LINCOLN PARK — The mother of a student who was burned in a chemistry lab fire at Lincoln Park High School is suing the school, Chicago Public Schools and the teacher involved.
Jennifer Dryden, the mother of student Tatiana Schwirblat, filed the lawsuit last week arguing the chemistry teacher, Joy Walter, and other defendants were negligent. The chemistry lab fire broke out just before noon Nov. 25 and injured a total of five students, authorities said at the time. Tatiana, 16, suffered second-degree burns, including burns on her face, authorities said.
The lawsuit filed in Cook County Circuit Court claims Walter was demonstrating an experiment involving the ignition of elements when the fire erupted. Walter was igniting the element cobalt in a Petri dish with a match and poured an "unmeasured" amount of methanol over the cobalt and match, which sparked an explosion, according to the lawsuit. Tatiana's clothes caught fire, causing burns on her body and face, according to the suit.
The lawsuit claims Walter failed to take steps to protect students from injury, including putting up a shield around the Petri dish to prevent injury in case of an explosion. It also claims she failed to measure out the methanol before using it as an accelerant in a chemical experiment.Here's a Courthouse News summary
Another student who witnessed the experiment said watching her classmate's sweater catch fire was the "scariest thing ever." The witness said the flames quickly spread to another lab table and ignited the girl's sweater.
I did not notice in either December 2013 or January of this year that this accident had just happened in November 2013. (That's perhaps because initial reports of the accident focused on the methanol fire, and not that they were performing the 'rainbow flame' experiment.)
It still seems evident to me that the 'rainbow flame' experiment should not be performed as advertised (as found here, for example) and that the wood splint method is much safer. It's evident to the American Chemical Society, anyway. If more lawsuits pop up, it'll start becoming evident to school boards and insurance companies.