises DuPont say they are cautiously optimistic about the settlement.

“DuPont’s settlement offer of $670.7 million for the 3,550 local residents harmed by C8 represents an enormous step in the right direction, and we are cautiously optimistic that the company will prevent any further delay, that this offer will be approved by the plaintiffs, and that this long-awaited promise will finally be fulfilled,” said Harold Bock. “As of this announcement, no checks have been written and no compensation has been paid. Folks who have already had their days in court, including Carla Bartlett, David Freeman, and Kenneth Vigneron, have had their awards bogged down in appeals. For DuPont and Chemours, who have shamelessly dragged this crisis out for decades, it is time to make good on this settlement offer without any further delay.”

Bock said no settlement can restore the health of the thousands of victims, but he is “heartened to know that this long-awaited justice for these 3,550 members of our community is now within arm’s reach.”

As soon as additional information becomes available about the details of the suit, RCNN will provide updates.

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Former Marietta College Prof Killed in Prison Assault

The inmate killed in a West Virginia prison assault Sunday evening was Eugene Robert Anderson – a former Marietta College professor. Anderson was serving more than 100 years for sex crimes against children at the state’s maximum security prison in Fayette County.

The 66 year old was killed around 6 pm Sunday night. The prison was placed on lockdown following the assault. State police are investigating. No charges have been filed so far.

(Editor’s Note: At the time of Anderson’s trial in 2003, I was working for the Marietta Times and my fellow reporter Andrea Hannon was providing award-winning coverage of the case from the courtroom and beyond. This puts a period at the end of that sentence forever. )

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Women’s March Protesters Held Up by Bus Driver

Some local ladies who were participating in today’s Women’s March in Washington DC were afraid to board their chartered bus after the driver posted disparaging comments about her passengers on Facebook and was then unprepared to depart on time.

S&S Coach Bus Driver Donna Hinderer’s comments have subsequently been removed from Facebook. However, several RCNN readers caught screenshots and sent them in for publication.

(Yes, we triple checked, her name really is Hinderer – as in one who obstructs or delays progress.)

The bus was scheduled for departure at 1:30 am. However, passengers arrived to find the battery dead. This happened after the bus driver was caught on Facebook discussing how to sabotage her passengers for political purposes.

“A friend of mine bought a bus ticket from Marietta to DC to participate in the Women’s March from S&S Coach. At about 1:30 this morning she boarded her bus to leave, only to find out the battery was dead,” explained one concerned reader. “By 4:30 am the bus had still not left. At this point the bus driver’s Facebook profile was found, on which there was a post from Tuesday asking what to do if she had a busload of protesters. She” lol’ed” her way through people advising her to drop them off in the middle of bikers, take them to the people handing out free joints, drive over rumble strips the whole way there, etc. But she also said that sabotaging the serpentine belt would ruin the trip as it would be at least 24 hours of roadside service. Obviously she was not mechanically skilled enough for this, so instead she allegedly drained the battery on purpose to delay the trip, causing those on the bus to find alternative transportation or simply not go (the bus tickets were $100 each). She has since deleted her OP on her Facebook and other posts involving transvestite Obamas and slavery not being a bad thing.”

The controversy began at 7:14 pm on Monday evening when Hinderer posted the following statement: “OK Family & Friends, I’m on my way to DC starting tomorrow. Question??? . . . if I have a bus load of protesters, What should I do?”

While some of Hinderer’s friends admonish her to “pray and do your best”, others suggest incapacitating the bus so that the protesters could not participate. One commenter said: “tell your company it conflicts with your religion and you can’t do it.” Others suggest she leave her passengers in DC. There were dozens of such comments in response to the driver’s post. It was enough to make the peaceful protesters hesitant to board the bus.

“We didn’t feel safe getting on a bus with someone who joked about harming us,” explained Kylie Schlemmer. “We were supposed to leave Marietta on the bus at 130 am and arrive in DC at 830 am. By the time she got the bus running, it was 4 00am. We stood outside for three hours waiting for the bus to get repaired, we were not allowed on the bus. At 4 00am we decided to drive ourselves. We didn’t arrive to the march until noon, well after the speeches and morning activities. I have no idea what time the women on the bus arrived, but it was at some point in the afternoon. These were $105 tickets and we are hoping to get refunded. There were a few women who did not feel safe to get on the bus, and were too tired by 400 am to drive, so they just went home and missed the March completely.”

Passengers say they cannot prove that she ran the battery dead, however Hinderer’s comments showed a decided lack of professionalism with regards to their safety.

