STONE MOUNTAIN, Ga. (CBS46) – Investigators released new information Wednesday about the events surrounding a chemistry experiment that left a Redan High School student severely burned.
According to staff and student accounts, chemistry teacher Bridgette Blowe "froze in pure shock" when the flame grew out of control and spread across the desk, setting 15-year-old Malachi McFadden on fire.
Blowe told investigators the glassware was mislabeled. It is unclear which substance the teacher thought she was using when she poured it onto the flame. Investigators don't know if she was trying to put the fire out and restart the experiment or if she was trying to make the flame bigger.
Staff and students said the boy's head was down at the time and he never saw the flame coming his way. Other staff members had to step in and douse the flames.
Attorneys called for federal and state investigations into the incident in September after they said the school's investigation was taking too long.
The student suffered severe burns over his face, head, arms, neck and torso that required multiple skin graph and cosmetic surgeries.
McFadden’s attorneys said Blowe did not provide protective equipment, nor did she advise McFadden to stand 10 feet from the flames as mandated.
At the conclusion of a three-month investigation, investigators stated the allegation against the teacher is that her conduct that day was unprofessional.
Ms. Blowe acted in violation of the following provision(s) governing employee conduct:
• Board Police GBU: Professional Personnel Ethics, which incorporates the following provisions of the Code of Ethics for Educators as adopted by the Professional Standards Commission of Georgia:
• Standard 9: Professional Conduct -- An educator shall demonstrate conduct that follows generally recognized professional standards and preserves the dignity and integrity of the teaching profession. Unethical conduct includes but is not limited to any conduct that impairs and/or her employment position, or behavior or conduct that is detrimental to the health, welfare, discipline, or moral of students.
Standard sanction for an employee's conduct that results in injury to a student is termination, although resignation in lieu of termination and a 30-day suspension without pay or also options.
A spokesperson for the DeKalb County School District issued the following statement to CBS46 in August:
The health and safety of students and staff are among DeKalb County School District's top priorities.
Today, Aug. 6, an accident occurred at Redan High School during a lab experiment in which a student was burned from a flame. Emergency personnel were called to the scene to provide medical services to the student.
To maintain transparency with the Redan High School community, a communication from school leadership was sent to parents during the school day and after school.
The district considers this an isolated incident, but all safety measures will be reviewed and reiterated moving forward. The DeKalb County School District will rally around this student on his road to recovery.