This photo shows Sít’ Eetí Shaanáx - Glacier Valley School the evening of Tuesday, June 14. On Wednesday, Juneau Police Department shared the findings of its investigation into an incident in which a dozen children drank floor sealant when it was served instead of milk during a summer program breakfast at the school with the district attorney. There was nothing to obviously suggest criminal charges would be appropriate, according to JPD. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

This photo shows Sít’ Eetí Shaanáx - Glacier Valley School the evening of Tuesday, June 14. On Wednesday, Juneau Police Department shared the findings of its investigation into an incident in which a dozen children drank floor sealant when it was served instead of milk during a summer program breakfast at the school with the district attorney. There was nothing to obviously suggest criminal charges would be appropriate, according to JPD. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

Police: No obvious basis for charges in ‘milk’ incident

Investigation of floor sealant being served at summer youth program being reviewed by prosecutors

There is “nothing obvious” to recommend criminal charges in the “milk” incident last week when 12 children and two adults drank floor sealant served to them at breakfast during a summer program at Sitʼ Eeti Shaanáx̱ – Glacier Valley Elementary School, a Juneau Police Department official said Wednesday.

Findings from the investigation that are “not necessarily recommending charges” have been turned over to the state district attorney’s office in Juneau, Lt. Krag Campbell said. He said a response from prosecutors is possible as early as Thursday.

“There was nothing obvious to us as far as criminal charges, but it is always best to get a prosecutor to look at it and see what they think,” he said.

The incident has been described as an accidental mix-up caused by improper actions by workers. Officials with the Juneau School District and NANA Management Services, which provides food services to the district, explained their findings during a Juneau Board of Education meeting last Friday.

Among the improper actions were:

— The delivery of milk and the sealant in similar-looking pouches on the same pallet, which were then stored in a warehouse location meant only for food products.

— A driver who mistook the solvent for milk, based on the white liquid visible in the pouches since the labeling was not highly visible, and delivered it to the three local schools hosting the summer program; and

— A server who failed to observe a “sip before serve” policy. District officials said the sealant doesn’t have a strong odor and a worker wearing a face mask, among other possible factors, might not have been obviously aware the substance wasn’t milk

The district has also acknowledged fault in a multi-hour delay before parents whose children had ingested the sealant were notified.

“NMS is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our clients, customers and the communities we serve. We’re incredibly thankful that nobody was seriously injured last week at Glacier View Elementary,” NMS said in a statement shared with the Empire. “As you can imagine, those involved are personally shaken by the errors. Nobody wants to put people in harm’s way, let alone students. NMS is mitigating against potential risks by taking corrective action with the team and individuals involved in the incident. Comprehensive employee training and renewed checks and balances are in progress, and we are working closely with the Juneau School District to address food service procedures.”

Some of the children were treated in the emergency room at Bartlett Regional Hospital or by other medical providers, but none appeared to suffer major or lasting effects from the sealant known as Hillyard Seal 341, which a safety data sheet states is “expected to be a low ingestion hazard.”

The incident has resulted in widespread anger among parents, and suspicion being voiced on social media locally and nationally about how such a mix-up could occur accidentally.

NANA has contracted with the district for food services since 2018 and a renewal for the 2022-23 school year was scheduled for final school board approval the same day the serving incident occurred. The board has delayed action on the renewal pending the outcome of the investigation, although it is asking district officials to arrange a short-term extension if necessary since the existing contract expires June 30.

In the meantime, the district is now serving grab-and-go meals that include individual cartons instead of hot meals where milk from pouches could be served in cups.

Contact reporter Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com.

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