Trust us. It’s perfectly safe.
I’m thinking of Health Canada, WHO (World Health Organization), and Dr. Perry Kendall, BC Provincial Health Officer. (For more on WHO and Kendall’s way of thinking, see this month’s Focus Magazine article “Will a flu shot keep you healthy? “ by Alan Cassels. About more than the flu shot, the article explores the often less than transparent way health policy is developed. Regarding WHO and the declared H1N1 “pandemic”, the committee that made the decision and thus caused billions to be spent on vaccine orders was “stacked with scientists who had ties to drug companies”. WHO is obviously a compromised and far from impartial agency.)
On October 17, School District 61’s Wifi Committee will reconvene after a long hiatus for one meeting only, apparently. GVTA teachers’ non-attendance at the meetings during job action has been pointed to as the reason for the long break. However, the Greater Victoria Teachers’ Association submitted a member ratified final document in January 2011, supporting the Precautionary Principle.
The Precautionary Principle states that if an action or policy has a risk of causing harm, in the absence of scientific consensus that the action or policy is harmful, the burden of proof that it is not harmful falls on those taking the action. In some legal systems, as in the law of the European Union, the application of the Precautionary Principle has been made a legal requirement.
The Toronto Sun reported on October 5, 2012: “Schools should not install wireless Internet systems because the technology is linked to learning disabilities, headaches and immune system deficiencies, according to an international association of physicians.The American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which is holding a conference on the brain and nervous system this week in Florida, says safer alternatives should be used instead of Wi-Fi.”
The Swiss Government has issued cautions in regard to wireless radiation emitted by baby monitors, cell phones, laptops, and tablets.
I am committed to implementation of the Precautionary Principle in SD61 in regard to WiFi in K-5 schools, as neighbouring Saanich School District has done after reviewing the research – no wifi K-5 for student use in Saanich Schools.
I am pleased to be one of two Trustees appointed by the SD61 Board Chair to this version of the Committee. I brought a motion to set up a real moratorium on WiFi in k-5 schools at the initial OPPS Standing Committee meeting of this school year . The chair did not allow debate or vote and referred my motion to the Wifi Committee, the chair’s rationale being that there had been a motion by the previous Board to send all WiFi discussion there. As this ruling seriously affected my motion, I asked the chair to provide it, with the date it was carried by the Board. It has not been provided.
Out of the October 17 meeting will come a recommendation for action to the School District 61 Trustees. It’s not clear who wrote the Rules of Engagement for this iteration of the Committee. I can only assume that it was the Chair, who was appointed by the Superintendent, not elected, contrary to SD61’s Ad Hoc Committee Bylaw.
As the appointment was contrary to a School District Bylaw, I thought the email announcement I received was a joke. (I know – what was I thinking? But my sense of what’s amusing has been warped from reading SD61 Policy, Regulations, Bylaws (and those of other Districts), Robert’s Rules of Order, and a lot of BCSTA and BCPSEA books and papers.)
So I asked. Not a joke
Parents who have asked to attend as observers have told me they have been told – very politely – that no, they are not welcome to attend, or to speak. This isn’t a joke, either. And isn’t at all funny.
Despite School District 61’s Public Information Policy that declares ” ..the right of all citizens to full, objective and timely information…”, if you’re a parent, teacher or other member of the public in School District 61 (Oak Bay, City of Victoria, Esquimalt,View Royal and parts of Saanich) interested in attending this critical meeting to observe and listen as Committee members develop a recommendation on Wifi rollout / a moratorium in SD61 K-5 schools: please just go away. You can’t come in.
The previous Chair, George Ambeault (former SD61 Secretary Treasurer,) resigned last spring to take a position with ERAC last spring . Focus Magazine journalist Rob Wipond reported on the functioning of the WiFi Committee at that time in his March 2011 Focus article “Can Wifi Harm Kids?“. It wasn’t pretty.
The Committee has not met for almost two years, and has missed the June 2011 deadline for provision of its recommendation to the Board by 16 months. A few more meetings to review new research, to re-establish public engagement and allow interested individuals to make updated spoken submissions would not derail the SD61 IT strategic plan, as there isn’t one.
But never mind listening to presentations on the research that has come forward over the last two years, and never mind electing a Chair according to policy and then developing rules of engagement for the Committee – there’s one meeting on October 17, 5 – 7 pm. The deadline for written submissions to the Committee was October 9. (After investigation, emails with “wifi’ in them are apparently no longer bouncing back to the senders due to “banned content”).
No spoken submissions, no observers, not run according to Policy and Bylaw . Regardless of your opinion about WiFi in K-5 schools and the Precautionary Principle, the process itself is grounds for concern.
On the issue, many parents find research conclusions on the effects of WiFi on young children’s brains alarming and expect that the Precautionary Principle will be followed in School District 61 as it has been in Saanich SD63. (In SD61, George Jay K-5 is already WiFi enabled. All SD61 middle and high schools are WiFi’d.) I have received so many emails from parents, citizens, and experts this week alone that I have not at this point counted them.
The BC Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils carried Resolution 18 at their 2012 AGM with a vote of 130 – 77. That resolution calls on Boards of Education to cease installation of Wi-Fi in schools where wired networking technology is feasible.
On a simply practical level, the Educational Resource Acquisition Consortium ( ERAC), which represents BC School Districts’ IT Departments has some serious concerns about security and practical application buried in their “it’s inevitable” paper “Wireless Networking for K-12 Education in BC”, written in July 2007: ” Wireless technologies are not able to provide the type of data speed experienced with wired connections, typically running at 100Mbps or faster. Thus wireless is still not an obvious replacement for a wired environment.” … [since] “…risks associated with wireless…[include] Reliability, slow speed of connections, interference from other devices, cost, security, manageability, compatibility, scalability and consistency of technology implementation.” All forms of internet access have come a long way since 2007. However, current reports from individuals in schools raise issues such as major costs for indeterminate payoff, unreliable access, and very limited printing access.
