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Daily News Archive

Parents Fight for Better Pest Management in School
(Beyond Pesticides, July 20, 2004) According to The Herald-Sun a group of parents and teachers on the school board are very concerned with the pest management practices of the Durham Public Schools. They want the Durham Public Schools to adopt a pest management strategy that doesn't use chemicals proven to be harmful to people.

Billie Karel, program coordinator for the Agricultural Resources Center and Pesticide in Education Project, an organization that advocates for alternatives to toxic pesticides in North Carolina, said, "Most people are surprised its even an issue." The schools use a gel pesticide in classrooms and hallways on an as-needed basis, but in cafeterias, Osteen, DPS superintendent of operational services, said pesticides are still sprayed on a regular basis.

Karel's organization has formulated a prevention-based approach, IPM(link), that had been proven to be successful in other parts of the country. The key elements of this are educating school staff and students about monitoring the school grounds to identify pests, keeping records of pest problems, pest-proofing waste disposal areas, and using least-toxic if all else fails.

According to the Safer Schools report, written by Beyond Pesticides and the School Pesticide Reform Coalition, at least 27 school districts in 19 states have adopted pest management strategies that do not rely on the use of hazardous pesticides. Of these 27 school districts are the three largest, New York City Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, and Los Angelas Unified School District. This new strategy has been approved in North Carolina by Forsyth County, Wake County, and Elizabeth City.

According to the Agricultural Resources Center, IPM (link), is cheaper than spraying pesticides. A survey found that "On average, N.C. school districts spend $1.77 per student per year on pest control and districts with the least-toxic pest control programs spend $1.49 per student per year, the survey said." The new approach involves preventative methods as opposed to spraying every month, even if there are no pests.

Representatives from several state departments and organizations like the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the N.C. Division of Public Health and the N.C. Parent Teachers Association signed a commitment to creating a healthier learning environment for children and school staff in March.

Take Action: Go to your school board meeting and find out more information about the use of pesticides in your district. Then contact the appropriate school board officials and tell them that you want IPM practices implemented in your area. For a list of organizations and government contacts in your state check out our State Pages. Also see our Schools program page.