Mom demands answers after son, 8, burned by hot tar at school
Rachael D'Amore, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, April 12, 2018 4:10PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, April 13, 2018 10:03AM EDT
The mother of an eight-year-old boy who suffered serious burns after hot tar leaked from the roof of his North York school says she feels the board failed to provide a safe place for her son to learn.
Azeriah Jeremiah says he was playing games with his Grade 3 class in Derrydown Public School’s gymnasium on Monday when they encountered a “weird smell.”
When Jeremiah and his friends walked toward the smell, hot liquid asphalt seeped through the roof and dropped onto them.
“It was raining tar,” he said. “It fell on me and my other friend… He was screaming.”
Jeremiah and one other student rushed to get help and were brought to the Hospital for Sick Children to be treated for what were described as “minor injuries.”
Nyoka Colman, Jeremiah’s mother, says she believes her son’s injuries are far more than minor.
“What they said was more than an understatement,” she said.
“He has burns on his neck… There is so much tar in his hair that after four days they can’t even get out half of it. There’s still tar on his hands. It’s still very painful and very itchy. He’s on pain medication around the clock. You can see that it’s something that’s going to take a very long time to heal.”
Colman told CTV News Toronto that she was out of the country on vacation when she got a phone call telling her that Jeremiah was in the hospital.
She said she rushed to find a way back to Canada to be reunited with her son.
“He was so sad. He cried on the phone…I cried on the phone,” she said. “He was concerned more about how I felt. He was assuring me that he was being well cared for and will be better soon.”
As she learned more about the circumstances that put her young son in hospital, Colman grew frustrated by what she believes was poor judgement on the Toronto District School Board’s (TDSB) part.
Colman claims the school’s vice-principal told her that some students reported feeling nauseous by the smell of the ongoing roof work prior to her son getting hurt.
“I just feel that the Toronto District School Board failed to do their job. I didn’t send my son to school to be hurt. I feel that it’s supposed to be a safe environment and they are supposed to make good judgement, and they failed to do so,” she said.
“These are the things the school board needs to look into, whether they have to put fans in the school, put signs up, block off certain areas – the children need to be safe.”
TDSB spokesperson Ryan Bird confirmed Monday that work was being done on the school’s roof when Jeremiah and his friend were injured.
He said the gym was closed immediately after the incident and that the investigation is ongoing.
Colman said she doesn’t blame the teachers or staff at the school for what happened, adding that the principal and a group of teachers visited Jeremiah in hospital on Thursday.
She says she’s yet to hear from TDSB about what took place.
“I feel hurt by the statement that was made because no one actually took the time out to see my son’s injuries, to actually hear from the doctor before they made that claim,” she said.
Four days after the incident, surrounded by stuffed toys and gifts, Jeremiah remains in hospital where he continues receive medical care.
While he says he’s “trying to be strong,” Jeremiah has had nightmares about that afternoon.
Colman isn’t sure when her son will be ready to return to the school.
“It’s more about his self-esteem,” she said. “One of his concerns was that the kids are going to make fun of his scars. He had dreams about him going back into the gym and the whole thing happening all over again… It just feels like a nightmare to him.”