I will vote for a Recommendation to the full Board to establish a moratorium on rollout of wifi in K-5 elementary schools in the Greater Victoria School District.
Here are only a few of the reasons, and they keep coming in:
- The BC Education Plan is largely driven by the interests of technology companies
- Toronto Sun: Physician group adds weight to warnings of Wi-Fi in School , Oct 5, 2012: “Adverse health effects from Wireless Radio Frequency Fields, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, and headaches, clearly exist and are well documented in scientific literature”.
- Dr. David Carpenter, Director, Institute for Health and the Environment, Albany, New York,worries about the biological effects of wireless technology.
- The Safe School 2012 Report lists calls by doctors, doctors’ associations and international scientists for the protection of children against the health effects of WiFi and cellphone radiation. This site lists many credible sources of opposition to Wifi installation in schools (the following points are from that site).
- The Austrian Medical Association recommends WiFi free school environments.
- Dr. Dariusz Leszczynski, Research Professor at STUK (Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Finland) and a member on the May 2011 Expert Panel of the World Health Organization’s International Agency on the Research of Cancer (IARC) challenges Health Canada’s standards, which follow ICNIRP (International Commission on Non Ionizing Radiation Protection /standards, and clearly implies that Health Canada’s standards are outdated inadequate for protecting our children’s health. (Dr. Leszczynski blogs for the Washington Times at “A Rock and a Hard Place”. )
- Israel’s Deputy Health Minister Yaakov Litzman recommended immediate suspension of the installation of wireless Internet in schools.
- The Russian National Committee on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection recommends wired connections rather than WiFi.
- Switzerland’s Physicians for the Environment (MfE) organization states: “…the risk of cancer for this type of wireless radiation is thus similar to that of the insecticide DDT, rightly banned.”
- The American Academy of Environmental Medicine states: “Adverse health effects, such as learning disabilities, altered immune responses, headaches, etc. from wireless radio frequency fields do exist and are well documented in the scientific literature. Safer technology, such as using hard-wiring, must be seriously considered in schools for the safety of those susceptible individuals who may be affected by this phenomenon. “
- The American Academy of Pediatrics states: “… concerns have been raised that long-term RF exposure at this level affects the brain and other tissues and may be connected to types of brain cancer, including glioma and meningioma.”
- UK EM Radiation Research Trust: The previous Chairman for the UK Health Protection Agency and previous Chief Scientific Advisor to UK government “…stated that he could not rule out the possibility that there may be biological effects, adding that this means there may be changes in cognitive function and indications that there may be cancer inductions along with molecular biology changes within the cell. ”
Professor Olle Johansson, Department of Neuroscience, Experimental Dermatology Unit, Karolinska Institute sums up the issues in a letter to School District 61 Trustees and the WiFi Committee Chair: “The Precautionary Principle states when there are indications of possible adverse effects …the risks from doing nothing may be far greater than the risks of taking action to control these exposures. The Precautionary Principle shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk to those who discount it… Too many times, ‘experts’ have claimed to be experts in fields where actually the only expert comment should have been: “I/we just do not know”. Such fields were e.g. the DDT, X-ray, radioactivity, smoking, asbestos, BSE, heavy metal exposure, depleted uranium …where the “no risk”-flag was raised before true knowledge came around. Later on, the same flag had to be quickly lowered, many times after enormous economic costs and suffering of many human beings. Along those lines, it is now (regarding “the protection from exposure to electromagnetic fields” issue) very important to clearly identify the background and employment (especially if they sit, at the same time, on the industry’s chairs) of every ‘expert’ in different scientific committees…”
All this only touches the surface of the cautionary research that’s available.
On a different though not totally unrelated topic, “An indigenous approach to global crisis” (Focus magazine, October 2012), Umeek (also known as University of Victoria Associate Adjunct Professor E. Richard Atleo) says “It’s like Einstein’s statement about how we do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature is. …What is significant is how little humans know.”
And what do we want students to learn during their years in BC’s public schools? Of course, content, but fundamentally, isn’t it skills of critical thinking for a lifetime of learning, a sense of social justice, an understanding of and deep appreciation for the connections in the natural world, respect for all beings, self-knowledge, and skills of empathy and cooperation that are the life skills that carry one’s life?
No matter what technology we put in schools, students will always be a step or more ahead. Tech releases come too fast for cash-strapped school districts to keep up (the current plan is for students to bring their own wireless devices).
Michelle Stack, associate professor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of British Columbia said in “Technology In Schools: More Harm Than Good” (The Mark, September 5, 2912 ): “ Technology is an important part of what students need in the 21st century. Adults and young people can use technology in innovative ways to facilitate the education of themselves and others, but it is in the act of caring for each other that learning and development takes place, and this requires careful consideration of how much money we put into public education – and for what.
“Technology is not a panacea for problems and gaps in education: People are. My hope for the new school year is that more people will push policymakers to make sure all students have what they need, not just to be economically competitive, but to participate in envisioning and creating a future that is equitable, sustainable, peaceful, respectful, and democratic.”
The Recommendation of the SD61 WiFi Committee to the Board of Education of SD61 will be a significant event. The Committee meets October 17, 5-7 pm. This is not an in camera / secret meeting (of which SD61 has many).
But remember, you’re not welcome.