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Dear MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith- Time to Protect Students Not Promote Pollution

Dear Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith, I am writing to you on an important issue regarding our children’s hea...

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Israeli Documentary on Wi-Fi Radiation and Children's Health

Watch this excellent documentary that aired in Israel. Note: It is in Hebrew. We are hoping it will be translated soon. The second video here is in English. 

These news pieces aired in Israel last year.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Israel's Third Largest City Haifa is Ordered to Shut School Wireless Networks

Breaking News: Israel's third largest city has ordered Wireless REMOVED from all schools. Read it in the news articles below. 

Haifa Municipality cuts off all Wi-Fi devices kindergartens and school

Haifa to Shut School Wireless Networks

Excerpts from the article in the Hamodia
Haifa Municipality is removing wireless connectivity from its schools.
The roots of the decision go back to a 2013 petition by parents in four schools who claim that such networks are harmful. The case eventually made its way to the High Court, which has postponed a final decision on the matter. But due to public pressure that has occasionally erupted into protests, the city has decided to suspend wireless connectivity for the time being.
The movement has spread from Haifa to other cities as well, and petitions have been signed by parents in dozens of cities demanding the removal of the networks. Haifa is the first city to take action on the matter.
Haifa Mayor Yona Yahav said that the city would replace the wireless network with a wired connection that will provide safer options to students.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Review of Report on Wi-Fi Radiation Measurements at Montgomery County Public Schools Finds "No Credible Guidance" Provided.

Harvard-trained physicist cites incorrect and non-optimal approaches to measurements and data analysis as the principal concerns.

Harvard trained physicist Ronald M. Powell Ph.D. has just released a 49 page Review detailing serious concerns about a Report used by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) to give safety assurances to parents concerned about classroom wireless radiation. Powell cites incorrect and non-optimal approaches to measurements and data analysis as his principal concerns.  

He concludes:
"It is my opinion that the AECOM Report is unable to provide credible guidance about whether the electromagnetic fields in the MCPS pose a health risk or not, no matter how good the intentions of those who prepared the Report.”

In June 2015, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) commissioned AECOM Environment to make Wi-Fi radiation measurements after parents raised concerns that the radiation from the Wi-Fi network and the wireless laptops in the schools could pose a health risk.  AECOM measured radiation levels in twelve of the MCPS schools, analyzed the resulting data, and compared the data to selected exposure limits.  The resulting AECOM Report concluded that the radiation levels were below those particular limits. The AECOM Report was presented as part of a webpage MCPS put together on Radiofrequency Radiation.
MCPS has relied on the AECOM Report to assure concerned parents that the radiation emissions from the county Wi-Fi equipment posed no health risk to students. A 2015 MCPS Memorandum to the Board cites the AECOM Report as verification stating “we are confident that we are not subjecting our students and staff to harmful radiation.”

However, in a 49-page review of the AECOM Report, Ronald M. Powell, Ph.D., a Harvard-trained physicist, expressed multiple concerns about the AECOM Report.  Among them were such serious concerns as “incorrect selection of measurement equipment (probes), incorrect or non‑optimal use of measurement equipment, and incorrect methods of data analysis”.
He observed:  “In my view, these concerns invalidate all of the analyzed data in the four tables that contain the principal results of the AECOM Report (Tables 7-2, 7-3, 7-4, and 7-5).  The result is the absence of valid analyzed data for comparison with any of the exposure limits, whatever the validity of the exposure limits themselves, some of which I also question.”
His overall conclusion was the following:  “For these reasons, it is my opinion that the AECOM Report is unable to provide credible guidance about whether the electromagnetic fields in the MCPS pose a health risk or not, no matter how good the intentions of those who prepared the Report.”
This is the second review that has come to such a conclusion about the AECOM Report.  Specifically, the earlier review concluded, just as Powell did, that “The data in this report cannot therefore be used to infer safety, or lack of safety, of children in any of the tested locations.”  That earlier Review was prepared by Cindy Sage, MA, co-editor of the BioInitiative Reports of 2007 and 2012, Prof. Trevor Marshall, Ph.D., Director of the Autoimmunity Research Foundation, and Senior Member of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), who holds a number of positions in biomedicine.

Powell recognizes the challenges facing the MCPS: “The MCPS is going to have to decide whom to believe.  For you who are MCPS managers, that decision requires at least some familiarity with the massive amount of biomedical research literature available on this topic. 

