Votes to Ban Pesticides in Schools
(Beyond Pesticides, August 1, 2005) The Goleta school board voted last week to become the first school district in Santa Barbara County to rid its campuses of pesticides based on a proposal suggested by the district’s maintenance and operation’s director. The eradication will cost $38,900, which will cover the price of hiring a groundskeeper to pull weeds and trap gophers, minus the cost of purchasing pesticides to kill both.
The 4-1 decision came three weeks after the district's director of maintenance and operations, Jay Sullivan, acknowledged that on at least one occasion, pesticides had been accidentally sprayed on an elementary school garden located at Brandon School, a garden from which children sometimes eat. The school board member that voted no on the pesticide-free policy said she would prefer to dedicate the money to programs such as pre-school or physical education.
Cost is often cited as the reason for not wanting to implement an Integrated Pest Management program however, in a report entitled, Pesticide Use At New York Schools: Reducing the Risk, the Attorney General of New York State, Eliot Spitzer, said how he’s heard from many that implementation of an Integrated Pest Management Program (IPM) in schools could be expensive, however, his experience has told a different story. See article in Pesticides and You. In the case of Goelta, the School Board President, Manor Buck said, “I have a tendency to support a proposal when it comes from maintenance,” he went on to say how the cost is reasonable.”
Effective immediately, the district will stop using the last two pesticides in its arsenal: fumitoxins for gophers and Roundup Pro herbicide for weeds. Under the new policy, pesticides can still be used in the event of an emergency such as an unusually large pest infestation, but staff members must notify the school board as well as parents who have requested such information. To do that, parents must fill out and return a form that will be sent home with students during the first week of school.
The new pest- and weed-control employee will be charged with burying in tunnels stapler-sized gopher traps with sharp jaws that snap shut like a bear trap when a gopher trips the spring. These traps will be buried well out of reach of the children, according the district’s maintenance and operation’s director. The traps will be 18 inches below ground. See Beyond Pesticides fact sheets Least Toxic Control of Pests and Alternative Weed Management Strategies.
No other district in Santa Barbara, Ventura or San Luis Obispo counties has gone this far to eliminate pesticide use, said Eric Cardenas, a spokesman with the Environmental Defense Center, a local nonprofit environmental law firm.
According to Cardenas, other government agencies have recently adopted "integrated pest management" policies, which keep pesticide use to a minimum and try to inform the public.