Tbnewswatch Local News
2011-10-12 at 9:10AM

Is Wi-Fi safe? Peterborough schools restart debate after disconnecting

Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com
By Jeff Labine, tbnewswatch.com

Citing health concerns, a pair of schools in southern Ontario has pulled the plug on wireless networks. But as the Wi-Fi debate continues, schools in this area do not appear eager to disconnect. 

Wayside Academy in Peterborough, Ont., removed its Wi-Fi system Tuesday, a month after Pretty River Academy in Collingwood, Ont.  disabled its own. Both Wayside Academy and Pretty River Academy are private schools.

Wayside Academy has instead placed a hardwire Internet network in the school.  The school’s principal Adam Parker said they wanted to err on the side of caution.

“We had a number of parents approach us within our school and they had some concerns about the health risks around Wi-Fi,” Parker said. “We already had a no electronic policy in our school for our students so we went on step farther and air on the side of caution.”

Lakehead University didn't have a Wi-Fi network until Brian Stevenson became the school’s president in 2010.

Confederation College president Jim Madder said they didn’t have plans to disconnect their wireless Internet and added that removing Wi-Fi from the school would greatly hinder the ability to provide the best services for students.

“We had a number of people in health and wellness and experts in electromagnetic fields and they indicated in their view there wasn’t an issue,” Madder said. “There was an issue of course if you placed yourself directly beside a major source of this type of radiation. With any technology and typically the ones you can’t see it generates anxiety and a fair bit of speculation. I like to put it in the hands of people who know the affects.”

Madder added that if new evidence came up, he would revisit the issue.

Former LU president Fred Gilbert said he hasn’t moved on his opposition against Wi-Fi. Gilbert removed the university’s wireless network during his time in office also as a precautionary measure.

“The evidence continues to mount,” Gilbert said. “There’s vulnerability in that they have the potential to cause cancer, particularly in young people.”

Gilbert said he wasn’t surprised that the new Lakehead University president overturned his decision but suspected that sometime in the future LU may reverse their choice and again remove the network.

“I think the strongest evidence to move on the precautionary principle is in Europe right now,” he said. “There’s probably better understanding over there. France has pulled it out of its public libraries. I think, even though it’s an individual decision, a lot of schools and a lot of universities have started to pull it out as well.”


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