“Whether or not she purposefully sabotaged our bus, the fact that a bus driver would post online and discuss potential ways to threaten us and our trip is absolutely a terrible thing to do,” Schlemmer said. “She tried her darndest to keep us from DC, but we overcame.”

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Obama’s EPA Takes Action on C8

Obama’s EPA today took action on PFOA contamination by requiring DuPont and Chemours to take additional actions to reduce C8 exposure in drinking water for residents in Ohio and West Virginia living near Washington Works.

Today’s action amends a 2009 consent order and establishes a new action level of 0.07 parts per billion which triggers the temporary provision of an alternate source of drinking water by DuPont and Chemours until a permanent alternative drinking water supply is provided. Last May the EPA established a temporary action level of 0.07 parts per billion – down from the 2009 level of 0.40 parts per billion causing a need for Vienna’s water to be temporarily replaced until a filtration facility could be constructed at DuPont’s cost.

The latest order makes that temporary action level permanent and expands the geographic areas to be investigated for C8 contamination. EPA says the new Lifetime Health Advisory was set to be protective of human health.

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Jury Awards Testicular Cancer Victim $10.5 million in C8 Punitive Damages

A Columbus jury has awarded $10.5 million in punitive damages to a Washington County, Ohio man who claimed he developed testicular cancer as the result of exposure to a Teflon manufacturing solvent used for more than 50 years at DuPont Washington Works near Parkersburg, WV.

Kenneth Vigneron, 56, of Little Hocking, Ohio, is one of thousands of individuals living in the Mid-Ohio Valley who have filed personal injury claims against DuPont over the pollution. His case is the third to go to trial on the matter.

DuPont’s lawyers tried to convince the jury the corporation did not understand that the manufacturing substance they called C8 could create dangers for the community.  They brazenly asserted that the company had done everything that it could to prevent harm to people in communities near the plant. However, Vigneron’s attorney’s produced evidence that the company had known C8 was poisoning neighboring water supplies since at least the 1980’s.

During arguments at trial, Vigneron attorney Gary J. Douglas pointed out that DuPont has publicly disavowed all responsibility and has done everything that it can to make life miserable for innocent victims who seek compensation.

Douglas implored the jury to “Teach them a lesson of decency, please.”  Douglas explained that DuPont must do more than just clean up the mess that it created.

The jury responded today with a decision to make DuPont responsible for $10.5 million in punitive damages.

C8, PFOA or perfluorooctanoic acid is a toxic compound that has been detected in the environment all over the globe and in the blood of most people no matter where they live. Folks who live along the Ohio River near DuPont Washington Works became aware that their water was contaminated in the early 2000s. Since that time, C8 exposure in the Mid-Ohio Valley has been linked to six human health conditions:  kidney and testicular cancer, thyroid disease, ulcerative colitis, preeclampsia (pregnancy induced hypertension) and medically diagnosed high cholesterol.

Thousands of individuals in the impacted areas have fallen ill with one or more of these diseases. People who have lived or worked in six communities along the Ohio River for at least one year prior to 2004 are entitled to medical monitoring and those who have developed related diseases are eligible to file a personal injury claim against DuPont – the polluting company. The communities covered in the class action lawsuit include: Belpre, Little Hocking, Tuppers Plains, and Pomeroy in Ohio and Lubeck and Mason County in West Virginia.

In the fall of 2015 a Columbus jury awarded Athens County resident Carla Bartlett, a kidney cancer survivor, $1.6 million. In a second jury trial July 2016, Marietta College professor David Freeman, who suffered from testicular cancer, was awarded $5.1 million and the jury added $500,000 in punitive damages because they determined that the polluting company acted with malice when it dumped C8 into the Ohio River.

The latest and third jury trial, Vigneron’s case, was awarded $2 million in December. Today, the jury tacked on $10.5 million in punitive damages and ordered DuPont to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees.

A fourth case, that of Larry Moody, is scheduled to go to trial this month. Beginning in May 2017 these federal cases will go to trial at a rate of 40 a year. According to the scheduling order, the cases will be tried at the rate of 40 per year until they are all resolved or until DuPont reaches a settlement with litigants.

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Marietta Author Releases New Book

Marietta resident and award-winning author Sandra Kolankiewicz is releasing another book of poetry, Lost in Transition, now available for pre-ordering at https://www.finishinglinepress.com/product/lost-in-transition-by-sandra-kolankiewicz/.

