UPDATE, Oct. 31: The Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils is asking the Greater Victoria school district to end its moratorium on wireless technologies in elementary schools, the Times Colonist reports.
The call follows a survey by the VCPAC that found strong support for Wi-Fi in schools. But since one in five parents still has health concerns about the use of these technologies, the organization suggested schools should seek support from parents, staff and students before installing Wi-Fi.
Read the story here.
Earlier in the week, I wrote the following:
On Tuesday, the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils (VCPAC) will hold a special meeting to discuss the results of a Wi-Fi survey and to consider recommendations for the board of education. ( Oct. 29, 7 p.m., Coquitz middle elementary school.)
The survey results suggest about one in five parents have some health concerns about Wi-Fi (with a slightly higher percentage in elementary schools and slightly lower in secondary schools).
CLARIFICATION: I have changed this to “one in five” from the “one in four” that I wrote previously. The latter was based on responses from those who had formed an opinion on the issue. The former takes into account that 26 per cent had no firm opinion when asked if they have health concerns about Wi-Fi in schools.
While the vast majority of respondents agreed computer technology is an important tool for education, more than a third of decided respondents said they wouldn’t send their children to a Wi-Fi school, if given a choice. Yet 94 per cent said they have Wi-Fi in their homes.
A majority said school communities should make decisions about whether to install Wi-Fi.Survey results can be found here.
Just as interesting as the results are the comments collected by the VCPAC. Not surprisingly, there continues to be a clash of views on whether Wi-Fi poses a health risk for some people, but respondents also expressed concern about equal access to computer technology and the danger that learning will be disrupted by students paying too much attention to Facebook or Instagram.
Some parents were uncertain why elementary schools need Wi-Fi and whether money wouldn’t be better spent teaching basic skills. The comments are here.
At least one other B.C. school district- Saanich – has banned Wi-Fi in elementary schools, unless there are compelling reasons for allowing it. But former superintendent Keven Elder said it wasn’t done because district officials believe Wi-Fi is a health risk.
“We acted out of concern and sensitivity for parents who believe there may be risks,” he told me at the time. “We respect that.”
The BCCPAC has passed resolutions calling on boards of education to:
– Stop installing Wi-Fi and other wireless networks in schools where other networking technology is feasible;
– Have one school at each education level (elementary, middle and secondary) free of Wi-Fi, cordless phones and cell phones to give parents options. Those schools would only be equipped with wired computers and wired telephones for personal, educaitonal and administrative use.
– Ensure wireless routers have on-off switches, develop protocol to ensure they are turned on only when needed, and ensure schools follow safety instructions in the user manual of iPads.
During an interview in May, BCCPAC president Terry Berting said the resolutions weren’t intended to be a statement about whether Wi-Fi was harmful or not.
Health Canada says there is no convincing scientific evidence that exposure to low-level radio frequency energy from Wi-Fi is a health hazard, but the debate continues. Citizens for Safe Technology says efforts are underway to take a case to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal.