School: Parent’s success in stopping WiFI installation at Australian school

maandag, 09 november 2015 - Categorie: Berichten Internationaal

5 nov. 2015

An Australian mum has been successful in preventing installation of WiFi at her child’s school and has worked with the school in drafting EMR precautionary measures by requesting compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Article 9: Accessibility from the Conventions on the Rights of the Disabled to accommodate her child’s functional impairment.

She stated “My child has a sensitivity to EMR, specifically WiFi and Bluetooth elicit symptoms.” The school environment was very good already, to change that by installing WiFi would exclude the child’s access to the school. The first step she took was to register a compliment/complaint/ feedback form on the Dept of Education’s website she said. “I requested help to find a WiFi- free high school and stated my child’s health complaints and symptoms. Rather than sending an email which could get “lost” in the system, I chose to use the education department’s processes for registering my complaint regarding accessibility to schools.” Around the same time, the child’s school initiated the WiFi installation discussion again. This quickly led to further conversations with the school and district education officers covering both accessibility issues.

The mother stated “I read extensively regarding disability in education policy, on human rights and Electro Hypersensitivity where functional impairment and disability were the focus. I was particularly interested in the perspectives of Prof Olle Johansson and Dr Isaac Jamieson, in relation to disability, human rights and the built environment.”

Referring to General Comment No. 2 (2014) Article 9: Accessibility and cross referencing with the Disability Discrimination Act and Disability Standards for Education it became apparent that to override the hardwired system with WiFi could put the school and decision makers in a position of discriminating against the child’s right to education on an equal basis with other students as they would be preventing accessibility to the school.

The mother said raising discrimination and liability issues ended the possibility of going to a public vote for WiFi in the school. Such an action would leave those voting in breach of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and Article 9 – Accessibility from the Conventions on the Rights of the Disabled and numerous other conventions cited below.

“The significance of accessibility can be derived also from general comment No 14 (2000) of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to the highest attainable standard of health (para 12). In its general comment No.9 on the rights of children with disabilities, the Committee on the Rights of the Child emphasizes that the physical inaccessibility of public transportation and other facilities, including governmental buildings, shopping areas and recreational facilities, is a major factor in the marginalization and exclusion of children with disabilities and markedly compromises their access to services, including health and education (para 39). The importance of accessibility was reiterated by the Committee on the Rights of the Child in its general comment No. 17 (2013) on the right of the child to res, leisure, play, recreational activities, cultural life and the arts.” (General Comment No. 2 (2014) Article 9: Accessibility)

In initial discussions the school felt that there would not be an impact to the quality of education by remaining hardwired. The school procured iPads and implemented safe practices such as use in airplane mode and downloads were done out of hours away from children. The mother said, “Parents, pupils and teachers still need to be vigilant as mistakes can be made and airplane mode not implemented as has happened with our child. There are other brands available that offer wired downloads that would improve functionality at school greatly and in the long run schools save on costly upgrades and IT support costs which I believe are not supported by funding.”

She hopes parents feel encouraged to raise the issue with their schools and believes it’s not our job to try to be experts, but it is our job to ask common-sense questions and raise safety concerns for our children, especially when there is confusion over safety and reported obvious risk.

Under the Local Schools, Local Decisions scheme, schools have greater decision making power at a local level. The Branch Manager from the Digital Infrastructure and Resources Branch (DETE) stated, “education authorities have primary responsibility for decisions about the educational hardware, software and networks best suited to the specific needs of their schools. As such, the choice to install wireless networks is one that is made by education authorities and is not mandated at the federal level.”

In recent conversations, the school and authorities were given examples of liability concerns where Comcare was ordered to pay compensation to an Australian Government employee harmed from WiFi at work and Canadian school’s recently notified of Lloyds of London’s EMR exclusion clause to their insurance policies, which excludes any liability coverage for injuries, “directly or indirectly arising out of, resulting from or contributed to by electromagnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, electromagnetism, radio waves or noise.”

Any school given this information would have concerns and questions for the education authorities who maintain the technology is safe for our children. This makes even less sense as Comcare advise the Minister for Education on Health and Safety issues. Wireless technologies have been classified a 2B carcinogen.

The mother stated she was very pleased the school acted responsibly, despite confusing messages, by examining all aspects of implementation of the technology – looking closely at health risk and liability under Local Schools Local Decisions. Safe practice implementation in the school is still in progress. “This is one benefit of schools being given local decision making powers. The school were very keen to support my child, did not feel disadvantaged by using hardwired systems, or restricting mobile phone access on site and are successfully using devices safely for creative purposes with no unjustifiable hardship.”

With regards to accessibility to high school the issue has not yet been resolved. Schools are known for their strong WiFi systems capable of supporting multiple devices simultaneously which increases the output of radiation and therefore makes school inaccessible and harmful to a sensitive child’s health and wellbeing. The other issue is regarding student mobile phones which are allowed in most schools in Australia. Reports from parents confirm that it is common practice for children have smartphones sitting on their desks.

The fact is, that all children are biologically sensitive to WiFi and other radiation emitting sources and can benefit in a number of ways from restricted use of wireless technology in the education environment as documented in this report regarding a move to ban mobile phones and devices from schools in the UK to improve learning and behaviour outcomes.

“A recent study by the London School of Economics claimed schools where they were banned saw test scores rise by an average of 6 per cent.

Most schools have some form of mobile phone policy in place. One third of schools ban mobile phones outright, with a further fifth limiting their use in lessons, the Department for Education said. GCSE results at the Ebbsfleet Academy in Kent have almost doubled since the school banned smartphones in 2013.” Source: The Telegraph, “Mobile phones and iPads could be banned from classrooms”
In another report:

“Low-achieving and low-income students improved the most, researchers claim”.

Report authors Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy say despite the benefits of new mobile technology phones cause distractions, reduce productivity and are detrimental to learning.”

The inequality of the education gap and outcomes could be significantly reduced by prohibiting mobile and managing tablet/ laptop use in schools. Precautionary measures compliant with accessibility make sense for all of our children. They promote and support diversity, health and wellbeing and equality in learning outcomes for low achievers, those with learning difficulties or screen addiction issues. We create the best possible learning environment that supports the wellbeing of a diverse community. We include everyone.

“The NSW Government is strongly committed to providing safe, supportive, quality learning environments for all students and teachers. Studies have shown students who are better supported in their wellbeing have higher academic achievement and better life outcomes in relation to health, employment, social inclusion and economic independence.” Source: NSW Department of Education and Communities | Supported Students, Successful Students

“The results suggest that low achieving students are more likely to be distracted by the presence of mobile phones while high achievers can focus in the classroom regardless of the mobile phone policy,” the study says. Source: BBC Mobile phone bans ‘improve school exam results

Authorities have a choice. Review and adopt the best possible practices for ALL of our children in the education system or dig their heels in because they have invested a lot of money in education initiatives and learning resources and it is rapidly looking like they made a mistake. We all make them, it’s what you do to remedy it after the fact that matters.

Concerned parents should monitor and diarise unexplained symptoms like headaches, nausea, blurred vision, poor sleep, loss of memory and fatigue and notice if they ease off or disappear on weekends and holidays and try a reducing exposure at home.

The UNSW Faculty of Law is hosting a free public lecture on Wireless Devices and Biological Effects by Nobel prize laureate Dr Devra Davis 18 November and also recently hosted a seminar titled “Wireless Devices: Risk, Regulation, Compliance and Liability”, geared toward school principals and school council members, employers, Councils, legal professionals, human resources and businesses.

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