Blood experiment costs Harnett teacher her job

Posted October 28, 2013

— A former Harnett County teacher said Monday that she just wanted her students to get a good, hands-on lesson. School district officials said the activity was a little too hands-on, resulting in the teacher's firing.

Miyoshi McMillan wanted her Overhills High School honors biology students to conduct an experiment on blood typing last Thursday, and she used a lab kit that included synthetic blood and seven lancets.

"Some students were, like, 'Oh, this is cool. I want to know my blood type.'" McMillan said.

She allowed students to use the lancing needles to prick their own fingers. After using the needles, the students wiped them with alcohol swabs so the next class could use them.

Students who declined the blood test were given an alternate assignment, but one concerned student left class to call her parents, who then alerted assistant principals.

"They were, like, 'Stop the lab! Stop the lab!'" McMillan said.

Harnett County Schools spokeswoman Patricia Harmon-Lewis said every teacher in the district is instructed about the dangers of blood-borne pathogens.

"We don't want students to be, first of all, sharing a needle, and second, to have any type of human blood in the classroom," Harmon-Lewis said.

Overhills High School Teacher says school overreacted to experiment

Overhills High Principal Kylon Middleton called the situation "a nightmare," McMillan said, and the first-year teacher was fired by the end of the day.

McMillan said she thinks school officials overreacted.

"From my understanding, I thought, 'Well, it’s OK to use (a lancet). It’s there,'" she said. "If it was not OK to use, then I think it should have been taken out during the summer.

"I wanted to make sure that what I had within me, that I shared my knowledge to those kids," she said.

Harnett County health director John Rouse said the lancets are to be used only one time, and wiping them with alcohol isn't sufficient to eliminate exposure to pathogens.

Overhills High sent letters home with every student in the biology classes, suggesting that parents take their children to a doctor within 24 hours to have their blood analyzed. No health issues had been reported as of Monday.

"You’re not supposed to do that in the lab," Harmon-Lewis said. "That’s why we have synthetic slides."

McMillan is a lateral-entry teacher, meaning she has expertise in the field of biology but was still working on obtaining a North Carolina teacher's license. She said she is now moving on from teaching and is taking classes to earn a doctoral degree.

"It's OK. The best is yet to come for me," she said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • sandersongill Nov 1, 2013

    HIV, Hep C...what about Staph, MRSA? It's not just the most well-known bloodborne infections that someone needs to be concerned with when breaking the skin, and for her to think wiping what is intended to be sharp, disposable instrument (and labeled as such) will kill off any possible contamination is, considering her previous education, amazing.


  • sandersongill Nov 1, 2013

    "The state's video for teachers about blood-borne pathogens includes several errors. When a nurse is helping two students who are bleeding, she puts on latex gloves, but goes from one to the other without changing gloves. Maybe this former teacher watched it too closely."

    October 29, 2013 1:38 p.m.

    If the concern were to avoid infecting the children, you'd be correct. But often, as I have witnessed during a visit to my general physician, dentist or orthodontist, the gloves are more likely to protect the person administering from contracting something from the patient.
    Watch how many times your doctor or nurse doesn't change their gloves in the office, and how often they touch counters, doorknobs and other surfaces during the transaction. It makes me cringe.

  • yourcreepyunclelove Oct 31, 2013

    I used to live in Harnett county before my family moved to Cumberland. I'm taking biology this year, I could have been one of those students. And I probably wouldn't have questioned what the teacher said about the cleaning of the needles. I certainly wouldn't have wanted the alternate 5 page assignment. It's scary to think about because I have lots of old friends that still go to Overhills. I hope all the students in that class are okay.

  • 75Tarheel Oct 31, 2013

    This proves there is a big difference between common sense and book smarts!

    October 29, 2013 1:01 p.m.

    What an ignorant statement. Case closed.

  • Defiant Oct 30, 2013

    This was not poor judgement. This was stupidity and arrogance. Everyone, even the homeless guy on the street, knows the risk of blood borne pathogens when you share a needle, lancet, or whatever.

  • djofraleigh Oct 30, 2013

    Don't attack teachers in general, for this is one case, and the only case I've ever heard of happening. Ten years ago or so, in Wake County, a just-diagnosed diabetic bus driver checked the blood sugar of any riders who wanted it and tho she did use a new needle on each kid, was fired. Piercing the skin, drawing blood is a serious thing. Applause for the student who called her parent. Wonder if my kid would have done so?

  • djofraleigh Oct 30, 2013

    There is NO excuse for this teacher's ignorance and poor judgment. The fired teacher publicizing the firing shows further poor judgment. Let's hope the fired teacher, biology major, who is still excusing her actions, isn't hired by the SBI.

  • teacher56 Oct 29, 2013

    I certainly feel for this teacher and being a lateral entry without a license yet, may not have helped her. We do view a blood born pathogens video each year. But since AIDS came on the scene in the 1980's, we have known the dangers of actions like sharing needles. But she certainly has a point in that this kit with lancets should not have been in the school lab and at the very least, should have indicated it is not for student actual use. Such a poor judgement on the teacher's part unfortunately. But, with that said, if my child participated in this class, I would definitely talk to my lawyer. If any of the children shared lancets, you never know how long it would take to see if my child is OK.

  • Ohyoupeople Oct 29, 2013

    "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach anyway." -mattcli
    This made me laugh. Might not be the case for some but certainly fits in this particular case. Glad she is not teaching my kids.

  • workerbee Oct 29, 2013

    "Those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, teach anyway."---mattcli
    There's some ignorance going on here and it obviously wasn't just this teacher. I'm not a teacher and even I'm taken back by the insolence of that statement.