A mishap in a New York City high school’s science lab ended up sending four students to the hospital. St. Catharine Academy, an all-girls Catholic school in the Bronx, said that an experienced chemistry teacher was performing an experiment to teach students how an atom “goes from ground state to excited state,” according to the New York Times.
The president of the school, Sister Patricia Wolf, played down the incident, saying “The flame got a little larger than was anticipated, and several students who were near the flame were singed.” According to Sister Wolf, all the injuries were minor and students were mostly “singed” on their hands and possibly their neck.
The Fire Department, injured students, and their parents tell a different story. According to the Fire Department, two of the students had injuries that were classified as “serious.”
The injured students also took the situation more seriously than the school. According to Elizabeth Diaz, one of the injured students in the science class, “Instead of the flame going up, it, like, spread and expanded too much. I was behind another student and she got it bad. Worse than me.” Diaz ‘s mouth and hair were both singed.
Diaz, along with the three other students, were taken to Jacobi Medical Center. The doctors at the hospital tested their blood and airways for hazardous chemicals before releasing the students.
Predictably, the parents of the injured students were also not happy with the Bronx school. Diaz’s mother said that she planned to complain to school administrators because none of the students were wearing any safety equipment, despite performing an experiment involving both alcohol, a flammable liquid, and fire. According to the mother, “They’re not being responsible. It’s not acceptable.”
The unfortunate and possibly neglectful incident at St. Catharine Academy adds to the stirring controversy over science experiments in New York City high schools. In 2014, a Manhattan high school science lab was engulfed in flames. The horrific accident left 16-year-old Alonzo Yanes in critical care because of the third-degree burns that melted his face and skin. Another student’s body was filled with first-degree burns. Everyone else in the class of 30 students escaped with relatively minor burns.
After the incident at the Upper West Side school, Beacon High School was cited for eight safety violations – including improper storage of dangerous chemicals, lack of sufficient safety equipment, and insufficient practices to ensure the safety of students. The science experiment involved the use of methanol which is highly flammable, sometimes even a spark of static electricity can ignite the element.