YouTube video fuels odor debate at North Port school

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NORTH PORT, Fla. - Some staff members at Lamarque Elementary School in North Port say something in the school is making them sick. The Sarasota County School District says they've been studying it, but have found nothing unhealthy.

The school district says something has smelled there for years. They thought it was sewer gas and say they fixed the issue a few times. One North Port man though claims to know what's really going on.

North Port resident Charles Hummer says he is a toxic drywall expert. That's because he says it was found in his home. He says after visiting Lemarque Elementary School, he knew something wasn't right. "I found the same odor there that I have in my home and several others I have been in."

He says he is also hearing the same complaints about its effects. "Allergy-type symptoms, runny nose, sneezing, scratchy eyes, watery eyes, sinus infection."

Hummer recently posted a YouTube video in which he says the school has toxic drywall. The video was shared by the North Port Scoop Facebook page, and parents are now seeing it too.

"Very scary…very paranoid." Michelle Murphy has a third grader at the school. "My son was at the pediatrician’s office yesterday, and they actually started him on allergy medication and an inhaler. It makes you wonder if that has something to do with his illness or it is just incidental."

The school district says a recent report shows they don't have Chinese drywall. But Hummer says that now some American drywall companies are being linked to health issues. He says the district’s own report shows elevated levels of harmful chemicals.

"Out of the nine samples they took, two out of the three gases were through the roof."

A Sarasota County School District report says "after extensive research and testing, the school district has no scientific evidence that Lemarque Elementary School is unhealthy. Having said that, the district acknowledges that some staff members continue to report symptoms they believe may be related to the indoor environment.”

"If they were doing these tests all along, I feel the parents and grandparents had a right to know these tests were even being done before we sent our kids into that building."

Hummer says something needs to be done, and he's not going to stop raising awareness. "I will not stop. My mission is to save our children."

Wednesday afternoon, the school board met with health officials to discuss the situation at Lamarque Elementary further. Here's what they had to say to members of the media afterward. “I want to assure the parents and the staff that the health and safety of our children is our highest priority. we want to find out if there is any problem but we have to work with science and the facts so that we're making decisions based on the credible expertise of the experts that we have available to us,” said superintendent Lori White.

She says they'll be bringing in a toxicology expert from the University of South Florida to follow up with affected school staff members and advise the district on how to best handle the situation going forward.