Thursday, December 31, 2015

Google, a ‘school official?’ This regulatory quirk can leave parents in the dark.

...Google's U.S. educational partnerships are possible thanks in part to school districts' reliance on the government's reinterpretation of an obscure 1970s-era student privacy law.
The law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act or FERPA, requires schools to get written consent from parents before sharing personal information about students in many cases or risk federal education dollars. But it has an exception for sharing data with "school officials" who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the data.

When it was first enacted, that meant someone who was actually employed by the school district, according to Joel Reidenberg, a Fordham University law professor who has researched student data privacy. But changes in how the Department of Education interpreted the law in recent years now allow almost any individual or organization that contracts with a school district for some sort of educational function to be termed a "school official," he said.

In 2008, the "school official" exemption was extended to cover contractors because it was "critical" to establish rules for "non-consensual disclosures" as schools outsource more functions, according to an analysis of the changes from the department. To qualify for the designation, companies are supposed to provide a service the district would otherwise do itself and are held to the same general rules for use and restrictions on disclosing student data that govern traditional school officials....

Petition for Diwali Holiday Montgomery and Howard County Public Schools

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

...the school system's legal fees have nearly tripled. "Cut Foose Loose" petition.

An online petition requesting the Howard County Board of Education not renew Superintendent Renee Foose's four-year contract has collected more than 700 signatures since it went live last week.
The "Cut Foose Loose" petition cites several concerns about the superintendent's leadership, including her elimination of the Citizens' Operating Budget Review Committee; lack of communication with parents about mold issues at Glenwood Middle School; and elimination of the school system's in-house attorneys in favor of contracted legal services — since that decision was made in 2012, the school system's legal fees have nearly tripled...

The petition:

We request that the Howard County Board of Education not renew the contract of Superintendent Foose, if she requests renewal. We demand that our elected BOE hire a superintendent who will require transparency, accountability, and responsiveness. The years under Superintendent Foose have caused escalating difficulties for taxpayers, parents, students, and teachers.

IMPACT on Taxpayers. Under Foose’s HCPSS Leadership…
Elimination of the Citizens’ Operating Budget Review Committee - the group that provided public oversight of the proposed school budget (which is the majority of the Howard County taxpayer’s budget). [source]

Elimination of the HCPSS in-house attorney, incurring much higher costs for outside attorneys [PDF] [PDF] who have a financial incentive to litigate over working with parents, teachers and students to resolve disputes. [PDF]

Hiring an attorney for the Ethics Panel who was fired from Prince George's County Public Schools for unauthorized use of school funds. [source] [PDF p16 (last page)]

Spent over $10M last year on sole-source (non-competed) contracts. Chose to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on renovating the Board of Ed room [PDF] and a social medial consultant for the Superintendent and BOE [PDF] [PDF] while getting rid of direct support for teachers and students by eliminating paraeducator positions and increasing class sizes. Spent twice as much as Montgomery County on a special education audit. [PDF] [PDF]

IMPACT on Parents. Under Foose’s HCPSS Leadership…

Parents were not informed about known mold problems at Glenwood Middle School. When school staff wanted to tell parents, they were silenced. Mold was characterized as a “maintenance issue” - rather than a health issue - that did not need to be revealed to parents. Both students and staff with mold allergies suffered on-going illnesses. [PDF] [PDF]

Parents of students with disabilities and the Special Education Citizen’s Advisory Committee, were denied a (publicly funded) contractor's report of the HCPSS special education audit. Sanctions were sought and obtained on a special education student’s mother when attempting to obtain a copy of this special education audit report. [PDF] The Superintendent and senior staff noted that the report existed in records, then denied the MD-PIA request stating that the report did not exist. [PDF] The report still has not been released to the public.
There are other examples of non-compliance with the MD Public Information Act. [PDF] [PDF]

IMPACT on Students. Under Foose’s HCPSS Leadership…

BULLYING was IGNORED. Grace McComas was a bright, kind, and well-adjusted 14-year old who committed suicide on Easter Sunday, 2012. A drug-assisted sexual assault by a Glenelg High School student was not investigated, and Grace endured months of sexual harassment and bullying, which was reported to the school system. Next to nothing was done in response. Title IX of the federal Education Amendments Act, which describes a school’s responsibilities to address sexual harassment and sexual violence, was not followed, according to a parent. The family requested Grace’s counseling records, and have not received them. Several requests were made from June 2011–2014. Although legally required to do so, the HCPSS has not responded. [source] [source]. Foose recently told Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman she was not aware of requests for these records. [source] [source]. Grace’s Law, the child protective Maryland law against cyberbullying in Maryland, is not being properly communicated to families and victims. [source].
Other personal experiences of ignored bullying. [source]
Special Education students have had a particularly difficult time getting proper attention. Funds were removed each year from the special ed budget. The cutting of paraeducators affects them more, and parent requests for proper resources has not only gone unheeded, but has produced inappropriate antagonism. [PDF] [PDF] [PDF]
Suspension rates are higher for African American students in the HCPSS. [source]
It is proposed to remove the Jewish holidays from the HCPSS calendar. [source]

