Philadelphia teachers' union taking legal action over asbestos in schools

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Philadelphia Teachers' Union is taking legal action over the district's handling of asbestos exposure in school buildings.

"Time and again, the School District has claimed that their actions are out of an abundance of caution. What we've seen time and again is the District's willingness to throw caution to the wind and as a result put children and educators at risk," PFT President Jerry Jordan said.

The union says the issue is an example of "profound racial injustice."

Jordan continued, "As we commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in Philadelphia, it should be lost on none of us that the facilities crisis unfolding in our schools is the type of profound racial injustice that Dr. King so relentlessly fought to overcome. Dr. King said that the ongoing segregation in public education was effectively 'a part of the historical design to submerge (African-Americans) in second-class status.'"

Jordan said their efforts are part of an ongoing fight for healthy schools.

At a news conference announcing the lawsuit on Monday, the PFT said the asbestos issues represents a serious and imminent threat to their educators and students. The PFT said it wants to act as a safety net by being present in all of the district's testing for asbestos.

Several teachers were among those who spoke at the news conference.

"How can we teach when students already feel anxious about being in the building? We need safe and healthy schools," said Carnell Elementary teacher Tina Asman.

"When we talk about trust and being forthright with the parents, there is zero trust from the parents. I'm speaking from my perspective as a parent - there is zero trust from anything that the district says. They have to show us," said T.M. Peirce Elementary teacher Antoine Little.

In response, the school district said it wants to work together with the PFT and will review the lawsuit once it is filed. The PFT filed the suit late Monday night.

RELATED: McClure Elementary School in Hunting Park closed again due to asbestos

Several schools across Philadelphia have been forced to temporarily close after the discovery of exposed asbestos.

Late Monday afternoon, the school district announced that McClure Elementary School, which briefly reopened, will remain closed this week due to an asbestos problem.

Earlier this month, the district said 174 of the district's 214 schools have asbestos somewhere inside the building.

Officials said asbestos only poses a health threat once it becomes loose and airborne.

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The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers say they will reveal details from their lawsuit on Monday.

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