The book’s release date is March 3, 2017. Shipping is free if you order before January 13.  This is the third chapbook for Dr. Sandra Kolankiewicz, whose first book, Turning Inside Out, won the Black Lawrence Press Black River Competition in 2007.  That same spring, her novel Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the Hackney Award for the Novel.  Soon, her novel When I Fell, which includes 76 full color illustrations by artist Kathy Skerritt, will be moving from online only to print.

Kolankiewicz describes herself as a ‘writer of the dangers of domesticity,’ and Lost in Transition explores themes associated with ‘domestic life,’ challenges that we all face over our life span: changing identity; making mistakes; asking and giving forgiveness; accepting our limitations; facing the inevitability of death; and feeling the intense need to communicate with others during this crazy experience that happens between birth and the grave.

In these poems you’ll find disappointed love; a ghost couple coming back to visit her neglectful parents; the absurdity of wedding vows; the nostalgia of lost love; the disappointments of parenthood; the effects of grief and abandonment; the chords of mental illness and addiction; repressed passion; the unemployed; the resigned; the still-holding-on and grateful.

NEA grant recipient poet Roy Bentley, author of Starlight Taxi and winner of the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize for 2012, writes, “In Lost in Transition Sandra Kolankiewicz inventories the world of experience: “bodies so  / charged with electric fluid that when / they raise their fingers toward a / burner, a spark jumps forth adequate / enough to ignite the gas.” Like any Last Man Standing, she wants what she can’t do without: “I’m grateful for your protection while I / had it.” Kolankiewicz tells us: “The devil is in the lack of detail, / the clues you don’t notice until you / get the call, then wonder how you lost your / Eagle Scout.” Lost in Transition is map-making, and serves to make familiar the terrain of the Country of the Lost so we can travel through it with hope or, at least, less fearfully.”

Karen Neuberg, author of Myself Taking Stage (Finishing Line Press) and Detailed Still (Poets Wear Prada), and associate editor of First Literary Review-East, comments that “Lost in Transition is filled with keen observations of the daily that glint with power as Kolankiewicz transports us through the speeding, idiosyncratic reflections of her deft intellect. Her lines leap out and ignite us with recognition and connection. She guides us through transition and into clarity. These poems will scratch at the door of your heart—and you will be happy you let them in.”

John Guzlowski, author of the internationally acclaimed books Lightening and Ashes and Echoes of Tattered Tongues: Memory Unfolded, writes of Kolankiewicz, “…She is the poet of mysteries, the real ones that hide in the most common things (a pet rabbit, a child’s dollhouse), and elegies for what we’ve lost and what we’re losing and what we will lose.  She has the gift the great poets have, the gift of telling us what we’ve lost in language so beautiful and rich that it almost makes us forget our loss.”

For those other people who dream of writing a book and having it published, Kolankiewicz offers some advice: “Mostly what you have to do is practice, practice, practice, like you would for any skill, whether it’s writing a poem or sinking a three pointer.  Also, embrace rejection.  Ninety percent of what you get back is rejection.  However, the other 10% is sweet.  Many people in this region have stories to tell.  Celebrate those stories by sharing them. Poetry and fiction are always there for you to express yourself, and memoir is a genre that is becoming more and more popular.  If you are moved to write about something, that energy will show in your work. Learn how to be your own best critic because you can lose yourself trying to do what others think you should. Finally, support small presses by buying and reading their books.”

Besides her three chapbooks, more than 300 of Kolankiewicz’s poems and stories have appeared in magazines and literary reviews during the last 35 years.  Sandra is available for readings, to talk to writing groups, to discuss publication tips with aspiring writers, and can be contacted at sandra.kolankiewicz@gmail.com.

 

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Mineral Wells Trailer Park to Close

More than one hundred people will be displaced when a Mineral Wells trailer park closes next summer. Residents of The Oaks Trailer Park received notices of termination of their leases via certified mail this week.
 
“Closing the Park was not an easy decision to make but my family and I believe it is the right decision,” trailer park manager Alice Bosley said in the notice.
 
The company owns almost half of the 70 trailers in the park, which is located near the former site of Coldwater Creek. Tenants who are renting trailers were told to turn in their keys no later than June 1, 2017. Likewise, trailer owners who rent lots at the park were told to vacate by June. Any property remaining after that date will be considered abandoned. Tenants are required to pay their rent until they vacate.
 
The unexpected news is raising concerns for the residential
community.
 
“I don’t think they realize what it will be like for people to try to move these trailers,” explained one household member who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation.
 
