(Beyond Pesticides, September 3, 2009) As the new school year approaches, the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources (DAR) is urging parents to ask whether their child’s school or daycare facility has a current School Integrated Pest Management (IPM) plan.
“At home and in the classroom, parents are the first line of defense in protecting their children against pesticide exposure,” said DAR Commissioner Scott Soares. “Maintaining a school or day care IPM plan is not only required by law, but it is also crucial to insure children’s safety.”
According to DAR’s Division of Crop and Pest Services, the vast majority of schools and day care facilities have filed IPM plans with DAR, but roughly 200 schools and 400 day care facilities are not in compliance with the state IPM law. DAR periodically notifies schools without plans about the requirements throughout the year. Day care facilities can lose their operating licenses if they do not comply, and this year schools that do not file an IPM plan within 90 days face a $1,000 fine. In addition, DAR collaborates with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Early Education and Care to engage school principals and superintendents as well as day care.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a program of prevention, monitoring, and control which offers the opportunity to eliminate or drastically reduce pesticides in schools, and to minimize the toxicity of and exposure to any products which are used. Education, in the form of workshops, training sessions and written materials, is an essential component of an IPM program – for everyone from administrators, maintenance personnel, cafeteria staff and nurses to parents and students. If pesticides must be used, only least toxic pesticides are recommended, including garlic or mint oil and tamper resistant baits.
In 2000, Massachusetts passed legislation to prevent unnecessary exposure of children to chemical pesticides, promote safer alternatives to pesticides, ensure that clear and accurate notification concerning the use of pesticides in schools and day care centers is available to parents, and to promote the use of integrated pest management techniques to reduce schools’ reliance on chemical pesticides. The law requires that schools, day care centers and school-age child care programs adopt and implement IPM plans that cover both indoor and outdoor areas. Plans must be filed with DAR and at least one copy must be kept on school premises and made available to the public upon request.
Beyond Pesticides urges all parents to ask their school whether they have adopted and implemented an IPM policy. If your school does not have an IPM program, Beyond Pesticides can provide you with the resources necessary for developing, adopting, and implementing a school IPM program. Read our factsheet, “Alternatives to Using Pesticides in Schools. What is Integrated Pest Management?” for information on IPM and please visit our Children and Schools webpage for more information.