d) Peter Milne, parent: Wireless in Schools [full text of presentation to the Board]
I’m here tonight to ask you not to lift the ban on Wi-Fi in elementary schools and consider the legacy you want to leave in SD 61.
In my view, the VCPAC process was flawed on many levels.
- All committee members were not included or consulted regarding the final changes to the survey.
- Many parents continue to share complaints of not receiving the survey and/or the introductory letter.
- Some parents have voiced concerns of being asked their position when asking for the survey, raising concerns of process and transparency.
- At least one participant was not an SD61 parent, how many more nonparents were there?
- Whether parents have Wi-Fi at home is not relevant and misleads the outcome. Your responsibility is their well-being at school.
- 25% of parents who participated have health related concerns; this is significant.
- 1/3 of the participants left comments; there was no indication whether this 1/3 represented those who were concerned or unconcerned. Many of the comments show legitimate concerns.
- Supporters of Wi-Fi have suggested these concerns come primarily from the 25% who expressed concern, without evidence. Regardless, both anytime internet access and negative health effects are legitimate issues.
Tonight’s motion promises to monitor our health authorities. You’ve been provided examples of numerous conflicts of interests demonstrating these authorities are not fulfilling their roles to protect.
In my view, our provincial health officer has ignored independent science, including a recent BC CDC (BC Center for Disease Control) report identifying a link between cell phones and harm to sperm yet has provided no public warning while school districts continue to encourage Bring Your Own Device policy.
As you know, as trustees you are not bound by these health authorities.
Many believe that students must have Wi-Fi and wireless devices or they’ll be left behind the 21st Century. This is the position of education reformers, whose partners include the Gates Foundation, Cisco and other industry leaders behind the BCED plan. The push for Wi-Fi is to provide “learning anytime, anywhere” This ignores the scientific evidence of harm and the option to use digital technology more safely.
I leave you with a few questions:
- As per Canadian Occupational Health and Safety legislation, how will you ensure teachers and students are using devices and equipment according to the manufacturer’s specification? For example, cell phone warnings instruct the user to keep the device a specific distance away from the body and iPads warnings tell us exactly how to hold it in order to avoid exceeding the outdated Safety Code 6 guidelines.
- The World Health Organization has classified ALL radiofrequency radiation from new technology as possibly carcinogenic. When such a health hazard is mandated into our schools an Informed Consent is needed from parents just as is required for field trips or internet use. Will you provide such a document to all parents?
- Who analyzes the flow of new research studies for the School Board on the negative health effects from RF technologies and what criteria is used to determine if that research has used proper and respected scientific processes, void of conflicts of interests? How will these findings become available to the public?
- How will the school accommodate students and employees reporting symptoms attributed to wireless technologies? Are you devising an assessment protocol to address and reduce resulting impairment and track symptoms?
- How will tracked symptoms be reported to the public and monitored while still protecting student and employee privacy?
- According to the BC’s ergonomics regulation, how will you address the outstanding concerns of repetitive strain and musculoskeletal injury from laptop and tablets? That is, how will you identify risk factors, and follow up with assessments?
- In conclusion, may I ask you again to consider your legacy as Board members? Will it be that you chose the precautionary principle, that you fulfilled your mandate as a protector of, and I quote from the Principal’s Responsibility according to Occupational Health & Safety legislation, “health, safety and comfort of the pupils and staff?”
It is my understanding that, Kerry Crofton, director of the advisory board ‘Doctors For Safer Schools’, has handed out a letter requesting those trustees who vote in favour of lifting the ban to sign and return this Statement of Accountability.
This document has also been emailed to you and copies made available to the media, including Global News who recently interviewed Kerry Crofton about Wi-Fi in schools.