Barrie man speaks to Kawartha Safe Technology meeting

By KENNEDY GORDON/Examiner Staff Writer

May 30 2011

When Rodney Palmer took his young son out of school, the principal demanded a doctor’s note — and threatened to have Palmer taken to court.

Palmer produced a note, only to find the school refusing to accept it and insist that he sign over his privacy and medical records to allow the school to investigate the doctor’s diagnosis.

“I’ve taken my son out of school, but not as a protest,” Palmer said Monday night. “I did it to protect him.”

The Barrie-area businessman and former CTV journalist spoke at Westdale United Church on Sherbrooke St. to a crowd of about 50 people concerned about wireless Internet (Wi-Fi) in schools.

The Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board plans to install Wi-Fi in all its schools over the next year, something some parents say was done without their consent.

“I’ve taken my son out of school, but not as a protest. I did it to protect him.”

Rodney Palmer

“Sadly, the board has not listened to our concerns or the advice of the experts,” said parent Sheena Symington.

Palmer, who said his wife, son and daughter all exhibit extreme sensitivity to electronic signals such as cellphones, told the audience that he learned only after the fact that his childrens’ school had installed Wi-Fi routers.

He saw an immediate effect on both his children (such as nausea, headaches and heart palpitations) and now they don’t attend the school anymore.

But what frustrated him, he said, was the way the school fought him on his concerns.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re right,” he said.

He joined the school’s parent council, only to watch as the school deleted all references to wireless Internet from the minutes of their meetings.

Opponents of Wi-Fi in schools, such as the local group that organized the meeting, Kawartha Safe Technology, say schools are rushing to hook the systems up without understanding the risks.

Trent University researcher Magda Havas presented samples of 10 studies at the meeting, saying they proved RF radiation — which pulses through Wi-Fi and cellular signals — can have a negative effect on health, particularly on people who are already susceptible.

“Children are the most vulnerable,” she said.

“We hear all the time that Health Canada says it’s OK, but it isn’t.”

She said Health Canada bases its findings on studies done by the wireless industry itself, and everyone else along the way — health units, school boards — simply parrots what she considers to be flawed findings.

“I’m convinced Health Canada is corrupted by the wireless industry,” said Palmer, explaining the big wireless companies have worked for more than a decade to sell huge quantities of wireless technology to North American schools.

Schools have stopped being places to learn and have become places to sell, he said.

“There is no difference between Wi-Fi in the schools and the Coca-Cola machine in the schools. The school board? Not evil. Not so smart, maybe. But not evil. The big companies? Evil? No. But they’re focused on profit.”

But his pleas — he represents the Simcoe County Safe Schools Committee — tend to fall on deaf ears, he said.

He urged action, suggesting parents keep their children home during the annual EQAO provincewide testing, but said that in the end, it’s a futile fight.

“I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done,” he said. “But it’s a fight you can’t win. We’re only going to win this if we influence the trustees — or replace them.”