She said many of the trailers in the park are older and may not be able to be moved. She also expressed concerns for elderly residents who will lose their homes.
 
“Even those that are in good enough shape to be moved (residents will) have to pay to have it moved somewhere, to store their belongings, utility hook ups, find somewhere to stay while they wait. It’s a nightmare.”
 
The reason for the closure was not explained in the notice of termination.
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Students Report Fear over MMS Teacher’s Classroom Behavior

By far the most complaints RCNN has ever received about a teacher are concerns from students and parents about Marietta Middle School teacher Dion Prunty. This fall Prunty’s use of the other ”n-word” and her capacity for humiliating students has left families of different faiths uncomfortable and fearful.

Allegations against Prunty range from calling her students “nazis”, embarrassing them over slight infringements, denying them lunch and bathroom breaks, putting her hands on them and refusing to properly pronounce students’ names. RCNN has interviewed dozens of parents and students – all who fear retaliation. For this reason, their identities are being protected.

“Today I found out that a sixth grade teacher at Marietta Middle School has been referring to herself as ‘Hitler’ and calling her students ‘Nazi’. To top it off, this year she had a student read a short story called ‘The Good Nazi’ in front of the class,” said one parent. “She tried to justify her use of the term by say it is ‘just a noun’. This teacher teaches science and language arts. We had a bunch of issues with this teacher but this is over the line in my book.”

Many sources tell the same story.

“My daughter was in Mrs Prunty’s class at MMS when she referred to herself as Hitler and said she expected her students to all be her Nazis and asked them if they would be,” said another parent. “It’s not the first sadistic thing Prunty had done.”

In response to RCNN’s inquiries, Prunty claims she used the word as a learning tool:

“I will tell you exactly what I said and why. One of my standards for Language Arts is teaching students that there are often many definitions for words. I have done this for many years, trying to get the students to realize that words can mean different things than they might already know.

I was telling the students about my new set of computers. I had computers until this year that were very old while others had new ones. The reason I was able to keep them is that I really am tough on the students about how they are treating the computers. Many students do not respect others peoples things, and I was trying to tell them how much I do respect the computers in my room. My computer cart was the only one that kept on running. In fact, they are now being used in the elementary schools because they are still usable.

What I did was tell the students that I am a computer nazi. I put the definition of nazi up and discussed the secondary meaning of the word, which is “a person who is fanatically dedicated to or seeks to regulate a specified activity, practice, etc” (Dictionary.com). This was brought up last year by a student when we were discussing Nazi takeover during the reading of Number the Stars, a novel we are supposed to read in the 6th grade. That student said I was sort of a computer nazi. We looked up the word as a class and decided that although the word is often used negatively, that definition worked in that situation. I told the kids about this happening last year and used the whole idea to teach a standard that I am required to teach. I did not at any time call myself Hitler, nor call any kids nazi. The students that help me with the computers know that I expect them to watch them as I would if I am doing it. They are students that volunteered to help me.”

Prunty went on to explain that these students are honor students and so she expects a great deal from them. She also says her use of the word has ceased. However, students tell quite a different tale about the use of the word “nazi” in her classroom.

“Not once has she explained the meaning of a nazi or talked about World War II,” one student said. “She asked in the beginning of the year who would like to be her ‘computer nazi’ because she had new computers and she wanted someone to watch over everyone as they got their computer to make sure they were very careful and did everything correctly. I did not think she should have used the term ‘nazi’ because it could have easily offended someone.”

Many parents and students objected to Prunty’s explanation.

“My daughter had told me this was not correct. (Prunty) is telling lies,” explained one mom. “She has also informed them after Christmas things will be much worse for them. She gets meaner after Christmas – her words according to my (student) and friends. They also told me she never made it clear what the meaning of nazi was in any classes except the one she made a student read it in front of – this is a big issue. ”

Students and their parents tell of humiliations suffered because of Prunty’s treatment of them.

“One day (a girl) needed to go to the bathroom to change her pad,” explained the girl’s relative. “She asked to go three times. Each time Prunty told her no. Also, some kids decided to act up so Prunty held them an extra 15 minutes before sending them to lunch. Since she denied (a girl) the bathroom, by the time she used the bathroom and went to the lunch room, the cafeteria was closed. She never had a chance to eat.”

When the sixth grade bathroom was closed recently, students were forbidden to go use any other bathrooms.

