Simcoe School Brd ignores parents “wireless” concerns

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.

8 thoughts on “Simcoe School Brd ignores parents “wireless” concerns

  1. So WiFi has been around for how long? And we’re just hearing about this now? The ‘science’ behind EHS individuals is a hoot.

    If you follow the links back to Havas and Stetzer, etc., you’ll see where all this leads… and it’s not to the safety of children. Research ‘Dirty Electricity’ and ‘Stetzer filters.

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  2. I am not going to get into condemning the parents and will not be approving any more comments that are of that nature. I heard all that in the 1970’s and 1980’s when it came to asbestos and mold and allergies — psychosomatic, etc. which proved to be VERY wrong.

    My point of this post is that the Simcoe Board of Education has an obligation to help the children who are getting sick. Why? Because said parents and their children are bound by law to send their children to a public school. Therefore, for ethical reasons, the Board should not simply wash their hands of the problem. Rather, the right thing to do is for the Board to find a solution that is workable for everyone: continue to use Wi-Fi in most schools but provide a location that is hardwired for those children experiencing health problems. Or, if all else fails, to provide teachers for home instruction.

    Comment moderation is now turned on.

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  3. Robert North — You should know better. You are running to represent all parents and all children. Minimizing dissenting voices does not become you. I personally have no problem with Wi-Fi. However, to link having wireless transmitters with 21st Century education is positively ridiculous. And, the powers that be would have to know that. Pure spin. Let’s get serious and come up with solutions, not more ridicule. Please!

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  4. Sandy – Where do we draw the line when it comes to a parents group (in reality, about 6 people) making outrageous claims? The same individuals who ‘researched’ this ‘problem’ also state that things like flourescent lighting throws off ‘dirty electricity’ and is making people sick. The same people. I suppose to a degree I’m making fun of them, but the larger message is where does this stop? There are standards for research to measure up to the sniff test, and this doesn’t cut it.

    If we say yes to this demand, do we then start assigning children to various re-wired classrooms? If we agree that WiFi makes people sick – it needs to come out of every school, hospital, and publicly funded building.

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  5. Robert North — Okay, all fair points. I just think that it would be wise to nip this in the bud and accommodate the children involved. I worked for an MPP during the Mike Harris days and I have to tell you, issues can fester and take on a life of their own. As a trustee, you are between a rock and a hard place, I understand that. But, some leadership on this would be good for your constituents. Yet, what I am reading between the lines is that you have been co-opted by the system and you don’t want to lose credibity. Not an easy situation and I won’t judge because I know you walk a fine line.

    I also agree that the world is not going to stop. We have flourescent light bulbs and we have microwave ovens. But, going entirely wireless is not really necessary. I am surprised at that. One hopes that there are some blocks on the board’s system to ensure no one outside the board can use the bandwidth.

    Anyway, in terms of the research sources I link to, we have to remember that there are three paradigms and they have very little integration. Quantitative, qualitative and phenomenological. My bet is the Trent research is one of the latter two. The only real differences is the questions asked. Quantitative asks “what.” The other two “why” or “how.” So, since I don’t have time to read up on the research, I’ll have to assume that the work is peer reviewed. One may disagree but that doesn’t mean the research findings are not valid within the paradigm used. Technical, yes, but the reason there is so much difference of opinion on any research.

    I would very much appreciate your letting me know here if the Simcoe Board changes their position, even a little bit, so I can do an update. That seems only fair.

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  6. Here is the MacDonald link — which I will add as an update to my post. The fact that this issue is being debated this early in the technology shows the subject is not finished yet. That said, there has to be an impact from a lot of cable as well. Our whole environment is potentially toxic to someone. I have allergies to house dust and mold. So, I have hardwood and swiffer often. Those who don’t have such allergies can have wall-to-wall rugs. Such is life.

    The problem is that school is compulsory and why whole schools must be peanut free if even one child is at risk. Similarly, some type of accommodation will need to be figured out for the children affected by Wi-Fi as well.

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  7. Putting my summer break post back up on the top. As I have done all summer, I’ll not be back unless there is a story or issue that I really want to write about. Anyway, between now and Labour Day Weekend, lots to do.

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