School district awaiting state word on lab mishap


Staff writer

The Federal Way School district has invited the state Department of Labor and Industries to come in for a consultation in the aftermath of the chemistry lab explosion at Federal Way High School in January that left three students and one teacher burned.

DLI’s Jeff Leons is in charge of the consultation. He made his first visit March 2, and the district expects results from the consultation a month from now.

After a comprehensive review, the state agency will make recommendations based on any number of possible scenarios in a report, said DLI spokeswoman Elaine Fisher.

The Jan. 30 explosion occurred when science teacher Ingrid Lyden was adding methanol to mineral salts in a demonstration for students of how the salts cause different colors in the environment, according to the district. Flames reached the front row of students in the classroom.

Lyden and a student, Thomas Ziffino, were burned and hospitalized. Two other students who suffered less severe injuries were treated at a hospital and released.

District spokeswoman Diane Turner said the explosion was an aberration.

“We are in no position to determine fault in this situation,” Turner said. “This particular experiment has been conducted hundreds of times for years. Other teachers have done exactly the same thing — adding methanol to a beaker when no flame appeared to be present.

“Right now we must reassess our practices and focus on assuring safety of our staff and students.”

In addition to the DLI consultation, Turner said the district is planning to invite an independent consultant to determine whether district facilities match the school curriculum.

She said that before the accident, all of the district’s science teachers were scheduled to attend a half-day of safety training, conducted by the Washington State Risk Pool.

“In light of the accident, all science teachers will go to a full-day training session,” Turner added.

For now, the lab experiment involving methanol is no longer being conducted.

Fisher said the results of a consultation are confidential, but Turner said the district plans to publicize the findings.

Turner said she’s impressed with the maturity of the students in the lab and their reactions to the explosion.

“We have some heroic students who make heroic choices,” she said. “Our students never cease to amaze us. They acted in a such a mature way. That was a horrible situation, but their ability to not panic and do exactly what they were supposed to do is really something we take pride in.”

Staff writer Elizabeth Ciepiela: 925-5565,

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