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Asbestos was discovered in South-Doyle High School’s library, specifically between the ceiling and roof, causing it to close on Thursday. The asbestos was found in the insulation on March 24. Testing confirmed it was positive for asbestos on April 6.
This discovery was a result of required inspections from a lawsuit over Mike LaSorsa, a former South-Doyle teacher and University of Tennessee (UT) football player. LaSorsa passed away from mesothelioma, a cancer caused by asbestos exposure.
The lawsuit was filed by his wife in January 2011 about two months after LaSorsa was diagnosed with mesothelioma. He died that same year in December.
“In connection with pending litigation, our environmental supervisor was inspecting to verify pipe insulation when the material was identified,” said Knox County School spokeswoman, Melissa Tindell.
The lawsuit is going to trial in a week to argue LaSorsa worked in an environment that contained asbestos—and the school knew about it. If so, the Knox County School system had the responsibility to warn LaSorsa and other employees about the hazards of asbestos as well as ensure they weren’t exposed to its dangers.
The complaint stated the school system’s “actions and inaction directly and proximately led to the condition suffered by [LaSorsa].”
LaSorsa taught geography, health, and driver’s education at Fulton and South-Young high schools. He also coached golf and baseball. During his time at UT, he was captain of the 1960 team.
“As a precaution and to ensure continued safe learning, we have closed the library for the remainder of the school year effective immediately,” wrote South-Doyle Principal Sherry Smith in an email to parents.
“The material is only contained in this area and has not been found in any other areas of the building. Additionally, air testing has confirmed there is no asbestos within the usable space of the library—only between the ceiling and the roof,” wrote Smith.
All classes, staff, and resources originally in the library are being relocated to continue usual educational activities.
“The environmental supervisor who found the insulation of the library has inspected similar areas of the building, but did not find the same asbestos-containing material,” said Tindell. “The school, however, does still contain asbestos in other parts of the building, which was built in 1967.”
“These other previously identified materials are in the asbestos management plan for the school,” said Tindell. Since it’s contained to the floor tile. It does not pose a risk to human health unless it crumbled or broken. If that were the case, the asbestos fibers would be released into the air and potentially inhaled.
The management plan was the result of a 1990 asbestos survey as part of a federally-mandated initiative. Each Knox County school re-inspects for asbestos every three years.
A meeting will be held for parents and students’ questions to be answered.