NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Parents of four students filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday against New Jersey's largest school district and other public officials over lead found in drinking water.
The parents allege in the suit against Newark's public schools that the district deliberately exposed children to harmful levels of lead, which is known to severely affect a child's development. The district shut off water fountains at half of its buildings in March because of elevated lead levels.
The suit is seeking class-action status, according to attorney Joel Silberman. The lawsuit said the district's actions created and increased the risk of serious and life-threatening dangers to the children, and it seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
Newark schools spokeswoman Dreena Whitfield said the district hasn't been served with the lawsuit yet.
"At Newark Public Schools, the health and safety of our students and staff is our highest priority," Whitfield said. "That is why we have taken proactive measures to share water quality results broadly with the public; to engage experts to create a new baseline for water quality in our schools; and to go beyond efforts taken in the past to solve this historic issue once and for all."
Testing has shown elevated levels in some buildings over the last few years, and the district has been addressing issues of lead in the water since at least 2003.
Newark is working with the state Department of Environmental Protection as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to tackle the issue. Efforts include testing every tap at every school. The district is also offering blood tests to as many as 17,000 kids who were potentially exposed.
The lawsuit alleges that the testing sites were set up far from affected schools to make them inconvenient.