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Jackson Jr. High students allegedly told to eat outside on hottest day of heatwave

Jackson Jr. High parents say some students became sick after allegedly being told to eat lunch outside on the hottest day of the historic heatwave.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/ smolaw11
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JACKSON, Calif. — Two staff members at a foothill middle school are on leave after allegedly directing students to eat outside on the hottest day of a record-breaking California heatwave.

Students at Amador County's Jackson Junior High School were told Tuesday they were to eat lunch outside contradicting district policies, the Amador County Unified School District's superintendent said in a letter to families Wednesday.

Tuesday was forecasted to be the peak in a sweltering heat wave that has broken all-time record high temperatures across northern California.

The temperature in the Mother Lode town of Jackson reached around 110 degrees Fahrenheit Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

"The District has protocols in place for excessive heat days, as well as for days when we experience extreme cold temperatures which specify that students eat lunch indoors," Superintendent Dr. Torie Gibson said in the letter. "We expect all staff at all school sites to follow guidelines and directives established to ensure the safety of all students and staff during extreme weather."

For Cindy Stout-Cornell, a resident of Amador County, the unprecedented heat was enough to warm her house Tuesday.

Sitting in the heat as the state's power grid was being stretched to its limits, Stout-Cornell was in disbelief when her daughter-in-law called to let her know her grandson spent 30 minutes eating in the heat while at school.

"I remember being on the phone with my daughter-in-law and my mouth just dropping open," Stout-Cornell said. "I was horrified, my heart sank. That is, to me, willful cruelty to a child and child endangerment. 113-degree heat can do major health damage to adults, let alone children."

The risk turned to reality, Stout-Cornell said. Her grandchild was one of multiple 6th grade students who reported feeling signs of heat-related illnesses.

"He was a little sick, a little bit dizzy from the heat," Stout-Cornell said about her grandson's condition. "I have also talked to six other parents, two of whom have taken their kids to the E.R., they are all showing signs of heatstroke -- and those are just the parents that I've talked to."

With her grandson feeling better Wednesday, Stout-Cornell is in shock the decision was made to have children eat outside. She says the decision was meant to punish students who left a mess in a school gym on Friday before the Labor Day weekend. The district could not confirm that.

"It scares me that the very people we trust, who are supposed to protect and take care of our children completely dropped the ball," Stout-Cornell said. "I was just beyond shocked and horrified that they would put children out in 113-degree weather."

In her letter, Dr. Gibson apologized to families, adding the staff members who made the decision to direct students to eat outside have been placed on paid administrative leave pending an investigation.

"As soon as I learned of the situation, we began to investigate the allegations brought forth as we take the safety of our students and staff extremely seriously," the letter says. "Once the investigation is concluded we will take any necessary corrective action to ensure this does not occur again. Again, the safety of our students and staff is our top priority."

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