Family Sues California School District After 13-Year-Old Was Badly Burned When Science Experiment 'Blew up in His Face'

A family is suing a California school district after a 13-year-old was badly burned in the face when a science experiment went wrong.

Priest Rivera suffered burns to his face, neck and chest after the incident at Capri Elementary School in Encinitas, California, on June 13 last year.

His family has now filed a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District in San Diego Superior Court, accusing the district of negligence and negligent supervision and training.

The complaint alleges the district and teacher Lori Feinberg failed to maintain a safe environment for students and subjected Priest to "unreasonable risk."

It also claimed Feinberg failed to safely plan and execute the "dangerous" experiment and left the teenager with "severe" and "permanent" injuries.

"He has to wear his bucket hat every single day at school," the boy's father, Jason Rivera, told CBS 8.

Priest was injured after a science experiment commonly known as the "black snake" or "carbon snake"—which involves a mixture of baking soda, sugar, sand and alcohol that ignites to create snake-like ash—allegedly blew up in his face.

"It wasn't really working and the science teacher kept pouring more rubbing alcohol to make the flame build up more," the boy told CBS 8 last year.

"It went wrong and blew up in my face," he said, adding that his face, hair and neck caught on fire.

He spent a week in hospital and has had to undergo multiple surgeries. His medical bills are substantial and on-going, Joanna Fox, an attorney representing the Rivera family, told Newsweek.

The lawsuit said Feinberg took sixth-grade students, including Priest Rivera, outside of the school building and "recklessly" performed a flammable experiment in windy weather.

Students were not provided with any protective glasses or safety equipment, such as a fire blanket, the lawsuit said.

"The family felt that they had no option but to file a lawsuit to ensure their child had the resources he needs for his past and future medical treatment, and hopes the case will also bring about changes that will prevent this type of horrible incident from happening again," says Fox.

"The family hopes that the case raises awareness for parents to question their school officials about what is happening in their classrooms.

"The school here had promised open communication with the students' families, but the Riveras were never informed this type of dangerous experiment involving flames, alcohol and wind was taking place without any significant safety precautions."

She added that Priest Rivera is still receiving consistent medical treatment for his burn injuries and has also been deeply affected emotionally. "It is incredibly difficult for his loving parents to see the changes that this incident has caused in their young son," Fox added.

The lawsuit doesn't specify the amount of damages that are being sought, but is seeking a jury trial to determine the amount of relief to be paid.

The Encinitas Union School District has been contacted for comment.

This article has been updated with a statement from the family's attorney.

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Stock photo. A family is suing a California school district after a 13-year-old was badly burned in the face when a science experiment went wrong. Getty Images