Powell advises: "If you find yourself in doubt about what to do, despite the overwhelming evidence of risk in the international biomedical research literature, I urge you to side with the safety of everyone in your schools by taking precautionary action now.  But whatever you do, resist the urge to use the outdated FCC exposure limits [called the Maximum Permissible Exposure (MPE) Limits] as an excuse for inaction.  Our Government doesn’t always get it right.  And, sadly for all of us, our Government is failing us terribly in this case.”
Powell explains further: “Despite assurances of safety from the FCC and the wireless industry, the international biomedical research community is showing, in study after study, that current exposure limits are not even close to being protective of living things.  The limitations of that guidance have been highlighted by other agencies of the U.S. Government and by medical organizations.”  He provides quotations from them reflective of their concerns about the inadequacy and outdated nature of the FCC exposure limits.

Powell illustrates the outdated nature of the FCC exposure limits with the following graph.  The graph was created from data provided by NIH’s PubMed Database.  PubMed is the largest index to the archival biomedical research literature in the world. That graph shows the publications per year listed in NIH's PubMed Database under the heading “EMF” (electromagnetic fields), which captures just a part of the biomedical research literature relevant to the interaction of electromagnetic fields with biological systems.  An arrow points to 1986, the year in which the basis for the current FCC exposure limit was developed, according to the FCC itself (as Powell documents in his Review).  Since 1986, PubMed has added 2198 publications under the heading “EMF”.  
Powell’s review urges the MCPS to rely on credible guidance which is “available from the sum total of thousands of biomedical research publications from the world’s leading scientists and doctors conducting research on the biological effects of electromagnetic fields."
He continues:  “That guidance indicates that precautionary action is needed now to protect human health from such electromagnetic radiation.  In light of this guidance, there is no scientific or ethical justification for continuing to force children, teachers, and staff to be exposed to electromagnetic radiation for which the outcome is already known to be tragic.”   

Powell closes by urging the MCPS to review two key documents to learn more about the concerns of the international biomedical research community about the biological effects of exposure to electromagnetic fields:  (1) The
BioInitiative Report of 2012 which states “Bioeffects are clearly established and occur at very low levels of exposure to electromagnetic fields and radiofrequency radiation."; and (2) The EMF Scientist Appeal signed by 220 scientists from 42 countries, calling on the United Nations and the World Health Organization to seek increased protection of the public from electromagnetic fields.  That appeal notes specifically:  “Numerous recent scientific publications have shown that EMF affects living organisms at levels well below most international and national guidelines.  Effects include increased cancer risk, cellular stress, increase in harmful free radicals, genetic damages, structural and functional changes of the reproductive system, learning and memory deficits, neurological disorders, and negative impacts on general well-being in humans.”
Powell urges responsive action by the MCPS:  “Please protect your students, teachers, and staff from the harm caused by the electromagnetic radiation from wireless devices.  Replace the current wireless connectivity in the MCPS schools with much safer wired connectivity as soon as possible and avoid introducing other wireless devices into your schools.”
Ronald M. Powell is a retired career U.S. Government scientist (Ph.D., Applied Physics, Harvard University, 1975).  He worked for the Executive Office of the President, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.  At these organizations he addressed Federal research and development program evaluation, energy policy research, and measurement development in support of the electronics and electrical-equipment industries and the biomedical research community.  He currently interacts with other scientists and with physicians around the world on the impact of electromagnetic fields on human health.  

This Review supports the concerns raised by a parent advocacy group Safe Tech for Schools Maryland which has gathered over 15 letters from medical doctors and cancer researchers who have written MCPS warning the county that wireless systems are not safe and recommending hardwired internet systems. Parents are raising this issue nationally and most recently the Phoenicia New York  PTA wrote their school board calling for the wireless to be turned off.

Across the state of Maryland, parents have raised numerous health and safety concerns from privacy issues, to data mining, to screen related vision issues, to the potential health risks posed by the “industrial strength” wireless radiation.
"We are being sold a bill of goods by the technology educational kabal which will make millions...billions off Baltimore alone" stated a Baltimore County Board member last month in a heated Board meeting on technology safety.


"The Council, after review of available data, believes there is sufficient evidence to justify the development of health and safety guidelines for use of computers in school in schools in Maryland." 

