Parents raise concern over GUSD's Wi-Fi

La Crescenta resident Winston Story has collected more than 40 signatures from fellow parents for a petition against Glendale Unified’s use of Wi-Fi in classrooms over concerns that radio waves emitted by wireless Internet routers could pose health risks to children. Story is the father of a child who attends Mountain Avenue Elementary School, which also serves families living in the westernmost section of La Cañada Flintridge.

Story presented his concerns during a school board meeting last week on the same night Glendale school officials announced plans to boost bandwidth at all the district’s schools by the end of November to improve wireless Internet network usage.

The wireless Internet upgrades and the district’s overall Internet network improvements have been a main priority for Glendale school officials since voters approved the Measure S bond in 2011.

Dismayed that he and fellow parents were unaware of Mountain Avenue’s recent implementation of the wireless Internet routers, Story referred to a list of reports, including a May 2011 study by the World Health Organization that responded to concerns that being exposed to radio frequency electromagnetic fields could potentially cause cancer.

In the report, the agency determined that radio frequency electromagnetic fields are “possibly carcinogenic” and cautioned people over the possible link between increased cancer risk and the usage of cellphones.

“Even with the smallest risk of cancer…Wi-Fi may produce,” Story said, “We owe it to our children to protect them first before symptoms present themselves.”

He also suggested the district turn to hard-wired Internet connections in place of wireless Internet.

Frank Schlueter, the director of education technology and information services for Glendale Unified, said the district follows state education code and federal guidelines, including those laid out by the Federal Communications Commission.

“Our district has the safety and education of our students in mind,” he said.

Schlueter pointed to a report produced by Princeton University’s Office of Environmental Health & Safety, in which officials concluded, “It is the general consensus of the scientific community that the level of [radio frequency] exposure due to wireless networks is so low compared to the many other [radio frequency] sources in the modern environment that health concerns from Wi-Fi exposure are not an issue.”

After hearing Story’s concerns, however, Glendale school board President Nayiri Nahabedian pressed Supt. Dick Sheehan to further address the issue at an upcoming board meeting.

“I will look at it as well, and see what I think,” she said.

Following the meeting, school board member Mary Boger, who also sits on the district’s technology committee, said that committee members, some of whom have children attending Glendale schools, have not brought up any concerns over the district’s use of Wi-Fi.

“Our Wi-Fi is at such a low level [of radiation] it is far below any level of concern,” Boger said.


Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.


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