By Dr. Larry Feinsod
When I read the news articles alleging deceptive practices in the sale of turf fields to schools, the steam started coming out of my ears. The news accounts should anger anyone concerned about corporate responsibility, student health and safety, and limited financial resources for public education.
If you haven’t had a chance to read the series published by NJ Advance Media, you should do so now. It alleges that the company, FieldTurf, sold the artificial turf fields to schools across the state with full knowledge that the product was defective. One hundred sixty-four such fields have been installed in New Jersey, even though, since 2006, the company knew the turf was “cracking, splitting and breaking apart, long before it should…”
The news reports allege fraud and deception that bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars.
The company contends that the problem with the artificial turf does not affect player safety. However, the reality is that school districts have a responsibility to maintain playing fields in safe condition for their student athletes and physical education programs. That’s why a number of districts “have had to replace expensive turf fields far sooner than expected…” and, according to the news articles, sooner than they were led to believe by the company.
For affected school boards, legal action is a possibility. One prominent state Senator, former Governor Dick Codey, has called for a class action suit by municipalities and school districts. Other lawmakers are demanding an investigation by the state attorney general.
The New Jersey School Boards Association agrees that an investigation is in order, and we will assist local school boards in exploring possible legal action against the company.
NJSBA’s general counsel, Cynthia Jahn, is available to local school attorneys with information and assistance on identifying and coordinating legal action. She can be reached at [email protected] or (609) 278-5256.
Not only is this a financial issue for the affected school districts and their taxpayers, but it could also be a safety issue that affects our students. If these allegations are true, “outrageous” is the only adjective that comes to mind.
These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at [email protected]. Follow me on Twitter: @DrLarryFeinsod
December 7, 2016