A New Jersey high school was evacuated last week because of an antique dinner plate. The students were escorted out of Haddon Township High School in Camden County and had to stand around on the football field as a hazmat crew arrived to investigate a report of a "potentially dangerous substance."
It turns out, the antique Fiestaware plate was coated with a glaze made of uranium oxide, which is considered radioactive. According to the Chery Hill Courier-Post, the student received a Geiger counter, which is used to measure levels of radiation, for Christmas and wanted to calibrate it using the plate.
He brought the plate to school on Monday (January 4), but it wasn't until Friday when somebody at the school felt the dish was potentially hazardous and sounded the alarm.
The student who brought the ceramic dish to school was not in class that day because of the school's hybrid schedule. He was visited by the police, who questioned him about the plate. Local officials said no charges are pending against the student, but school officials have not ruled out punishing him.
Students were allowed back into the building about 30 minutes later after officials deemed the building was safe.
A group of scientists penned a letter defending the boy and urged the school not to punish him. They pointed out that while the Fiestaware plates do emit some radiation, they are harmless.
"Fiestaware is frequently used as source material in public demonstrations, and is among the most benign radioactive materials commonly found in the home," the scientists wrote.
They said that punishing him would set a bad example and could temper the curiosity of young people interested in science and technology.
"The world needs more young engineers and scientists with a passion for hands-on learning, and we strongly encourage you to support this student rather than punish them for their curiosity," they said.
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