Lead Schools To Dismantle Wi-Fi
November 22, 2006
and teachers are forcing some schools to dismantle wireless computer
networks amid fears that they could damage children's health.
More schools are putting transmitters in classrooms to give pupils
wireless access from laptops to the school computer network and the
But many parents and some scientists fear that low levels of microwave
radiation emitted by the transmitters could be harmful, causing loss of
concentration, headaches, fatigue, memory and behavioral problems and
possibly cancer in the long term.
Scientific evidence is inconclusive, but some researchers think that
children are vulnerable because of their thinner skulls and developing
At the Prebendal School, a prestigious preparatory in Chichester, West
Sussex, England, a group of parents lobbied the head teacher, Tim
Cannell, to remove the wireless network last month.
"We listened to the parents' views and they were obviously very
concerned," said Cannell. "We also did a lot of research. The
authorities say it's safe, but there have been no long-term studies to
prove this. We had been having problems with the reliability of it
anyway, so we decided to exchange it for a conventional cabled system."
Vivienne Baron, who is bringing up Sebastian, her ten-year-old
grandson, said, "I did not want Sebastian exposed to a wireless
computer network at school. No real evidence has been produced to prove
that this new technology is safe in the long term. Until it is, I think
we should take a precautionary approach and use cabled systems."
At Ysgol Pantycelyn, a high school in Carmarthenshire, Wales, parents
aired their concerns to the governors, who agreed to switch off its
"The county council and central government told us that wireless
networks are perfectly safe," said Hywel Pugh, the head teacher, "but
as there were concerns, we listened to them and decided that the
concerns of the parents were of greater importance than our need to
have a wireless network."
"Many people campaign against mobile-phone masts [cell-phone towers]
near schools, but there is a great deal of ignorance about wireless
computer networks," said Judith Davies, who has a daughter at the
school. "Yet they are like having a phone mast in the classroom and the
transmitters are placed very close to the children."
Stowe School, a Buckinghamshire private boarding school, also removed part of its wireless network after a teacher became ill.
Michael Bevington, a classics teacher for 28 years at the school, said
that he had such a violent reaction to the network that he was too ill
"I felt a steadily widening range of unpleasant effects whenever I was
in the classroom," he said. "First came a thick headache, then pains
throughout the body, sudden flushes, pressure behind the eyes, sudden
skin pains and burning sensations, along with bouts of nausea. Over the
weekend, away from the classroom, I felt completely normal."
Anthony Wallersteiner, the head teacher of Stowe School, said that he
was planning to put cabled networks in all new classrooms and boarding
Professor Sir William Stewart, chairman of the government's Health
Protection Agency, said that evidence of potentially harmful effects of
microwave radiation had become more persuasive over the past five years.
His report said that while there was a lack of hard information of damage to health, the approach should be precautionary.
A spokesman for the British government's Department for Education and
Skills said, "It's up to individual schools to decide on this."