IMPACT on Teachers. Under Foose’s HCPSS Leadership…

Recently retired teachers have spoken at hearings saying they were afraid to speak for fear of their jobs in this Administration. There is not an atmosphere of open communication. [source]
Signing this petition is a call for HCPSS leadership to demonstrate greater fiscal responsibility, transparency, and communication. PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT and sign. Your email address will not be released to any third party.
By Authority: The People's Voice, LLC, PAC Lisa Markovitz, Treasurer (

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

MCPS BOE doesn't care if artificial turf fields are safe

Yet another article and report with yet more data on the dangers to students from playing on the artificial turf fields that will soon be in every high school in Montgomery County.  We already know the Board of Education members encourage having no maintenance on the artificial turf fields.

Concussion Report Highlights Field Maintenance, by reporter Ken Belson, from the New York Times, Dec 29, 2015

"When St. Louis Rams quarterback Case Keenum sustained a concussion in a game in Baltimore last month, commentators focused on how he wobbled when he got up and questioned why he was not taken out of the game. Few mentioned that he had slammed his head on the turf.'


"A new report compiled by the Concussion Legacy Foundation called attention to the link between head injuries and poorly maintained fields, especially the growing number of those made of synthetic turf.  The foundation urged groundskeepers, athletic directors and sports associations to treat their fields as seriously as other protective sports equipment."


"Despite the increase in synthetic fields, precise data on how they are maintained is spotty. Experts who maintain fields professionally say that many schools and parks departments forgo basic maintenance and do not test their fields to determine whether they have become too hard because they are unaware it is needed or because they want to keep costs down."

Google Chromebooks track students, collect personal data, build profiles and send students ads

Google's Chromebooks collects student personal data, target students with ads and create student profiles while parents are left in the dark, reports The Washington Post. MCPS has been using Google's Chromebooks and Google Apps for Education (GAFE) since 2014 and MCPS Chief Technology Officer declared that "MCPS parents have no need to worry about class room Chromebook privacy". Yet many popular Google services used daily across MCPS such as YouTube, Search, Maps and Google News, according to the Washington Post provide easy unrestricted access to student data because they are not considered part of Google's education suite: "if students are logged into their educational account and use Google News to find stories for a report or watches a history video on Youtube, Google can use that activity to build a profile about them and serve them advertisements outside its educational products" EFF alleges." Most parents are unaware that the Chromebook feature Chrome Sync is turned on by default and automatically exports their child's "browsing history, passwords and other personalized features between any Chromebook or Chrome browser that they log into". This enables Google to track students activities for commercial purposes without parental consent. According to Google,  "the decision to allow students to use Chrome Sync or use apps beyond its core education suite is up to school districts".  The Post also cites Khaliah Barnes, an associate director at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, who warns that "There are so many different apps and providers -- and overwhelmingly students are not getting the kind of security and privacy protection they deserve”.  

The Difference Between New Jersey and MD: Video Students in NJ, Go to Jail.

New Jersey:  An Ashland County judge sentenced a former teacher to 56 years in prison for secretly recording kindergartners using a bathroom next to their classroom.
Thirty-three-year-old Elliot Gornall was sentenced Monday after pleading no contest in October to 181 counts, many of which involved the use of minors in nudity oriented material or performance. Gornall entered that plea intending to appeal a judge's ruling that said images found on his computer were properly obtained and could be used as evidence.
Authorities say Gornall used a small spy camera to record 25 of his students at a school in Loudonville. The images were recorded between August and November 2014...

Remember when this MCPS teacher was caught spying on students, he got to stay employed with MCPS.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Blair Principal Disputes Police Report and Video, Finally Sends Letter Home to Parents

From ABC7 - Full video of Blair High School brawl referenced in above news story. According to the Blair Principal, there are only 10 students involved.  Watch the video and post in the comments how many students you can count in this video that are involved in this first period event (class had already started.

Video is on left side of page at this link:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

ONLY ON 7: Gang rivalry sparks massive brawl at Silver Spring high school

SILVER SPRING, Md. (ABC7) -- A gang dispute set the stage for an altercation at Montgomery Blair High School that injured staff members and involved more than 100 students, Montgomery County Police say.
According to charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court, on December 3, Malik Blythers, 18, picked a fight with a rival gang member in a second-floor hallway. It happened around 7:45 a.m., moments after the first period bell rang....

...Blythers, who is now facing criminal charges of disturbing school operations and disorderly conduct, is an alleged member of the "Maple Avenue Street Crew," which fights for turf in Takoma Park and parts of Silver Spring...

Monday, December 21, 2015

BREAKING: Student access to school wifi temporarily suspended. Long Term Solution to Use FIBER

Beginning last Friday, Students won’t be able to access the school’s wireless network with personal devices due to a system overload. The measure is temporary until MCPS addresses the system overload during winter break, computer support technician Greg Thomas said.

“Because of so many students having cell phones that are on all the time, there’s been a spike in the demand,” Thomas said. “We’re overloading the equipment, and it’s failing.”

Around 1500 student devices are routinely connected to the wireless network and have exceeded its capacity, leaving staff members unable to use their personal devices and students unable to connect to the internet on Chromebooks, according to an email from Thomas. As a result, the MCPS Wide Area Network department turned off login access to students on Thursday. Thomas said that this measure will combat issues teachers faced because of their inability to access the Internet.

“If a teacher has a class using Chromebooks, he might not be able to connect,” Thomas said.
Comcast’s attempt to install a modem to provide temporary improvement was unsuccessful, principal Alan Goodwin said in a follow-up email. An MCPS team will be at the school to address the issue during winter break, he said.

MCPS is also working on a long-term solution using fiber. This solution will take several months, but will be a major improvement, Thomas said.

While it won’t be long before the Wi-Fi is up and running again, Thomas said that he thinks there will be some improvements now that students can’t use their phones as effectively.

“Students will be learning more and have fewer distractions, Thomas said. “I don’t think most students’ cell phone uses are part of the educational program here. You can still chat with people without using a phone.”

Friday, December 18, 2015

ABC7: Student smuggles "pot brownies" into Blair HS, sickens two students

He laced chocolate brownies with marijuana, snuck them into his high school, sold them for $15 each and managed to sicken two fellow students in the process, police say.
Montgomery County Police have charged William Conrad Keysar, 18, a senior at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, with four criminal counts including distribution of a controlled dangerous substance on school property.
According to charging documents filed in Montgomery County District Court, on the day before Thanksgiving, Keysar roamed the hallways of Montgomery Blair selling pot brownies to students who wanted to make their classes a bit more... interesting...

Administrative Law Judge Ignores MD Law and Fed. Regulations In Excluding Press from Hearing

See the previous post about a Maryland Administrative Law Judge that barred a reporter from attending a hearing involving a MCPS student needing special education services. 

Here is applicable state law-Md. Code Ann., Educ. § 8-413(f)(2)
(2)   Parents involved in the hearings must be given the right to:
(i)   Have the child who is the subject of the hearing present; and
(ii)   Open the hearing to the public

 Here is the link to the federal regulations

§ 300.512Hearing rights.(a) General. Any party to a hearing conducted pursuant to §§ 300.507 through 300.513 or §§ 300.530 through 300.534, or an appeal conducted pursuant to § 300.514, has the right to—(1) Be accompanied and advised by counsel and by individuals with special knowledge or training with respect to the problems of children with disabilities, except that whether parties have the right to be represented by non-attorneys at due process hearings is determined under State law;(2) Present evidence and confront, cross-examine, and compel the attendance of witnesses;(3) Prohibit the introduction of any evidence at the hearing that has not been disclosed to that party at least five business days before the hearing;(4) Obtain a written, or, at the option of the parents, electronic, verbatim record of the hearing; and(5) Obtain written, or, at the option of the parents, electronic findings of fact and decisions.(b) Additional disclosure of information. (1) At least five business days prior to a hearing conducted pursuant to § 300.511(a), each party must disclose to all other parties all evaluations completed by that date and recommendations based on the offering party's evaluations that the party intends to use at the hearing.(2) A hearing officer may bar any party that fails to comply with paragraph (b)(1) of this section from introducing the relevant evaluation or recommendation at the hearing without the consent of the other party.(c) Parental rights at hearings. Parents involved in hearings must be given the right to—(1) Have the child who is the subject of the hearing present;(2) Open the hearing to the public; and(3) Have the record of the hearing and the findings of fact and decisions described in paragraphs (a)(4) and (a)(5) of this section provided at no cost to parents.(Authority: 20 U.S.C. 1415(f)(2), 1415(h))[71 FR 46753, Aug. 14, 2006, as amended at 73 FR 73027, Dec. 1, 2008]

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Montgomery Sentinel: Judge kicks Sentinel reporter out of hearing

Judge was formerly a partner in MCPS's outside law firm

Written by  Danica Roem
Judge Marina Sabett
ROCKVILLE – Administrative law judge Marina Sabett barred a reporter from The Montgomery County Sentinel from a hearing involving a special-needs child Wednesday morning, despite the child's parents’ inviting the reporter to attend the hearing at the Carver Educational Services Center.

“The family invited you into the hearing and the government wanted to conduct the hearing in secret. It doesn’t get any worse than that,” said Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Press Association attorney Chuck Tobin. “This is the exact opposite of transparency in government.
Read the entire story at:

Judge Sabett's Linked-In profile says that she was previously a partner at Venable, LLC, a law firm that bills thousands of dollars of legal fees to MCPS each year.

Washington Post: Rockville elementary school shows elevated levels of radon in retesting

Elevated levels of radon were found at a Rockville elementary school where parents and teachers have raised concerns in recent weeks about potential health hazards related to the odorless, colorless radioactive gas.

