Union Co. teachers say district-issued cleaner is dangerous for students, staff

Teachers concerned about cleaning solutions

INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. (WBTV) – Teachers in Union County Public Schools have raised concerns about a cleaning solution issued for use in classrooms this school year.

The cleaning solutions, called QT, was issued to teachers with instructions to use the spray to wipe down desks and other common surfaces in between classes.

But a label on the spray bottle suggests that may be harmful to students’ health.

At the top of the label affixed to the back of the spray bottle given to teachers, are the words “HAZARDS TO HUMANDS AND DOMESTIC ANIMALS,” in bold, capital letters.

“Harmful if absorbed through skin. Causes moderate eye irrigation. Avoid contact with eyes or clothing,” the instructions begin.

A separate instruction manual for the cleaning product advises users to wear glasses or goggles when using the product.

Teachers in Union County weren’t given those instructions. They were only given the spray bottle and a cloth.

Sophia Stephenson was one of the teachers who is raising questions about the product as part of a group called EduAdvocates.

This is the back label of the QT spray bottle issued to teachers in Union County.
This is the back label of the QT spray bottle issued to teachers in Union County. (Source: EduAdvocates)

“We’ve heard of Lyson, we’ve heard of Clorox and we know the generic brands of those. What, exactly, is QT?” she asked.

That question, she said, is what led her to discover the potential harm that could come from regular use of the product as directed by the school district.

“As you continue to learn or make a decision about how to properly use this product, you found that there was one brick wall after another.”

Stephenson said she teaches in a classroom without a window that opens. She’s required to keep her door closed and locked during the school day for student safety. That means she has no way to ventilate her classroom after using the powerful cleaner.

“It just seems like a really high, high hazard material to be putting in classrooms to be used repeatedly,” Brittany Gendron, another Union County educator and member of EduAdvocates said.

Gendron, Stephenson and other members of their group arranged a meeting to express their concerns with UCPS administrators, including Superintendent Andrew Houlihan. But, the women said, Houlihan didn’t show up for the meeting. He sent a representative instead.

A day after the meeting, the district released a new list of cleaning products approved for classroom use but didn’t hand out any of those alternatives.

The district said teachers should ask parents to donate cleaning supplies.

Gendron pointed out that things like Clorox wipes and other common disinfectants remain hard to find.

“School starts on Monday. What are folks supposed to do?” she asked.

A UCPS spokeswoman declined a request to make someone available to answer questions for this story on camera. She did, however, issue the following statement:

“In Union County Public Schools, health and safety is paramount. UCPS is following all state guidelines related to safety, cleaning and sanitation. Throughout each day, UCPS will provide continuous cleaning of all areas in school buildings, including classrooms and high-touch surfaces, such as door knobs, handles and railings. As an added layer of cleaning and sanitation in classrooms, teachers were provided an approved, safe and ready to use product to disinfect surfaces. Teachers are not required to use the product, as school custodians will follow continuous disinfecting protocols during the school day. If teachers have concerns about using the product, they should speak to their supervisor.”

“If thy were never intending for every teacher to use it, they should not have sent it to all teachers,” Gendron said.

Both Gendron and Stephenson laughed when a reporter asked if they felt like the district had provided a satisfactory response to their concerns.

“There is no satisfactory answer that the district will respond to regarding any questions that involve COVID or how schools are operating during this season,” Stephenson said.

Ultimately, both women are concerned the district’s lax response to their complaints could endanger children exposed to the powerful cleaner.

“The last thing we want to see is a child be endangered and that’s why we’re speaking about this product,” Stephenson said.

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