Parents to debate Wi-Fi restrictions in Alberta schools
BY ANDREA SANDS, EDMONTON JOURNAL MARCH 15, 2015
EDMONTON - Parents from across Alberta will decide next month if they feel schools should put new restrictions on wireless networks to protect children’s health.
That includes installing switches in classrooms to shut off Wi-Fi routers and wireless devices when they’re not in use; setting Wi-Fi systems so radiation levels are as low as possible without disrupting coverage; posting product safety warnings in classrooms for devices such as tablets and cellphones; educating staff and students about safe use of technology; and ensuring school districts offer schools that are Wi-Fi-free when enough parents request them.
The recommendations are in a resolution that will be debated at the Alberta School Councils’ Association annual general meeting April 24 to 26 in Edmonton. If delegates endorse the bill, the parents’ association will lobby school boards and government for the changes.
The association has already sent the information to school councils so parents can decide on a position before next month’s meeting, said association president Brad Vonkeman.
“We’re really looking forward for it to come to the floor so maybe some more information can come out ... for a better, more complete picture,” Vonkeman said.
There is growing public concern that exposure to extremely low-frequency magnetic fields could have harmful health effects, such as an increased incidence of cancer in children, according to the World Health Organization. There are also concerns some people are particularly sensitive to the radiation.
The World Health Organization is studying the science on the issue, because “even a small health consequence from (electromagnetic field) exposure could have a major public health impact,” its website says.
Health Canada has guidelines to protect Canadians from exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic energy, such as that emitted by Wi-Fi systems and cellphones.
According to Health Canada, even a small child exposed to this energy from multiple sources, 24 hours a day, for 365 days a year, would suffer no adverse health effects as long as the energy was within the department’s safety code limits.
In an email Friday to the Journal, Tim Singer, director general of Health Canada’s environmental and radiation health sciences directorate, said: “Wi-Fi equipment, including what is used in schools, emits radio frequency energy at very low levels and the scientific evidence tells us that it is not dangerous to anyone, including children.”
Parent Jennie Marie Letwin, whose daughter attends the Waldorf program at Avonmore School, brought the resolution forward to the Alberta School Councils’ Association. Students in the Waldorf program use hard-wired computers and their section of Avonmore School, at 7835 76th Ave., does not use Wi-Fi.
“It’s really about providing choice ... Some children have sensitivity to it,” Letwin said.
“Wi-Fi waves surround us everywhere we go nowadays. From a parent’s standpoint, I am grateful that my daughter’s growing body gets a break during her school days.”
Letwin said her family uses Wi-Fi and wireless devices at home, but has made changes to use them more safely.
The president of the Edmonton Waldorf parent council compared concern around wireless radio frequency signals to those about the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
“We don’t all stay inside, but we do take precautions,” said Kevin Rudko.