Montgomery County school officials have posted results from recent retesting at Fallsmead Elementary School that showed average radon levels in 14 rooms at or above the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit of 4 picocuries per liter of air (pCi/L).

Read the entire story at:

County Planning Board Approves Westbard Sector Plan After Last-Minute Wrangling Over Retail Spaces - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

...Tom Hearn, a resident of the nearby Sumner neighborhood who said he was instructed to sign up in order to speak near the end of the hearing, stood up to speak just before the vote, saying his questions about the number of new potential apartment units and school overcrowding had gone unanswered.
Hearn told Bethesda Beat after the meeting he had hoped to convince the Planning Board to delay the vote.
Anderson pointed to a table presented during the meeting that said the plan would allow a maximum of 1,380 new residential units in the next five to 10 years and a maximum total of 2,470 new residential units over the entire life of the plan.
County planner John Marcolin said projections of the number of students who would live in potential new development didn’t merit the Planning Board to require a new school in the Westbard area.
“I cannot have people come in on the last day and return to an issue that we have fully considered and given any member of the public a chance to talk about,” Anderson said as Hearn attempted to talk over him. “You’re welcome to talk to our staff and I’ll even meet with you personally and of course you have the opportunity to weigh in with the County Council, but not now.”
Also before the vote, Norman Knopf, an attorney who frequently represents county homeowners against certain aspects of proposed development, argued the board should add language that restricts new retail spaces to 1,000 square feet...

County Planning Board Approves Westbard Sector Plan After Last-Minute Wrangling Over Retail Spaces - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Why MCPS Administrators Do Not Notify Parents of Cell Tower Construction

MCPS administrators are currently trying to sneak at least two cell towers on to public school playgrounds.

Why sneak? Because MCPS administrators know how parents and guardians feel about these construction projects!  Parents and guardians are overwhelmingly opposed to the construction of commercial HAZMAT facilities on playgrounds!

Parents and guardians want school playgrounds to be safe places for their children to play.  Parents and guardians are not being lobbied or bribed by private for profit companies, they want a safe place for their children.

Here is video of how MCPS parents and community members feel about the placement of cell towers on public school playgrounds and fields.  The feelings expressed in this video have been heard from parents and guardians all over the county. 

Red Zone and Green Zone parents all feel the same way about these commercial HAZMAT for-profit construction projects. Parents and guardians all over the county are outraged when MCPS attempts to construct these projects on their local school playground.

The difference is that in the Red Zone, MCPS administrators work very, very hard to sneak the towers in without parents and guardians finding out what is going on.  That's called EQUITY in Montgomery County.  Thank your local Apple Ballot elected leader!

Video: Outraged Community at Wootton High School Cell Tower Meeting

Bethesda Fifth-Grader Seriously Hurt After Being Hit by Vehicle - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Bethesda Fifth-Grader Seriously Hurt After Being Hit by Vehicle - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Bowers Putting More Cell Towers on Red Zone Playgrounds #parkland #neelsville

Now that Larry Bowers is in charge cell towers can go up on Red Zone (high poverty) playgrounds. The next two Red Zone schools getting cell towers are Parkland and Neelsville Middle Schools. 

Green zone parents and guardians have been adamant that they do not want these commercial structures on their local school land.

Montgomery County is being permanently changed by the placement of cell towers on Red Zone schools.  Anyone driving around the County will easily be able to tell the poverty level of a neighborhood by the big, tall cell tower marking the public school playground. 

Hogan appoints new higher education secretary


ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Gov. Larry Hogan has appointed a new secretary for the Maryland Higher Education Commission.

Hogan announced Wednesday that James Fielder, who has served as his secretary of appointments, will take the place of Jennie Hunter-Cevera,

For the whole store go here.

Part 2 - Whitman HS to take part in research study of concussions

If a picture says a thousand words - a video provides a million.

Here is the video from Fox 5 showing the concussion research device that may be tested at Whitman HS.

Did you catch the principal on the clip as saying he is concerned about concussions because fewer kids are coming out for football. Gee, Dr. G - I hoped that you would be more concerned about the health of your students.

Development Plans will Add Students to Whitman and BCC Clusters

Chart shows Montgomery County Planning staff's estimates of additional residential units that would be added by August 2015 draft plan.
Column E seeks updated estimates given building height increases adopted by Planning Board on November 19, 2015.

This map shows how the Westbard development plans will straddle the Whitman and BCC clusters.

MCPS Gaithersburg mom shocked after her 6-year-old son walked home in the middle of the day

A Montgomery County mother says she was shocked her 6-year old son was able to walk away from school and come home in the middle of the day -- and she wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.
Tishawn Proctor of Gaithersburg says her son, John Seaton, who is in kindergarten, was sent to the nurse's office during recess at Strawberry Knoll Elementary School.
John told ABC7 he had a stomach ache and a substitute nurse eventually decided to send him home.
"She said to get your stuff and go," John said...

