Investigation promised into cause of student’s burns

Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – A high school student’s recent injury will result in an investigation, Riverview Community School District Board of Education members said last week.

They promised the probe in response to the mother of a child burned at Riverview Community High School who wants to know why her son was injured.

Resident Wendi Russeau told the board at its Dec. 14 meeting that her 17 year-old son, Michael, suffered first- and second-degree burns while draining a deep fryer during a hospitality class at the school Nov. 15.

She said she was there to address the “completely casual, unacceptable and possibly negligent way Riverview Schools have acted or not acted with (her) son’s injury.”

Russeau said the boy was asked by his teacher, Wayne Stolt, to drain the deep fryer, but that a long tool used for that purpose was missing. The student used a shorter tool, which gave way, and his hand slipped into the oil. The shorter tool, Russeau said, is meant to be used only under professional supervision, as it places the user’s hand and arm close to the hot oil. She told the board the proper tool had been missing for more than three weeks.

Russeau also said that emergency medical technicians were not called, and that the school notified her husband, who picked up the boy and drove him to a nearby emergency room, where he then was referred to Detroit Receiving Hospital and treated for first- and second-degree burns on his hand and arm.

“Where was the teacher, the administration?” Russeau asked board members, as she wiped tears from her eyes. “Where was the immediate first aid? Why wasn’t an administrator called?”

The boy’s burns were not deep enough to cause muscle or nerve damage, but he will have to change his dressing daily and continuously move his arm to prevent the skin from tightening, Russeau said.

Stolt called to check on the boy the day after the incident, Russeau said, but she has not received calls from anyone else associated with the school or school board.

Russeau, who just began receiving health insurance coverage about a month before the incident, said she has not yet received any bills for her son’s injuries, but that they should be the school board’s responsibility.

“Yes, accidents happen,” Russeau said, “but Michael should have never been told to use the wrong tool.”

Russeau’s mother, Darlene Strasser, a Brownstown Township resident and Trenton Public Schools teacher, told the board the way the situation was handled was “atrocious.”

Board President Robyn Vitale said she had not heard about the boy’s accident, but had seen him with bandages at a recent hockey game, and that she did not ask what happened to his arm.

Vitale said she would ask Supt. Dennis Desmarais to contact Russeau regarding her concerns, and that an investigation would be launched.

A current phone number for Russeau could not be located, and Desmarais did not return phone calls by press time.

Russeau said she has contacted an attorney, who advised her to address the board regarding the issue. She said her son now is feeling better, but that “only time will tell.”