Joint meeting being held to discuss Bayshore HS cancer concerns

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — For the very first time, Manatee County commissioners met with school board members to discuss the alarming cancer mystery surrounding Bayshore high school.

Hundreds of alumni have been diagnosed with cancer or rare diseases, and these officials want to get to the bottom of it.

Andrea Ashton says when her son Andrew attended Bayshore high school in the early 90s, the warning signs were there.

“He would come home and say, mom, it has a smell to it, and when he was 16, he had fallen in the hallways and lost feeling in his legs and I would just pass it off,” recalled Ashton.

Andrew died of cancer when he was 17. He’s just one of hundreds of alumni and relatives who were diagnosed with cancer or other rare diseases.

“I don’t want to see another parent go through what I go through,” said Ashton.

There are theories of the possible cause—whether it’s buried diesel tanks or chemicals from a nearby machine shop.

So on Thursday, county commissioners and school board members got together to discuss an investigation.

“Has anybody ever looked at what was in the buildings?” County Commissioner Carol Whitmore asked out loud.

“What do those contaminants do? Are they just floating around in groundwater? Do they sink?” asked school board member Charlie Kennedy.

Dr. Jennifer Bencie, the administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County pointed out the state needs medical records from the victims before a true thorough investigation can be done.

“The community is key, we need data! We need medical information,” said Dr. Bencie.

The Department will work with the state to figure out funding and how to collect these hundreds of medical records.

“It is a public health issue and we need once and for all to determine is there a cause or is this just natural cancer in our community,” Dr. Bencie explained.

School Board member John Colon stressed the importance of finding a solution.

“The school is still open and if there’s an issue there, we need to determine if that issue is ongoing,” said Colon.

Ashton is optimistic.

“The Lord has his hand in this and I think we’re going to get victory this time,” Ashton said.

If you know someone connected to Bayshore High School and they were diagnosed with cancer or other rare illnesses, contact the Florida Department of Health in Manatee County about providing a copy of the medical records to help in this investigation.

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