Nearly a dozen three-year-old students were tragically injured after a teacher’s outdoor science experiment went awry.
According to Village Fire Chief David Foster, the Houston preschoolers gathered outside Tuesday afternoon to watch their teacher conduct an experiment involving color-changing fire. The teacher, who has not been named, was unable to achieve the desired chemical reaction so she doused the mixture in alcohol, causing a chemical flash.
“Fire was changing colors and the last one wasn’t working, so we put it a little bit more and then it exploded. That’s how the other kids got burned, and they were crying,” 5-year-old witness Kate Earnest told reporters.
When the experiment erupted, burning chemicals splashed onto several children, causing a panic that led to another child being trampled underfoot. The horrific accident resulted in seven children being rushed to the hospital. The extent of their injuries is unknown.
“My wife and my son are in the ambulance; my son did get some burns,” said Randy Kenney whose 3-year-old child was injured during the experiment. “I think, I know he has some burns, and they want to test and see if he inhaled any chemicals. It’s just scary, you know? We were just coming here to have an end-of-the-year picnic and there was a lot of fire trucks.”
Parents, perhaps, experienced more fear than their children. Adults who arrived at the school were greeted with a chaotic sight. People ran to and fro as children were hurried into ambulances.
“I think they reacted appropriately, and they called way more ambulances and fire trucks than necessary, just to make sure everybody was OK,” parent Natalie Blazei recounted.
Questions swirl over the teacher’s competence. Surely someone who’s conducting an experiment in front of toddlers should know exactly what they’re doing. Color-changing fire is perhaps too dangerous a subject for a non-specialized educator to present to very young students.
The pain of the accident is still so fresh that families have not yet indicated if they’ll file a lawsuit against the school.
“We just know there was an experiment that went wrong, and there was a brief moment of flame. It was put out fairly quickly, as I understand, so, fortunately, there weren’t a great number of children that were injured,” said Bob Giles with Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church. The church runs the day to day operations of the school.
The church is currently protecting the teacher’s identity because it’s unclear how the future will unfold. Investigators may determine that accident was a simple mistake that anyone could have made and that the teacher’s lesson was perfectly age-appropriate.
Conversely, investigators may decide that the teacher acted recklessly and endangered the children in her care.
“This incident will be investigated swiftly and thoroughly, and we will keep the congregation up to date as more facts emerge,” Memorial Drive Presbyterian said in a statement online. “Our primary concern is the health and safety of our children, and the Yellow School asks for your prayers for the injured and their families, as well as staff and students.”
Texas authorities are also looking into the incident. It’s possible that the teacher may be charged, although it’s unlikely.
“Child Care Licensing is currently investigating the incident at the Yellow School this afternoon,” the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services said in a statement. “We will interview staff and children and their parents, and make sure the area will be safe for children to return.”
Children need to be protected at all costs. If Yellow School’s preschool program is failing to accomplish that, it should be shut down. Mixing chemicals in front of small children is taking an incredible risk. If you’re going to do it, you need to be prepared.