Parents have organized large coalitions in the neighboring counties of Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore raising concerns about tech devices in the classroom. This year the Maryland legislature considered House Bill 1525 and Senate Bill 1150  which called for the development of health and safety guidelines for the use of computers by students in the classroom. This legislation was prompted by widespread concern about the use of screens in the classroom. The Maryland State  Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council wrote a letter to in support of this legislation.
Quick Links
The Maryland State Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council Letter in support of legislation for the development of health and safety guidelines for screens.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Baltimore student activists plan walkout to protest standardized testing: Watch their Music Video

Youth-led activists group in Baltimore City has planned a districtwide student walkout on Friday to protest standardized testing, which they call a mechanism of institutional racism.
The walkout, planned by the Baltimore Algebra Project, is scheduled to take place at noon.  A 1 p.m. rally will take place at Baltimore city school headquarters.
The non-profit, which is operated and lead by youth under the age of 25, has partnered with the district for years, tutoring in schools and advocating for education policy reform.
Jamal Jones, co-executive director of the Algebra Project, said the group set its sights on the PARCC test this year because it represents some of the oppressive policies that have been laid bare since the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died of injuries he sustained in police custody last year.

As the anniversary of Gray's death and riots that ensued after nears, Jones said this was an opportune time to make a statement about how standardized testing is stifling tens of thousands of city schoolchildren.
"In the wake of the uprising, it's critical to understand how the structures of institutional racism led to systems that put Freddie Gray in the position to experience police brutality, and so many other young people in the position to believe that they're inferior," Jones said. 
The group made a music video that denounces the PARCC exam, a tougher state standardized test that measures a new curriculum.

The 285 Million Edtech takeover of BCPS: Baltimore Sun

In a Martin's West hall festooned with student art at Baltimore County's State of the Schools' event, a few high-dollar donor tables featured education tech reps doing their own artful work.
Daly Computers — which is supplying up to 120,000 laptops to Baltimore County Public Schools under a multi-year $205 million contract — garnered a primo spot as a $30,000-level sponsor.
Other contributors to the annual SOS fundraiser included McGraw-Hill Education/Engrade, Pearson, Microsoft, Discovery Education and other tech or edtech companies doing business with BCPS.
The March 23 party — which featured salmon filet and red velvet cake and showcased students' dance ensembles — was an elaborate affair. Recent SOS events have cost more than $100,000, according to The Education Foundation of Baltimore County Public Schools' federal 990 tax forms.

That's a lot of red velvet.
The scene is also emblematic of an apparent edtech takeover of the county's public school system, which is pursuing a laptop-per-student (1:1) initiative with projected "total costs" approaching $285 million in the first seven years alone, including related infrastructure "to support STAT" (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow), various documents show.
Read the rest of the article by Joanne C. Simpson, a BCPS parent, here http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-county-technology-20160416-story.html

"Giving out laptops was the educational equivalent of putting pink batts in people's roofs" St Paul's Catholic College principal Mark Baker

"The reality is that technology is doing more harm than good in our schools today," the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's education chief Andreas Schleicher told world leaders at a global education forum this month.

Private, Catholic and public schools are reducing their reliance on laptops and tablets following a damning international assessment and concerns over the impact of social media on learning.

"The reality is that technology is doing more harm than good in our schools today," the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's education chief Andreas Schleicher told world leaders at a global education forum this month.

Last week, John Vallance, the principal of one of Sydney's most expensive private schools, Sydney Grammar, said that laptops were not necessary in class and that more traditional teaching methods were more effective.
Schools in the Catholic sector are also moving away from laptop centred learning after an OECD report found that countries which have invested heavily in education technology have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in results for reading, mathematics or science.

Australia has spent $2.4 billion putting laptops in the bags of as many schoolchildren as possible through the Digital Education Revolution of the Rudd and Gillard governments.
"Education is a bit like the stock market, it overshoots." said St Paul's Catholic College principal Mark Baker. "Computers have been oversold and there is no evidence that it improve outcomes. Giving out laptops was the educational equivalent of putting pink batts in people's roofs".

Mr Baker said every school in NSW has become a Google or an Apple school. "If I put McDonald's signs all over the school saying McDonald's was bringing you education, there would be an outcry."

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Computers in class ‘a scandalous waste’:The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School

A top Australian school has banned laptops in class, warning that technology “distracts’’ from old-school quality teaching.
The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance, yesterday described the billions of dollars spent on computers in Australian schools over the past seven years as a “scandalous waste of money’’.
“I’ve seen so many schools with limited budgets spending a disproportionate amount of their money on technology that doesn’t really bring any measurable, or non-measurable, benefits,’’ he said.
“Schools have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars­ on interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and now they’re all being jettisoned.’’
Sydney Grammar has banned students from bringing laptops to school, even in the senior years, and requires them to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10. Its old-school policy bucks the prevailing trend in most Aus­tralian high schools, and many primary schools, to require parents­ to purchase laptops for use in the classroom.
Dr Vallance said the Rudd-­Gillard government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution, which used taxpayer funds to buy laptops for high school students, was money wasted. “It didn’t really do anything except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple,’’ he said. “They’ve got very powerful lobby influence in the educational community.’’

