San Francisco Independent Media Center  [Printer-friendly version]
April 3, 2006


The Precautionary Principle and Parents' Right-to-Know
Los Angeles Unified School District Shares Its Secret of Success

[Rachel's introduction: It started with a worried Mom whose child got
sprayed by accident with pesticides at school. Parents organized.
They discovered the precautionary principle and decided Los Angeles
schools could adopt it. After a long fight, in 1999 the nation's
second-largest school district began taking a precautionary approach
to pest management.]

by Robina Suwol**

Toluca Lake, Calif. -- Last week in Los Angeles environmentalists,
parents, health advocates, and educators met before the Los Angeles
Unified School Board to praise the efforts of the 2nd largest school
district in the nation for working cooperatively with California Safe
Schools (CSS), a children's environmental health organization, in
creating the most protective pesticide policy for schools in the

The week long tribute to the policy ended on Saturday as
parents,students, and community members, some coming from as far away
as Sacramento, were treated to an innovative and interactive IPM
Workshop at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Speakers included
Caltech Microbiologist, Mitzi Shpak, Robert Hamm, Deputy Director of
Los Angeles Unified Maintenance Operations, and Robina Suwol,
Executive Director of California Safe Schools

The Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) began after children
were inadvertently sprayed with an herbicide at Sherman Oaks
Elementary School in 1998. The sustained success of this program is a
point of pride for students, parents, and school administrators alike,
all of whom worked together to implement the reform.

"Creating the first policy in the United States that embraced the
Precautionary Principle and Parents Right to Know was groundbreaking.
To see it so beautifully implemented and sustained is deeply
gratifying," said Robina Suwol, founder and Executive Director of CSS.

IPM requires the use of methods to control pests and weeds that pose
the lowest risk to human health. Because children are more sensitive
to chemical exposures than are adults, IPM in schools is considered to
be especially important to protect kids' health. The "precautionary
principle," is the idea that if the consequences of an action are
unknown, but are judged to have some potential for major or
irreversible negative consequences, then it is better to avoid that
action. Parents Right to Know, is the value that parents should be
informed of any exposure to toxins their children may face while in
the care of school administrators.

Dr. Cathie-Ann Lippman, a Beverly Hills physician who is actively
involved with the implementation of the innovative pesticide policy
congratulated the School Board, "Thank you for the courage to create
this opportunity to improve the health of our community. With this
common focus, working together, anything is possible -- including
providing a healthy learning environment for our children, their
children, and generations to come."

California Safe Schools is the only non-profit organization
exclusively dedicated to protecting school children from pesticides in
California. A coalition of more than fifty organizations and many
individuals, CSS lead a successful campaign to implement the safest
pesticide policy ever adopted in the United States protecting 800,000
children in the nation's second-largest school district.

Gloria Simosky, Florence Avenue Teacher added, "As the teacher
representative on the IPM Team, I appreciate IPM's focus on reducing
and eliminating toxic chemicals from the school site. IPM is a
wonderful program that works to support the health of students and
teachers. "

This policy has become a national model for schools and communities. A
year after its policy breakthrough, CSS provided testimony and support
for the California Healthy Schools Act 2000. This state law provided
for education to schools by the Department of Pesticide Regulation for
Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a "least-toxic" pest control policy,
and Right to Know about pesticide exposure for every parent whose
child attends public school K -- 12. Most recently, CSS successfully
shepherded the passage of AB 405 (Montanez), which forbids the use
of experimental pesticides on all California k-12 public school

Robina Suwol 818-785-5515
Box 2756
Toluca Lake, California 91610

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