Tuesday, September 30, 2014
New group in Maryland forms to fight cellphone towers built on school property
A new group, made up of residents and activists from across Maryland, has formed to help Prince George's County residents who are fighting the county school system’s plan to build cellphone towers on school property.
The Maryland Coalition Against Celltowers on School Grounds is the most recent evidence of a coordinated effort by those who oppose the construction of the towers. Last month, Safe Schools for Prince George’s County began collecting signatures on an online petition calling for the school system to stop construction of the cellphone towers.
During a recent school board meeting, numerous speakers voiced concerns about children’s exposure to radio-frequency radiation.
Some of the speakers live in the county. Others are residents of Montgomery, Anne Arundel or Baltimore counties. One was from the District.
“I find it quite shameful that you would put our kids in danger,” said Percie Rutherford, who several years ago successfully fought the placement of a tower near his subdivision in Upper Marlboro.
The board does not respond during the public portion of the meeting.
But Board Chairman Segun Eubanks and schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell have previously defended the school system’s decision to lease property to Milestone Communications, and they gave little indication that things would change.
“The board and the administration did considerable homework when it came to the issue of public safety regarding the cellphone towers,” Eubanks said previously. “There is no reason to believe that the cellphone towers are more dangerous than any other technology that we are exposed to on a regular basis.”
Under the agreement with Milestone, the school system would receive $25,000 for each site and 40 percent of the gross revenue from the towers on its sites. The school system estimates that the agreement could generate $2.5 million over five years.
Before the meeting, members of the new group held a news conference to share the experiences they have had in their own jurisdictions.
Thea Scarato, a member of Safe Schools for Prince George’s County, said she didn’t know many of the people who are a part of the group but found that “the lack of transparency in these deals” was something that they all had in common.
In a joint statement, the Maryland Coalition Against Cellphones on School Grounds, offered 25 reasons for a moratorium.
Among the reasons listed was that schools should in the business of education, not radiation. The group said students and staff should not be constantly exposed to cell tower microwave radiation and put at risk of adverse effects from cumulative long-term radiation exposure.
For months, residents have spoken out against the construction of the cellphone towers. The number of residents testifying has increased with each meeting.
The new coalition is focusing its efforts at the local, county and state level, combining a grass-roots campaign with a legislative initiative, according to its press release.