California Educator

March 2015

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P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y S C O T T B U S C H M A N What should you do if you suspect there's a problem? "Members should document their concerns and ask their association to assist with resolution if they think there is a systemic problem," says Brenda Sutton-Willis, a CTA staff attorney. "Many chapter contracts have a health and safety component." CTA's role is one of advocacy and coordination, she says, adding, "The association can assist in taking the issue to the district, since it affects the learning and teaching environment of all students and staff, not just the individual bringing the complaint forward." The Williams Act has requirements for safe schools that could pertain to contaminants. And there are provisions in the Labor Code that govern a safe working environment. For example, Labor Code Section 6400 states: "Every employer shall furnish employment and a place of employment that is safe and healthful for the employees therein." Section 6403, among other things, requires employers to do everything "reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees." The CTA member with lingering respiratory problems who spoke anony- mously also has some advice for members working at sites that may be toxic. "School employees need to pay attention," he says. "Educators should take problems seriously. Don't be intimidated by your administrators into saying nothing. Insist on inspections and treatment for unhealthy buildings. Your future could depend on it." Next month, part 2 of our "Toxic Schools" report will center on dangers posed by pesticide use near public schools and how some Monterey County teachers, like Alisal Teachers Association President Estela Mercado and her colleague Josh Ezekiel, are raising community awareness. Of 15 California counties studied for pesticide use near schools, Monterey County is in the top 5 percent of schools with a large amount of pesticides used nearby and has the highest percentage of schools and students impacted. "Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California," a report by the Califor- nia Department of Public Health, also found that Hispanic children were 91 percent more likely than white children to attend schools where the most pesticides of concern were used. The report calls for more transparen- cy and data collecting about pesticide near school properties. Other studies warn of health impacts for kids born to mothers who work in the fields and attend nearby schools — including lower birth weight and IQ, and poorer cognitive functioning. Read what colleagues are doing and find resources for advocacy in the April Educator. Lake Elsinore TA President Bill Cavanaugh and Assistant Superintendent Gregory Bowers are working together to discover why 21 certificated employees, as well as some students, have developed cancer, autoimmune issues, fibromyalgia, and thyroid and other problems. Fields of Fear: Teachers, studies respond to heavy pesticide use near schools 14 Next month

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