Photos of unsanitary conditions at a Miami, Florida high school went viral and caused outrage among parents and students.
The photos showed numerous health hazards at the Sunset Senior High School, including a moldy carton of fruit punch, cockroaches on walls and in food, and brown tap water.
“When I’m in school I expect to be taken care of,” student Angie Garcia said. “I expect to be protected by the staff and by the faculty and they did none of that. I’m not sure what their interests are, but it’s certainly not us. It was just deplorable.”
According to some students, a sign was posted next to the water fountain that advised people not to drink the water. Students bring their own water bottles from home.
The photos quickly spread throughout social media after a Buzzfeed article went viral. Aside from garnering attention nationwide, the photos also caused a stir among local parents concerned for their children’s safety. For Sunset’s students, however, the conditions are reportedly a daily reality.
“At least once a day you'll see a roach in my school,” sophomore Andrea Pereyra said. “There's never any hand soap to wash your hands. There's rarely toilet paper or paper towels. It just looks like they're never cleaned. The floors are disgusting.”
Darlene Pratt, a mother whose two sons attended Sunset Senior High School, said she is deeply concerned for the health of her younger son, Eric, a 10th grader at the school.
“I'm disgusted,” Pratt said. “Health hazards, safety hazards, it's a huge concern and seeing the pictures with the mold, and knowing that that is what my child is being served for lunch, it's very, very, very disturbing.”
Pratt’s son, Brandon, who graduated from Sunset in 2013, said the unsanitary conditions existed long before the photos hit the Internet.
“The school, it was rundown since I got there in the freshman orientation,” he said. “And I wondered, is this how my school is really going to be?"
Eric said he drank the water in the past but didn’t realize how bad it was until he saw it in a water bottle. “I drank the water. It just looks disgusting in a water bottle. If you see it yourself, it just looks all foggy and stuff,” he said. The school district said that, despite its brown color, the water passed safety tests.
Miami-Dade School Superintendent Barbara Mendizabal maintained that, despite the controversy, the school is not always in such poor condition. “What we can say also is that prior to winter break, the building was not cleaned properly,” Mendizabal said. The superintendent said that the moldy juice was not actually consumed by anyone and was thrown away after being reported by a student.
“A student, during lunch time brought it up to the assistant principal's attention, that the juice tasted funny,” she said. “He brought it up with the cafeteria manager and the assistant manager, and they quickly picked up all the juices and discarded the juices.”
Mendizabal said that the school is in the running to receive a $6 million grant, which would go toward repairs and renovations to make the school more sanitary. "Some of the upgrades will include the upgrading of the plumbing system, will include also renovation of the restrooms, painting throughout the building,” stated the superintendent.
Pratt said she’s pleased that the photos have prompted the school to do something about its health hazards. “I'm very glad to see that it's finally coming to light now because our children really do deserve a good environment to learn in,” she said.