School officials addressed parents’ concerns about Glendale Unified’s use of wireless Internet this week, vowing to continue using the technology during an impassioned meeting that had one school board member speak out against local parents’ allegations.
La Crescenta parent Winston Story, who began collecting dozens of signatures against the district’s use of wireless Internet in November, said he’s concerned that parents were not made aware that wireless Internet had been installed in classrooms.
He also said the constant exposure to radio frequency waves from wireless devices and routers may pose a health hazard to children.
“God forbid there’s a spike of any adverse health effects from this unnecessary blanketing of Wi-Fi in our schools,” Story said during a school board meeting Tuesday. “I guarantee your advisers who’ve managed to steal every one of your moral compasses, silenced your own voices and parental good common sense, and have collectively gagged you all this whole time, will treat you all with the silence you’ve been treating parents who care about this with this whole time.”
To which, school board member Mary Boger gave an impassioned response.
“I do not appreciate having my moral compass questioned,” Boger said. “I can tell you that it points to true north where our students are concerned.”
At a previous meeting, Story referred to a May 2011 study by the World Health Organization which found that being exposed to radio frequency electromagnetic fields could potentially cause cancer.
The agency concluded that electromagnetic fields are “possibly carcinogenic” and cautioned people about a possible link between the use of cellphones and increased cancer risk.
Story’s child is a student at Mountain Avenue Elementary, which also serves families living in the Sagebrush area of La Cañada Flintridge and where the district installed wireless access points in every classroom earlier this year as part of a districtwide project to install wireless Internet.
Glendale Unified Supt. Dick Sheehan said the district did its due diligence in researching wireless Internet, and that school officials would no longer publicly discuss the matter unless new information surfaces.
“I am confident in our decision with the knowledge we have in our world today,” he said.
Wireless Internet upgrades and Glendale Unified’s overall Internet network improvements have been a main priority for the district since voters approved the Measure S bond in 2011.
Glendale school officials said the students’ exposure to electromagnetic fields in classrooms is far below guidelines set forth by the Federal Communication Commission and other international commissions, including ones in Canada and Australia.
The school district hired industrial hygienist Daniel Ginsborg, chief executive of the firm Executive Environmental, to perform a study on the electromagnetic fields in classrooms at Monte Vista and Mountain Avenue elementary schools this week.
At Monte Vista, the company measured the electromagnetic field in a classroom that had a teacher upload and download items from the Internet. At Mountain Avenue, the company measured the field when streaming videos on 30 iPads for two hours.
“All of this, from a preliminary view of what was collected, indicates levels that are well below regulated levels... From this, we can conclude that the potential exposure... is not a significant issue,” Ginsborg said.
A World Health Organization representative did not respond to a request to comment about the group’s current consensus on wireless Internet’s potential impact.
Following this week’s meeting, Story’s wife, Traci, spoke out against the district’s study, saying she would like to see the same study conducted for a longer period of time, and is worried most about the students who sit closest to the routers.
“You have to understand that Wi-Fi never goes off,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s always pulsing. The big deal is when you’re sitting under it every day.”
She said she would still like to see the district rely on hard-wired communications.
“All we’re asking is to take precaution and to wire these tablets instead of having wireless,” she said. “We are parents that love technology, but want to see it used safely.”
-- Kelly Corrigan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.