Parents criticize school antenna

Parents of some Coupeville School District students are charged up over electromagnetic fields, asking the school board to reconsider a decision to allow a cellular telephone company to place an antenna on school grounds.

About 20 adult community members presented the board with petitions to reconsider its decision to allow Cingular Wireless to erect a 95-foot antenna near the football field by Coupeville Elementary School. The board approved the agreement with Cingular at its May 21, 2002 meeting..

The board heard directly from two mothers at its meeting Monday night.

Claire Picard, the mother of one Coupeville student, asked the board to consider health risks and future liabilities involved with exposing children to emissions from the cellular antenna.

“There is evidence out there that shows there is a risk,” Picard said to the board. “It’s our kids. It’s their brains. They’re delicate structures.”

Cindy Van Dyk, PTA president and the mother of two Coupeville students, told the board that she was “dismayed” that the board did not ask for parent input prior to entering into the contract with Cingular. She, too, is concerned about health risks.

“I agree with...what Claire has said,” Van Dyk said of Picard’s presentation to the board, which included articles prepared by researchers that state that people can be harmed by the transmissions from such antennae.

However, as part of the board agenda packet for the meeting, district officials provided copies of documentation that “was researched prior to the decision by the board regarding the health impact of a wireless antenna on school grounds,” said Janet Wodjenski, a school district office employee, in a prepared memo. That documentation included reports from the Federal Communications Commission, and indicate that radio frequencies emitted from such antennae are within safe levels. One chart indicates that power levels of cellular antennae are similar to that of police or fire station antennae.

While the Coupeville School Board listened to the parents’ concerns, and received the petitions, it did not discuss or comment on the request to reconsider its contract with Cingular.

“It wasn’t on our agenda last night, so we haven’t had a deliberate decision how to proceed,” Mitchell Howard, school board president said Tuesday.

Coupeville School District will earn about $750 per month in rental payments from Cingular in exchange for the placement of the antenna on school grounds. But parents don’t think the money should be a motivating factor.

“I know that the money carrot is dangling in front of you, and I don’t blame you for that,” Picard said. “It’s just not that much money weighing out the risk here.”

The school board will review the materials submitted by Picard before making a decision on whether or not to reconsider the Cingular contract, “because it’s the right thing to do,” Mitchell said.

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