...We had already called Montgomery County Public Schools late Tuesday afternoon, and were told by a spokesperson she would get back to us with a response. As of Tuesday night ABC7 had not heard back.
Proctor says she just wants the school to take steps to make sure the situation never happens again to John or any other child.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Maryland to try new school model - MyEasternShoreMD: State Regional

EASTON — Gov. Larry Hogan announced on Wednesday, Nov. 24 his commitment to launch up to four P-TECH 9-14 schools in Maryland to help better prepare students for college and entry into the job market.
Hogan was joined by Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, President of the IBM International Foundation Stanley Litow, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools Gregory Thornton and Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels.
“I have been talking with staff about the possibility of one on the Eastern Shore,” said Superintendent of Caroline County Public Schools John Ewald. “It could be challenging based on the availability of resources and space but it’s a very worthy program.”
The P-TECH (Pathways in Technology Early College High School) education model was co-developed by IBM. P-TECH schools offer students an integrated six-year education program that combines high school, college and workplace skills.
Graduates from Maryland’s P-TECH schools will earn their high school diploma and a two-year postsecondary degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) from an accredited community college. These students will also get career experience and mentorship in the workplace, and can gain practical workplace experience with skills-based, paid internships...

Maryland to try new school model - MyEasternShoreMD: State Regional

Monday, December 14, 2015

"Some 100 years back, we learned the hard lessons of ionizing radiation and the need for strict health protections – now we must openly face the possibility that we must take a seat in life’s school and learn again. " Neuroscientist Dr. Olle Johansson Writes MCPS

On December 8, 2015 Dr. Olle Johansson wrote MCPS about MCPS' assessment of radio-frequency radiation in school classrooms. Parents and scientists continue to write MCPS to remove the false non-factual statements made about the health risks of radio-frequency exposures on the MCPS website. 

Dear Madame or Sir,

My name is Olle Johansson, and I am an associate professor, heading the Experimental Dermatology Unit at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute in the Department of Neuroscience. I understand you have recently made public pronouncements regarding the safety of Wi-Fi. As a neuroscientist who has been studying the biophysical and epidemiological effects of electromagnetic fields (EMFs) for over 30 years, I believe this designation is short-sighted.

Wireless communication is now being implemented in our daily life in a very fast way. At the same time, it is becoming more and more obvious that the exposure to electromagnetic fields not only may induce acute thermal effects to living organisms, but also non-thermal effects, the latter often after longer exposures. This has been demonstrated in a very large number of non-ionizing radiation studies and includes cellular DNA-damage, disruptions and alterations of cellular functions like increases in intracellular stimulatory pathways and calcium handling, disruption of tissue structures like the blood-brain barrier, impact on vessel and immune functions, and loss of fertility. Whereas scientists can observe and reproduce these effects in controlled laboratory experiments, epidemiological and ecological data derived from long-term exposures in well-designed case-control studies reflect this link all the way from molecular and cellular effects to the living organism up to the induction and proliferation of diseases observed in humans. It should be noted that we are not the only species at jeopardy; practically all animals, plants and bacteria may be at stake. Although epidemiological and ecological investigations as such never demonstrate causative effects, due to the vast number of confounders, they confirm the relevance of the controlled observations in the laboratories.

Many times since the early 1980s I have pointed out that the public’s usage of cell phones has become the largest full-scale biological and medical experiment ever with mankind, and I was also the first person to firmly point out that this involuntary exposure violates the Nuremberg Code's principles for human experimentation, which clearly states that voluntary consent of human subjects is absolutely essential. Among many effects seen, the very serious one is the deterioration of the genome. Such an effect - if seen in a food item under development or in a potential pharmaceutical drug - immediately would completely ban it from further marketing and sale; genotoxic effects are not to be allowed or spread. For these reasons above, we, scientists, can not accept that children undergo an enormous health risk for their present and future, by being exposed to WI-FI in kindergartens or schools (even if the WI-FI masts/routers are not in the children's classroom). The precautionary principle has to be respected. Furthermore, when men place cell phones in their front pocket, or laptops on their laps, it should be noted that experimental studies have demonstrated that after similar exposures there is a decrease in sperm count as well as in the quality of sperm, which is a phenomenon that could affect society’s overall ability to procreate in the future. Experiments in mice point to that it may be true already in 5 generations time.

Many other states including France, Russia, Israel and Germany, have employed various precautionary steps and their responses (including labelling cell phones and other transmitting devices with SAR ratings, discouraging the use of cell phones and other wireless gadgets by children, warning parents of the risks, and removing or restricting WiFi in schools and replacing it with hard-wired ethernet) as a result of the WHO/IARC classification of radiofrequency electromagnetic radiation in 2011 as a Class 2B carcinogen as well as the earlier classification of power-frequent magnetic fields in 2001 also as a Class 2B carcinogen, the information summarized in the Bioinitiative Reports of 2007 and 2012, and the other considerable international and independent research and reviews, that show adverse biological effects from electromagnetic fields, including heart palpitations, headaches, skin rashes, damage to DNA, mental health effects, impaired concentration, decreased problem-solving capacity, electrohypersensitivity, etc., are about to set a new standard for educational quality with due respect to children's and staff's health.

