Turn off cellphones in schools, says Canada’s largest teachers union

   Turn off cellphones in schools, says
      Canada’s largest teachers union

Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario passes a non-binding motion to ban cellphones from classrooms out of potential workplace safety concerns.

by Patty Winsa

Cellphones were out, then they were back in, and now they could be out again.

The Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario passed a resolution Friday that cellphones in classrooms should be turned off unless a student gets special permission from a teacher to use one.

Boards like the Toronto public board allowed the phones back into the classroom in 2011 after a total ban four years earlier.

The union, the largest in Canada, representing 76,000 elementary teachers, also passed a second motion, which would require Wi-Fi transmitters in schools to be out in the open and clearly marked as part of a hazard control program that would outline how to reduce exposure to radio waves.

The organization passed the motions in an effort to have radiation from cellphones and Wi-Fi, which both transmit radio waves, recognized as a potential workplace safety issue.

“There is cause for concern for members’ health and safety, especially women,” said Peel public teacher Sandra Wash, who spoke at the meeting, according to a news release.

The motions are non-binding. It’s up to the school boards to set policy for wireless devices.

“It’s the board’s jurisdiction to decide how we deal with cellphones, and certainly we’re seeing increasing enthusiasm from teachers for students to bring their own devices to school for learning purposes,” says Brian Woodland, a spokesman for the Peel public board. By September, all schools in Peel Region will be outfitted with Wi-Fi.

Health Canada has said there is “no convincing scientific evidence that exposure to low-level radiofrequency (RF) energy from Wi-Fi causes adverse health effects in humans,” according to its website. Radio frequency energy levels must meet Health Canada’s exposure guidelines.

Woodland says the Peel board does random testing to ensure the levels in the region’s public schools are within those guidelines.

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