The 1:1 Laptop Program: Weapons of Mass Ergonomic Disaster in Baltimore County

These pictures are from videos put out by Baltimore County Schools.
They show children using screens on classes. Does this seem healthy to you?
See these pictures showing eye to computer screen in our schools. Long gone are the days of eye to eye contact it seems. Is this really what we want for our children? 
Children with necks bent over laptops staring at screens, headsets on and unaware of the people near them. 

Children are hunched over. Is this good for their posture? 

Young boy with wireless laptop on his lap. 
Look how close the kids eyes are to the screens. Look how they are hunched over. 
Children with earphones. How will this effect their hearing? 
More laptops on lap in positions that are not good for the back and neck. 
These images are from Baltimore County's videos. We are very concerned that the county and state are not considering the physical implications of such postures. See below.

See this image above online at The US Department of Labor website. 

What does the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) say? 
OSHA has created a workplace safety checklist. Does your school make the grade?  Read it here. 

Here is OSHA's Checklist. We filled it out based on what we saw in these videos. 

  1. WORKING POSTURES - The workstation is designed or arranged for doing computer tasks so it allows your...
    1. Head and neck to be upright, or in-line with the torso (not bent down/back). If "no" refer to MonitorsChairs and Work Surfaces.
    2. Head, neck, and trunk to face forward (not twisted). If "no" refer to Monitors or Chairs.
    3. Trunk to be perpendicular to floor (may lean back into backrest but not forward). If "no" refer to Chairs or Monitors.
    4. Shoulders and upper arms to be in-line with the torso, generally about perpendicular to the floor and relaxed (not elevated or stretched forward). If "no" refer to Chairs.
    5. Upper arms and elbows to be close to the body (not extended outward). If "no" refer to ChairsWork SurfacesKeyboards, and Pointers.
    6. Forearms, wrists, and hands to be straight and in-line (forearm at about 90 degrees to the upper arm). If "no" refer to ChairsKeyboardsPointers.
    7. Wrists and hands to be straight (not bent up/down or sideways toward the little finger). If "no" refer to Keyboards, or Pointers.
    8. Thighs to be parallel to the floor and the lower legs to be perpendicular to floor (thighs may be slightly elevated above knees). If "no" refer to Chairs or Work Surfaces.
    9. Feet rest flat on the floor or are supported by a stable footrest. If "no" refer to ChairsWork Surfaces.
  2. Checklists SEATING - Consider these points when evaluating the chair...
    1. Backrest provides support for your lower back (lumbar area).
    2. Seat width and depth accommodate the specific user (seat pan not too big/small).
    3. Seat front does not press against the back of your knees and lower legs (seat pan not too long).
    4. Seat has cushioning and is rounded with a "waterfall" front (no sharp edge).
    5. Armrests, if used, support both forearms while you perform computer tasks and they do not interfere with movement.
    "No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of Chairs.
    Sounds like we need to review the chairs. 
  3. Checklists KEYBOARD/INPUT DEVICE - Consider these points when evaluating the keyboard or pointing device. The keyboard/input device is designed or arranged for doing computer tasks so the...
    1. Keyboard/input device platform(s) is stable and large enough to hold a keyboard and an input device.
    2. Input device (mouse or trackball) is located right next to your keyboard so it can be operated without reaching.
    3. Input device is easy to activate and the shape/size fits your hand (not too big/small).
    4. Wrists and hands do not rest on sharp or hard edges.
    5. There are no wrist rests, maybe the school should get them? 
      "No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of KeyboardsPointers, or Wrist Rests.
    1. Checklists MONITOR - Consider these points when evaluating the monitor. The monitor is designed or arranged for computer tasks so the...
      1. Top of the screen is at or below eye level so you can read it without bending your head or neck down/back.
      2. User with bifocals/trifocals can read the screen without bending the head or neck backward.
      3. Monitor distance allows you to read the screen without leaning your head, neck or trunk forward/backward.
      4. Monitor position is directly in front of you so you don't have to twist your head or neck.
      5. Glare (for example, from windows, lights) is not reflected on your screen which can cause you to assume an awkward posture to clearly see information on your screen.
      "No" answers to any of these questions should prompt a review of Monitors or Lighting/Glare.
      Total Fail. The kids are bending over leaning in the whole time. 

      Children are hunched over. Is this good for their posture? 

      Young boy with wireless laptop on his lap.