Student helper receives burns for cookie treat

Posted: Friday, December 20, 2002

When an 8-year-old North Star Elementary School third-grader burned her arm while helping in the school kitchen Dec. 10, her mother got mad.

Her concerns included: How did it happen? Who was supervising the little helpers? Why was the school even allowing such young people to work? And why wasn't the mother informed that her little girl was working?

"I had no clue," said Helaine Kastner-Kinslow.

"She said she was helping out and getting a cookie."

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District says school children are not actually working, they're just helping out.

"Throughout our district, schools do have children helping in the kitchen," said Todd Syverson, assistant superintendent of schools.

"The kids are not working, they're volunteering. Some kids enjoy helping," he said.

Kastner-Kinslow's daughter, Heather, suffered second- and possibly third-degree burns to her left forearm while helping do dishes after lunch, according to her mother.

"It seems that the children were trained in using the high-temp. dish sanitizer/sprayer," said Kastner-Kinslow in an e-mail message.

"However, the adult-sized glove slipped off her skinny little arm, exposing tender skin to 160-degree water," she said.

Kastner-Kinslow, who is a licensed practical nurse, said her professional knowledge and information she found on the Internet led her to determine the temperature of the water.

"It takes 160-degree water to cause third-degree burns to the skin in less than one minute," she said.

Syverson said dishes are not sanitized at North Star Elementary School, but rather are rinsed and sent on to the district's central facility for sanitizing.

"We have got an investigation going on now to determine what the temperature of the water was," he said.

Kastner-Kinslow also said she never gave her permission to allow her daughter to work in the kitchen.

"The school never sent anything home. They just had a sign-up sheet at the school and the kids who helped out would get a cookie," she said.

Syverson said he was not aware of how volunteers are obtained at North Star.

"It varies from site to site," he said. "With 42 schools in the district, it varies."

After the incident, Kastner-Kinslow took her daughter to Dr. Lynn Carlson in Kenai and later to a plastic surgeon in Anchorage.

"She has to undergo wound debridement -- scrubbing -- twice a day," said the mother.

"She's been so amazingly brave. She's been scrubbing for five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night.

"She doesn't want an infection setting in or any nasty scars.

"Right now, I don't think she'll need skin grafts," she said Thursday.

Kastner-Kinslow was referred to the school district's insurance company, according to Syverson.

"They pay 80 percent," said Kastner-Kinslow.

"And we have Denali KidCare. They pay for whatever is not paid by the insurance. We're so fortunate," she said.

Asked if she has taken legal action against school authorities, Kastner-Kinslow said, "I have considered it."

"I am pulling her out of North Star, though," she said.

"I'm thinking about home-schooling her."

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