A discussion about mitigating radiation exposure to Central Okanagan Public Schools students got a little heated at the board of education meeting on Wednesday.
Several trustees took exception to a motion introduced by Lake Country trustee Amy Geistlinger to invite Dr. Devra Davis to speak on the issue before the board at some future date.
Davis was a senior scientist at the National Academy of Sciences, and a presidential appointee of the Clinton presidency administration, and a member of the team awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore in 2007.
With the health trust, scientific nonprofit committed to creating a healthy and safe environment, Davis has continued her advocacy for safer use of Wi-Fi technology, especially around children.
She has been called an “alarmist doomsayer” whose views are not supported by statistical cancer data that reflects an increase in the occurrence of brain cancer as cell phone technology has advanced and broadened in use over the last 30 years.
“Millions of children are being exposed to something that has never been fully tested,” Davis said in an interview back in 2016. “We’re treating our children like lab rats in an experiment with no controls.”
Giestlinger said she is passionate about student safety in schools and felt Davis would bring an independent science viewpoint to any discussion that might assist the school district.
Other trustees, however, did not share her sentiments.
Trustee Chantelle Desrosiers questioned the credibility of Davis, saying she was not Canadian and not an accredited scientist.
“One of my concerns is just saying radiation in this resolution, there are a multitude of types of radiation so I’m not sure where exactly we would be going with this,” Desrosiers said.
Trustee Norah Bowman said like Davis, she also has a PhD and is probably more qualified to speak on the issue with her education background and understanding of science-based data conclusions.
Bowman, an instructor at Okanagan College, said the scientific method of research that university academics prescribe to and speak publicly about with other cohorts is based on fact, not opinion.
“I am highly opposed to this whole motion,” Bowman said.
Board chair Moyra Baxter said the board has not discussed the issue and come to a conclusion “we need more advice on this matter,” so it would be a bit premature to start inviting outside speakers to come address trustees right now.
Making reference to the QAnon beliefs currently being spread, Baxter said, “There are people out there talking about some really, really strange things and there are a lot of people who believe them.”
Trustee Rolli Cacchioni abstained from voting on the resolution, arguing that trustees should leave it to medical professionals to provide advice if and when it is needed.
“This is a waste of time even discussing it,” Cacchioni said, saying trustees should focus their attention on school issues impacting the education of Central Okanagan students, citing one example of the need to replace Rutland Middle School.
Giestlinger said while Davis’ science credentials and education background might be called into question, she noted all viewpoints should be considered when talking about the health-care standards for students in public schools.
“She is one of 250 scientists around the world who have done studies on this issue but what they are saying is not getting the media spotlight or attention perhaps it deserves,” she said.
“What if we ignore them, and 25 years down the road they turn out to be right, just like people who were ignored raising concerns about tobacco endangering out health back in the 1950s….just give them a chance is all I am saying.”
In the end, the school board rejected the idea, with Geistlinger the lone trustee voting in support of the resolution.