|Back to Feb. Ed Reporter|
|NUMBER 169||THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS||FEBRUARY 2000|
STW Harms Students, Businesses|
ST. CLOUD, MN - A small manufacturing firm has been fined nearly $59,000 for federal child labor law violations which came to light after a 17-year-old student operating a power driven pallet-notching machine lost his arm last April. The boy was one of six students working at the company as part of the state's School-to-Work program. The school denies that this tragedy was due to the STW program, and the matter is now in court. Federal child labor laws prohibit employees younger than 18 from operating power-driven woodworking equipment.
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor notified the firm of the penalty on Jan. 10, and OSHA levied an additional fine of $7,000. The business owner claims he did not know the boy was underage, and says the school should have checked into the type of work the students were doing. He said the tragedy and resulting fines will force his small company out of business.
Notes the Maple River Education Coalition of Minnesota (MrEdCo): "Students who should be in school learning history, geography, literature and composition are employed in businesses across Minnesota during school hours.
"In this redefined system, students are being trained in specific skills for jobs. This young man lost his arm. All the kids have lost their opportunity for 12 years of liberal arts education that previous generations had the opportunity to receive."
The coalition believes that knowledge prepares students for a lifetime of roles and responsibilities, but that STW "robs them of their education, which is foundational to a free, self-governing people."