Update: Here is what the Toronto Sun’s Moira MacDonald has to say on the topic today. Pretty much my point of view. We don’t know. Technology doesn’t stand still for any of us. Yet, schools make accommodations for a peanut allergy. Why can’t they do the same for kids who are allegedly getting sick from the radiation emitting from their school’s Wi-Fi network? Guaranteed, this topic is not going to go away anytime soon.
Original article starts here: School board officials can be extremely arrogant and dismissive when they want to be on any number of issues and Ontario’s Simcoe County School Board (located north of Toronto in the Barrie area) appears to be no exception.
Their claim? That even when it appears radiation from Internet wireless transmitters is making some kids sick, unless every single school in their board goes wireless, they are not taking advantage of the new world of 21st century learning.
Talk about spin and an exaggerated statement! It is not wireless that brings schools, teachers and children into the world of 21st century learning — it is the Internet. And, being hardwired, while it may be inconvenient to have wires everywhere, is just as effective to that learning because the key is accessing the Internet, not “how” one accesses it.
The Children of Simcoe County Getting Sick
The problem? The issue involves allegations that 30+ children have suffered extreme symptoms of headaches, dizziness, nausea and fatigue since the school board went totally wireless four years ago. Given that the children involved have no such adverse symptoms on the weekends and during the summer, it would seem sensible to take the allegations at face value. Yet, strangely, while the Simcoe school board says they don’t want to put children at risk, they still won’t do anything to rectify the situation.
As a result, the parents of the sick children have formed the “Simcoe County Safety School Committee.” According to Adam McDowell of the National Post, (H/T Jack’s Newswatch) leading the parent campaign is Rodney Palmer of Collingwood who said: “His nine-year-old son and five-year-old daughter have both fallen ill from being at Mountain View Elementary School.”
So, what does the Simcoe Board of Education say in response?
McDowell quotes Mr. John Dance, a superintendent of education with the Simcoe Board. He says:”We’re in the business of education. We don’t put children at risk, but we can’t just shut it down and affect the learning of 50,000 students because someone says it might have health effects….We wouldn’t be in the new world of 21st century learning if we went hardwired. It’s not a path we want to go back to.”
“Not a path they want to go back to?” Talk about arrogance! The Simcoe School Board DOES have options, does have paths it could take. For example, it would not be that difficult to have at least one elementary and one high school that were hardwired and then busing the children adversely affected to those schools.
Learning From History
I would remind Mr. Dance and other Simcoe Board officials and trustees about previous claims that certain substances weren’t toxic. I can remember when I started teaching elementary school in the early 1970’s. My specialty was visual art and, like all schools in Ontario, we were able to use asbestos for carving and forming sculptures. The worst part of it is, in hindsight, that not only did the children breath the substance, they also played with it in their hands.
Sure, school boards heard the concerns of parents and scientists but it took years before someone finally recognized that asbestos was a very toxic substance — resulting in entire schools being shut down to remove it from art rooms and ceilings.
Then there was mold. As with the asbestos, like many teachers and students, I can remember having a homeroom classroom where one corner of a wall was grey with mold. I was constantly sick with respiratory infections and allergies, as were many of my students. Yet, the board I worked for didn’t seem to be too concerned about it. So, one Saturday, my husband and I took soap and water and cleaned the wall ourselves. Interestingly, everyone got better after that. Of course, a decade later, mold was seen for what it was, an extremely toxic substance and schools were cleaned from top to bottom.
Educational Facilities Can Be Proactive
Interestingly, the Simcoe School Board’s response does not reflect what other educational institutions and researchers are doing or recommending. For instance, Lakehead University seems to be a way ahead of the curve on this one by banning all Internet wireless transmitters from their campus. Then, there is Magda Havas, a researcher at Trent University’s Centre for Health Studies, who according to McDowell: “Sent an open letter to school boards last year, before the Simcoe County controversy, warning educators of the potential dangers of Wi-Fi in classrooms. She counselled a better-safe-than-sorry policy of limiting exposure.”
So, I would hope that Simcoe School Board and all other school boards take a long look at the potential side effects of wireless transmitters and deal with the concerns of parents and children involved.
C/P Jack’s Newswatch.