DeKalb County School District Refuses to Cover Surgeries After Student Suffers 3rd Degree Burns in Fire Caused by Chemistry Teacher

Illustration for article titled DeKalb County School District Refuses to Cover Surgeries After Student Suffers 3rd Degree Burns in Fire Caused by Chemistry Teacher
Image: Attorney L.Chris Stewart (YouTube)

School is supposed to be a sanctuary, but for the family of Malachi McFadden it’s become a source of frustration and anger after the DeKalb County School District has declined to cover medical expenses for injuries the 15-year-old suffered at the hands of his teacher.

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According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, on Aug. 6, his teacher—identified by CBS News as Bridgette Blowe—conducted a science experiment in class in which a dollar bill is coated in a half-alcohol, half-water solution then set on fire. After failing three times, she then announced to the class that the alcohol would be replaced with ethanol instead.

That’s when this happened:

She followed the same steps to light the bill on fire, the report said. When it was lit, she asked the students if they could see the flames, and they replied “no.”

She then turned off the lights and added ethanol to the flame, the report said.

“That is when the flame got large and cracked the bowl,” the report said. “The flame then ran across the desk, landing on (McFadden).”

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McFadden had his head down at the time and was unable to avoid the flames. So while Blowe remained paralyzed with fear, another student leaped into action and doused McFadden with water. Soon afterward, an employee at the school also entered the classroom with a fire extinguisher.

With severe burns to his face, neck, and arms, McFadden was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital.

“Over 10 [percent] third-degree burns,” L. Chris Stewart told the Journal-Constitution. “It’s horrific.”

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In the aftermath, McFadden will have to endure extensive reconstructive surgeries to improve his quality of life—surgeries the school district refuses to pay for, dismissing the procedures as cosmetic instead of lifesaving.

As a result, McFadden’s family will be forced to foot the bill with their own insurance.

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“So they don’t have funds for when a child is injured,” Stewart said.

No criminal charges were filed as a result of the accident, but Stewart filed a civil action against Blowe and three other school officials at Redan High School in November. In response, a spokeswoman for the school district provided the following statement: “The district is unable to provide information related to pending litigation or employee matters.”

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The school district has declined to confirm if Blowe remains employed, but hopefully, it reverses course and helps provide McFadden with whatever medical assistance he undoubtedly deserves—cosmetic or otherwise.

Menace to supremacy. Founder of Extraordinary Ideas and co-host and producer of The Extraordinary Negroes podcast. Impatiently waiting for ya'll to stop putting sugar in grits.

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DISCUSSION

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I’d bet the taxpayers will end up footing the bill, plus legal fees. Probably in a confidential pre-trial settlement — at least if school-district officials have the imagination to picture themselves on the witness stand, explaining that third-degree burns over 10% of your body are a merely cosmetic problem. Plaintiff’s exhibits are likely to be on the gruesome side.

Those are the times we live in, though, when you all too often have to sue people to get them to show some basic humanity or even just to do their job.

Here’s hoping the poor kid makes a full recovery, physically and psychologically, and that his family isn’t financially ruined in the process.