In the case of "protection from exposure to electromagnetic fields", it is thus of paramount importance to act from a prudence avoidance/precautionary principle point of view. Anything else would be highly hazardous. Total transparency of information is the key sentence here, as I believe the public does not appreciate having the complete truth revealed years after a certain catastrophe already has taken place. For instance, it shall be noted, that today's recommended values for wireless systems, such as the SAR-values, are just recommenda-tions, and not safety levels. Since scientists observe biological effects at as low as 20 microWatts/kg, can it truly be stated that it is safe to allow irradiation of humans at SAR 2 W/kg, or at 100,000 times stronger levels of radiation?

Another misunderstanding is the use of scientific publications (as the tobacco industry did for many years) as 'weights' to balance each other. But one can NEVER balance a report showing a negative health effect with one showing no effect. This is a misunderstanding which, unfortunately, is very often used both by the industrial representatives as well as official authorities to the detriment of the general public. True balance would be reports showing negative health effects against exact replications showing no or positive effects. However, this is not what the public has been led to believe.

In many commentaries, debate articles and public lectures - for the last 20-30 years – I have urged that completely independent research projects must be inaugurated immediately to ensure our public health. These projects must be entirely independent of all types of commercial interests; public health can not have a price-tag! It is also of paramount importance that scientists involved in such projects must be free of any carrier considerations and that the funding needed is covered to 100%, not 99% or less. This is the clear responsibility of the democratically elected body of every country.

Very recently (in Lyon, France, May 31, 2011) the WHO/International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (Group 2B), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer. This should be added to the previous (2001) 2B classification of power-frequent (ELF) electromagnetic fields – emitted at high levels from handheld gadgets, such as eReaders and mobile phones – as a risk factor for childhood leukemia. Given the 2001 very close votes (9 to 11) for moving it to 2A and all the new knowledge that has accumulated since 2001, today the association between childhood leukemia and power-frequent (ELF) electromagnetic fields would definitely be signed into the much more serious 2A (“probably carcinogenic”) category. So, the ‘red flag’ is – unfortunately – flying very high.

According to Article 24 of the UNICEF’s Child Convention “children have the right to … a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy”. We must all ensure that this article never is violated. This is about our social responsibility, and is very much a public health issue.

In summary, electromagnetic fields may be among the most serious and overlooked health issues today, and having these fields checked and reduced/removed from schools and kindergardens may be essential for health protection and restoration, and is a must for persons with the functional impairment electrohypersensitivity as for children who are more fragile (cf. Belyaev I, Dean A, Eger H, Hubmann G, Jandrisovits R, Johansson O, Kern M, Kundi M, Lercher P, Mosgöller W, Moshammer H, Müller K, Oberfeld G, Ohnsorge P, Pelzmann P, Scheingraber C, Thill R, "EUROPAEM EMF Guideline 2015 for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of EMF-related health problems and illnesses", Rev Environ Health 2015; 30: 337–371). In addition, as recently discussed in a think-tank group here in Stockholm, it is very important to constantly educate oneself and participate in the general debate and public discussions to keep the information build-up active. Thus, it is of paramount importance to keep the "kettle boiling", never blindly trusting or accepting given 'facts', but only read and think for yourself and for your loved ones. Only so you can arrive at a genuinely working precautionary principle.

In conclusion, wireless systems, such as Wi-Fi routers or cell towers, and their electromagnetic fields, can not be regarded as safe in schools, but must be deemed highly hazardous and unsafe for the children as well as for the staff.

I encourage governments and local health and educational bodies to adopt a framework of guidelines for public and occupational EMF exposure that reflect the Precautionary Principle. As noted, the Precautionary Principle states when there are indications of possible adverse effects, though they remain uncertain, the risks from doing nothing may be far greater than the risks of taking action to control these exposures. The Precautionary Principle shifts the burden of proof from those suspecting a risk to those who discount it — as some nations have already done. Precautionary strategies should be based on design and performance standards and may not necessarily define numerical thresholds because such thresholds may erroneously be interpreted as levels below which no adverse effect can occur.

Some 100 years back, we learned the hard lessons of ionizing radiation and the need for strict health protections – now we must openly face the possibility that we must take a seat in life’s school and learn again. This time it is about non-ionizing radiation.

Based on all of the above, I strongly urge you to reconsider your public stance on the safety of Wi-Fi, cell towers, and similar systems in schools as their non-ionizing radiation emissions very likely are hazardous and unsafe for students, staff and teachers.

With my very best regards
Yours sincerely
Olle Johansson

(Olle Johansson, associate professor
The Experimental Dermatology Unit
Department of Neuroscience
Karolinska Institute
171 77 Stockholm Sweden

Read more about Dr. Johansson and the letters from other experts HERE.

