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Burned student's attorney says school district won't pay for his surgeries

NBC News logo NBC News 1/25/2020 Janelle Griffith

A Georgia school district won't cover the cost of reconstructive surgeries for a high school student who suffered serious burns during a chemistry class demonstration, his family's attorney says.

a man smiling for the camera: Image: Malachi McFadden © Courtesy L.Chris Stewart Image: Malachi McFadden

Malachi McFadden suffered third-degree burns on his face, neck and arms, and was hospitalized after a botched "burning money demonstration" at Redan High School, just outside Atlanta, on Aug. 6, attorney L. Chris Stewart told NBC News.

Stewart said the DeKalb County School District recently told McFadden's family that it will no longer insure the teacher involved in the incident.

"They have no money assigned to pay for when a student's injured," Stewart said in an interview Friday.

McFadden's injuries will require reconstructive surgeries to return his skin to normal, Stewart said. McFadden's family must use their insurance to cover the cost of the teen's surgeries. When it runs out, the district will cover "life-saving treatment," Stewart said.

McFadden's facial surgeries are considered cosmetic and will not be covered by the district's insurance, Stewart said.

"He's still horrifically burned," Stewart said. "Still having major pain and issues."

The school district did not immediately return a request for comment.

The teacher was attempting a demonstration that involves lighting an accelerant-soaked bill on fire.

"The experiment calls for someone to coat a dollar bill in a solution that is half alcohol and half water, then set it on fire and allow it to burn until the flame goes out," according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The school district released a report by an investigator for the DeKalb County school system on Oct. 21 that includes witness statements from students and teachers.

a man looking at the camera: Image: Malachi McFadden © Courtesy L.Chris Stewart Image: Malachi McFadden

The teacher performing the experiment wrote in a statement included in the report that she had successfully completed the demonstration in previous years and twice on Aug. 5.

On Aug. 6, during her first-period chemistry class, the flame did not burn out completely, she wrote. She said she attempted to extinguish the flame with water, "but reached for the alcohol instead, by mistake."

The report says it was unclear "whether she was trying to put the fire out and restart the experiment or trying to make the flames larger so that students could see the flame."

The report said the teacher violated district standards. Regional Superintendent Sean Tartt recommended she be fired "due to the severity of the incident," but the school's principal Janice Boger recommended she be suspended and receive training on classroom safety, according to the report.

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