Lea DiRusso, the career city teacher diagnosed last year with a deadly asbestos-linked cancer, is in line to be paid $850,000 by the Philadelphia School District.
The school board on Thursday night will consider a resolution allowing the district “to execute, deliver, and perform a settlement agreement” with DiRusso and Amr Osman, her husband, who had filed notice of intent to sue the school system.
The settlement comes “in exchange for a release of all claims that have been or could be asserted against the district,” according to language included in board documents. "The Office of General Counsel recommends this settlement as a fair and appropriate resolution of the parties’ dispute.”
After spending 28 years as a special-education teacher at two South Philadelphia elementary schools — Meredith and Nebinger, both with known asbestos problems — DiRusso began feeling ill last spring. Doctors were confounded by her swelling, hard belly, suggesting it was related to menopause or gastritis.
The day she moved her daughter into college, DiRusso got the diagnosis: mesothelioma, caused by ingesting or inhaling asbestos fibers.
At 51, she knew she had received a death sentence. She knew she would likely never return to her classroom, and she knew her days with her new husband and her two children, 18 and 16, were numbered.
And she replayed over and over again the way she routinely swept up white particles that flaked off the asbestos-wrapped heating pipes in her classroom. The district even issued her a broom so she could tidy up the carcinogen and other messes that went along with working in a 90-year-old building.
"You just scoop it up, you clean it up, and you move on,” DiRusso said in a 2019 Inquirer interview.
She said the School District never told her that the material around the pipes was a carcinogen. If she had known, she would have never strung up a clothesline from pipe to pipe to display student artwork.