Ottawa school board's Wi-Fi plan scares parents

Ottawa school board's Wi-Fi plan scares parents

Conflicting reports from WHO, Health Canada leave parents in the dark

Posted: Feb 21, 2012 7:23 AM ET

Last Updated: Feb 21, 2012 10:12 AM ET

Some west Ottawa parents are speaking out about their concerns with wireless internet connections in their children's school, saying not enough is known about long-term exposure to Wi-Fi.

For both Ruth Ann Semple and Jessica Van Hees, the unknown is frightening.

"Our children should be dissecting rats, they shouldn't be functioning as lab rats," Van Hees said, "And this constitutes as a massive experiment on children."

Jessica Van Hees says children are being put at risk by schools that have Wi-Fi.Jessica Van Hees says children are being put at risk by schools that have Wi-Fi. (CBC)

About one-third of schools at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are already equipped for Wi-Fi, but the plan is to have all schools, including portables, ready by the end of 2012. Semple and Van Hees Both say their school has not informed them about installing Wi-Fi, which is set for March.

There is conflicting information about whether exposure to radio frequencies from a wireless internet connection is a health hazard.

A World Health Organization report from May 2011 indicates the frequencies may be linked to some forms of cancer. In December, Health Canada updated its website to acknowledge the alternative viewpoint from international agencies but insists more research is needed and Wi-Fi is no cause for concern.

Public board sides with Health Canada, Ontario premier

The man behind the public board's plan to wire the schools is siding with Health Canada. He also said most parents are excited by the prospect of their children using wireless internet to learn.

Dave Miller says the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trusts Health Canada's belief that Wi-Fi is not a cause for concern.Dave Miller says the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trusts Health Canada's belief that Wi-Fi is not a cause for concern. (CBC)

"Mostly, we are hearing calls about when are we going to get this installed, and how come it hasn't been done by now," said Dave Miller, manager of business and learning technologies at the school board. They ask, "How come I'm not ahead of the other guy?"

Recently, a sub-committee of Ontario's Catholic teachers union wanted Wi-Fi out of the classroom until more studies were completed. The public teachers union is also looking into Wi-Fi concerns.

But just last week, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty sided with Health Canada.

The west Ottawa parents say they could pull their children from the school if the board continues with the Wi-Fi plan and switch to home schooling.