Congress Enacts Toomey Measure to Help Protect Children from Pedophiles Infiltrating the Classroom #listenupMCPS

Under this new federal law, MCPS will no longer be able to Pass-the-Trash by allowing teachers who are known or suspected child sexual predators to quit and move on to new jobs with children with a MCPS recommendation. 

We have no doubt MCPS administrators will find a way to circumvent this new federal law. That is the MCPS way, after all. Remember, MCPS administrators have been leaving suspected child sexual abusers IN CLASSROOMS WITH CHILDREN for over 20 years.  That practice has been documented by the Maryland State Board of Education. The Maryland legislature, however, has failed to even acknowledge this practice, much less take any action to protect Maryland students. 

Enforcement of this new federal law in Montgomery County will rely on parents and guardians reporting violations to the federal government.   


Education Bill, Including Pass-the-Trash Ban, Goes to President’s Desk

...Under Toomey's provision to the Every Student Succeeds Act, schools will no longer be able to help a known child molester obtain a job elsewhere, and become someone else's problem. It is hard to imagine that this appalling practice ever occurs-much less occurs so frequently as to have its own moniker, ‘passing the trash.' Congress's ban is long overdue. This is a victory for children in Pennsylvania and across the country," said Sen. Toomey....
...Sally Cooke, of Blackwood, N.J., the mother of a child who was sexually abused by her track coach, explained how crucial Sen. Toomey's legislation is. She said, "Thank you from every child who will not have the guilt, the shame, the pain of abuse. Thank you from every mother who had to watch her child endure the pain, the trauma of abuse. Thank you for protecting our children. Thank you for standing up and saying this is not okay that our children are exposed to these criminals. I hope everyone realizes what an impact this bill has: Many children are safer. Because of this bill, and Sen. Toomey's efforts, we are a better society."

Sen. Toomey's legislation to ban passing the trash was inspired by the tragic story of 12-year-old Jeremy Bell. A school in Delaware County, Pa. quietly dismissed a teacher for molesting several children. But instead of acting to stop the predator, the school helped him obtain a new job in West Virginia, sending letters of recommendation for the teacher. That teacher continued to harm young children, eventually raping and murdering Jeremy Bell.

Under Sen. Toomey's provision, a school district that receives federal funds shall not assist a school worker in obtaining a new job if the school knows or has probable cause to believe that the school worker engaged in sexual misconduct with a minor or student.

The provision has been endorsed by seven child advocacy groups, three law enforcement organizations, and three prosecutors groups:
Child Advocates:
National Children's Alliance
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
S.E.S.A.M.E. (Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct & Exploitation)
Center for Children's Justice
Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape
MassKids, Inc.
American Academy of Pediatrics
Law Enforcement:
Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association
National Association of Police Organizations
National Sheriffs' Association
Association of Prosecuting Attorneys
National District Attorneys Association
PA District Attorneys' Association

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Adult Teams Say No to Artificial Turf

So - we ask again, what is so appealing about artificial turf?  Why, in times of budget shortfalls, does the Montgomery County Board of Education make the same mistake - installing artificial turf fields at Montgomery County High Schools - when adult teams say no?

Who says no to artificial turf?  Since December 1, 2015 - 

1.  United States  Womens National Soccer Team.  

From the article:
The United States women’s national soccer team took one look Saturday at the artificial turf field that was to be the playing surface for Sunday night’s friendly against Trinidad and Tobago and said, enough.. . . A year after they sued FIFA over artificial turf and five months after they won a Women’s World Cup title on it, the players drew a line in the Hawaiian sand.  ntinue reading the main story

They told reporters the field wasn’t good enough. They told U.S. Soccer officials they wouldn’t play on it. And U.S. Soccer, left with little choice, agreed. And that was that. No game.  
2.  Baltimore Ravens

From the article:
The Ravens are switching from artificial turf to natural grass at M&T Bank Stadium for the start of the 2016 season.
Team President Dick Cass announced the move Friday and the players and Head Coach John Harbaugh, who already knew the plans, are giving the move a big thumbs up.
“The players really wanted to play on grass and that was a key consideration. The coaches wanted to play on grass,” Cass said. 
3.  And its more than just the Ravens in the NFL!  According to the same article:

Division rivals Pittsburgh and Cleveland both have grass, as well as the two closest NFL teams to Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia. Overall, 17 of the NFL’s 32 teams play their home games on grass, except for Green Bay’s hybrid field. 
What is up with MCPS and the MoCo Board of Education?  Money is tight, and even the adults who play on the fields prefer natural grass to recycled tires - oops, we mean artificial turf. 

Photo courtesy of Hope Solo, Goalkeeper for the US Womens National Soccer Team. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Whitman High School Chosen for Concussion Research Study - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Whitman High School Chosen for Concussion Research Study - Bethesda Beat - Bethesda, MD

Bowers Takes Away State Teachers Convention Day in New 2016-17 Calendar

Here is the latest version of the 2016-17 MCPS school year calendar.