“During this break most kids go to the bathroom but last week on my way to the bathroom a couple of my friends were coming back and they seemed upset,” one student said. “I asked them what was wrong and they said the girls’ bathroom was closed. I asked them why we couldn’t go to another bathroom. They went to Mrs. Bucina to ask and she said they could but when Mrs. Bucina came out with my friends from the classroom Ms. Prunty said that we couldn’t use any other bathrooms and we would just have to hold it. This was our last period so we wouldn’t be able to go to the bathroom until we got to our homes or where ever we went to after school. For me I had to go 45 minutes at school and then another 40 minutes on the bus.”

Several students expressed their discomfort with asking Prunty about assignments or anything out of fear “she will yell and make a big scene”.

“For example, one day I had to use the bathroom in her science class and a couple of people had already asked to go to the bathroom,” one girl explained. “I mustered up the courage to ask her if I could use the bathroom (I was afraid to ask Ms. Prunty anything before this) and when I did she started yelling at me and the whole class about how we should use the bathroom in between classes and why we always use the bathroom in her class. It is very difficult for anyone to use the bathroom in between classes because my classes are on the other side of the bathrooms and we only have three minutes in between classes. I no longer use the bathroom in Ms. Prunty’s classes.”

Students are being denied lunch breaks, as well.

“Ms. Prunty held the children in the room for someone talking out of turn during lunch and several kids did not get to eat lunch,” one mother said. “This was due to the late arrival and the cafeteria already being closed so no hot lunches were available.”

However, Prunty refutes this claim.

“As far as keeping students in at lunch, that I have never done,” Prunty said. “I have used the lunch period to give makeup work or to talk to them, but it is never more than a few minutes. I always allow them lunch time. It is my lunch too. There are several teachers that do require the kids to come to their room during lunch, I have never done that unless the students themselves have asked to do it. In fact, for the past several years, as it got cooler, students would ask to stay in at lunch with me as I stay in my classroom to eat my lunch. This is a good way to have a good relationship with students and learn about them. I do not however, require this.”

But, that’s not where the accusations against Prunty end.

“One day they had the tablets out in class to go over a study guide. When Prunty asked a student to answer a question, the student said the tablet wasn’t working. She called the student a liar and told him to eat lunch with her. The same thing happened with the next three students. She just decided they must all be lying instead of checking the tablets,” said a parent.

“(A boy) was confused about what computer he was supposed to get out of a cabinet. And she got frustrated with him and grabbed him with both hands, one on each cheek and forcibly moved his head in the direction of the computer, yelled at him just inches away, and then forcibly moved his head back,” another parent explained. “Also, she humiliated him in the hallway for crying after being stung by a wasp.”

In yet another instance of classroom injustice, Prunty insisted on mispronouncing the name of a troubled student. She told him his “parents were stupid and didn’t know how to pronounce his name.”

Students at Marietta Middle School are expected to participate in an anti-bullying campaign based on building each other up rather than tearing each other down. It’s called Rachel’s Challenge. Parents and students are questioning its effectiveness under the circumstances.

“What’s the point of having the program Rachael’s challenge when the teachers are doing what they are training kids not to do?” asked a parent.

Another parent described it this way:
“What gets me is when we live in a world where we teach our children to report bulling to an authority figure where do they turn when the authority figure is the bully?”

Though many complaints have been lodged through official channels, parents believe their concerns are not being taken seriously. Prunty is a former Golden Apple award winning teacher.

Contact information for the Marietta City Schools Board of Education members can be found at:
http://www.mariettacityschools.k12.oh.us/board.aspx

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Third C8 Case Goes to Trial

This week a third C8 case will go to trial before a federal judge in Columbus.  On Monday, opening arguments will begin in the case of Kenneth Vigneron vs. DuPont. Vigneron, an Ohio resident, is alleging that he developed testicular cancer from drinking contaminated water as the result of DuPont’s Teflon manufacturing processes.

Last fall a Columbus jury awarded a kidney cancer victim $1.6 million.  This spring a testicular cancer victim was awarded $5.1 million. This will be the third such case to go to trial. More than 3,500 personal claims have been filed against DuPont so far. A fourth case is scheduled for hearing at the start of the New Year.  After that, the cases will be heard at the rate of 40 per year.

“Kenneth Vigneron is our neighbor, and his fight to hold DuPont accountable is our fight,” stated Keep Your Promises member Jeffrey Dugas. “We will ensure that Kenneth and the rest of the 3,500 plaintiffs in the DuPont case know that we stand with them and support them in this fight for accountability.”

Thanks to Ken Ward from the Charleston Gazette, you can read the complaint here:

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