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Lawyer: School fountain wasn’t contaminated

POSTED: June 29, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The popular sports drink Gatorade was the only yellow liquid that touched a water fountain where fifth-grade boys were lined up and forced to take a drink, a lawyer for an embattled Banks County educator said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, an attorney representing a group of 25 parents said they aren’t accusing Banks County Elementary School Vice Principal Lori Rylee of making their children drink from a fountain contaminated with urine, but they strongly disapprove of her methods.

Rylee remains employed by the board of education while an investigation into the May 15 incident continues. The fountain was sent to a lab for testing.

Parents want Rylee fired for lining up about 100 male fifth-graders and having them drink from the fountain after a student reported seeing a yellow liquid around the drain.

Chan Caudell, the Cornelia attorney hired by the parents, said he found it disturbing that a school administrator would "play mind games" with a group of children.

"We know for a fact that at least some of these boys knew the vice principal was concerned about urine in the water fountain before she forced them to drink from it," Caudell said.

Rylee’s attorney, Michael Daniel, said the fountain was "thoroughly sanitized" by a custodian before the children drank from it. He said a student later came forward to say he had poured Gatorade in the fountain.

The matter first came to the attention of a teacher from a student, Daniel said.

"The student saw these yellow droplets around the drain and assumed it was urine," Daniel said. "There was no odor reported."

"We’re confident the test results will not show urine," Daniel said. "If for no other reason than it was sanitized in such an extensive manner."

Caudell, representing the parents, said the test results should have been available by now.

"Rest assured we will look closely at the chain of custody surrounding the testing of the fountain," Caudell said.

Daniel said Rylee has "an excellent work record" during her 13 years as an educator in Banks County and has the support of her colleagues and most parents in the school system.

"She’s never had a complaint before," Daniel said. "She wants to continue her career, and the majority of parents support her, because she’s such a good educator."

Banks County School District officials have not said when the investigation might be completed. Daniel said he hopes to see the matter resolved before the school year starts on Aug. 8.



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