In this version, the annual MSEA State Education Association convention no school day becomes a school day.  The Board of Education will vote on this version of the 2016-17 calendar on Monday, December 14th.  The Board of Education is not permitting public comment at the Monday, December 14th meeting.$file/2016-2017%20Sch%20Yr%20Calendar.pdf

WJLA: 26 Mont Co. Schools with elevated levels of cancer causing gas

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WUSA9) -- "I was shocked to get the letter," said one mom dropping off her Kindergartner at Oakland Terrace Elementary School Tuesday.
She says she trusts the administration but has questions about elevated levels of radon found at the school, specifically is my daughter's classroom affected? "I would like to know but I would assume if it were dangerous they would not be in school today or have an alternative," she reasoned.
Twenty-six elementary schools in Montgomery County have elevated but not dangerous levels of radon - a naturally occurring carcinogen from decaying soil that could cause cancer with high levels. The gas is colorless and odorless. Three out of the 53 classrooms at Oakland Terrace are affected including two kindergarten classes.
"I'm not an expert in this field," said another mom of a first grader, "they have the right people and I trust that."
According to the school department, there was a lapse in routine testing for radon and when levels were elevated a second round of testing was never performed - but now will. A letter was sent home Tuesday but we learned did not specify which classrooms and did not make it to every parent...

ABC7: Former MCPS teacher says he abused 14-year-old girl because he was always drunk or high


A former Montgomery County teacher says he showed up to work drunk or high nearly every day --- and that was his defense for having sexual relations with one of his former middle school students.
Robert Wilson III stood stoic Tuesday morning as a judge sentenced him to 18 months in prison.
In April, Montgomery County Police arrested Wilson III for having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl at Loiederman Middle School in Silver Spring.
Wilson III, who was a para-educator at Loiederman, met the girl in October 2014 through an after school math club that he supervised. The girl was 13-years-old at the time.
For the next six months, Wilson III would meet the girl (almost daily) in a school stairwell free of security cameras. There the two would kiss and inappropriately touch one another, court records state.
At sentencing, Wilson III's public defender blamed her client's actions on an alcohol and marijuana addiction, which according to court records, was so severe, Wilson III was at a nearly constant state of intoxication.
Prosecutors say because of the repeated abuse, the teenage victim now suffers from a loss of appetite, sleepless nights and a mood disorder.
Wilson III apologized in court, saying he'll have to explain his actions to his six-month-old daughter when she grows up.
Following sentencing, Wilson III's family left court quite upset, shouting that other Montgomery County teachers have been convicted of worse crimes, and add that those individuals got-off with lighter sentences.
Montgomery County Circuit Court judge Nelson Rupp however saw things differently saying, "No prison time would send the wrong message."
In addition to his 18 month prison sentence, Wilson III will have to register as a Maryland sex offender, undergo random drug testing, substance abuse treatment; mental health consultations and refrain from supervising minors, aside from his two young children.

Councilmembers and Planning Board Chair Question MCPS About Capacity Plans

Local leaders are asking questions in hopes of assuring constituents there is room for more development in the Bethesda area.
Montgomery County Council President George Leventhal, Education Committee Chair Craig Rice, District 1 Councilmember Roger Berliner and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson sent a letter to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Acting Superintendent Larry Bowers to ask about the school system’s plans to address future capacity needs in the Bethesda-area school clusters of Bethesda-Chevy Chase, Walter Johnson and Walt Whitman.
Leventhal talked about the importance of the letter at his weekly briefing on Nov. 30th.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

New BOE Meeting

We are so lucky.

The Board of Education announced a new meeting for Monday, December 14 just to discuss the MCPS calendar!

The agenda is posted early.  Way to go, BOE.

But - no public comment?  How are all the good folks of Montgomery County Maryland going to provide public input?

Seems as if, once again, the Board of Education isn't following its own policies.  As a reminder, this is right from the MCPS web:

Public Comments at Board Meetings
Who Can Make a Public Comment?
The regular business meetings of the Board usually include a public comments period in which any citizen, group representative, parent, or student may make a statement regarding an item on a past, present or future Board open-session agenda, or a matter of general policy over which the Board has jurisdiction.
How Do I Sign Up to Make a Public Comment?
At most business meetings, 30 minutes are set aside for Public Comments from residents to encourage public participation. The first fifteen (15) speakers who contact the Board office by telephone on the Monday prior to the business meetings are granted three (3) minutes each to speak 
For those of us who have other obligations - really - who among us isn't working or waiting for a child to return from school at 2:30 in the afternoon, you can send in your comments to  Better yet, call MCPS at (301) 279-3617.

And we had hoped that Josh Civin would help the BOE and Larry B. understand their responsibilities under Maryland law.  Even if the BOE does not consider this a "regular" business meeting, we think some opportunity for public comment is in order.