Salling pushes for health regulations in public schools
State Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R6) is cosponsoring a bill that would enact a “Healthy Schools Program” into the state’s public school system. The bill will implement the adoption of regulations
establishing minimum standards designed to protect the health of the occupants of public school buildings.
The program would set up specifications for the regulation of indoor air and water quality, asbestos encapsulation and removal, lead-based paint hazards, classroom temperature, mold remediation and pest control. Public schools would be expected to maintain these standards and be subject to random checks from a Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene.
“It’s sad to see the state that some of these schools are in and how they’re not taking care of the student and I think this will be an important bill to help them out,” said Salling.
He presented the bill along with Lily Rowe, the founder of the online organization “BCPS Parents & Teachers for Equitable Facilities & Portable AC” during a Tuesday, February 21 General Assembly hearing. The meeting went very well, said Salling’s chief of staff Gregory Snyder. He added that after Salling and Rowe’s testimony two Democratic senators, Nathaniel J McFadden of District 45 and Roger Manno of District 19, added themselves to the bill.
During the hearing, Salling referenced a story that came out last week about a teacher at Glenwood Middle School in Howard County who resigned due to health concerns over mold in the school building.
In a letter, teacher Lindsay A. Jensen wrote to the school’s system Director of Human Resources that she had experienced a variety of side effects from working in the unhealthy environment, such as difficulty breathing and heart palpitations.
She criticized the school system in the letter, writing that “there are no set standards for the types or amounts of mold allowed in school buildings at this time.”
Jensen wrote that the Howard County Public School System
“does not have the health of their staff and students in their best interest” and expressed worries over the health of her former students.
Salling, who filed the bill on February 1st, before this story broke, said that these are the types of cases the bill is hoping to prevent.
He said that feedback about his proposal and been mostly positive, especially from teachers and other members of the public schools’ staff.
“We’ve had a great response, they’re very happy because they see for themselves daily the problems that we do have.”
Salling said that he made the bill a priority for the legislative session after visiting public schools in the county and being disgusted by the environment in which the kids were learning. He recounts seeing crumbling walls, brown drinking water, and non-functioning air conditioning units.
“I thought, ‘ this is unacceptable for our kids’. We want to make sure that when the kids go to these schools, they don’t see parts of the wall hanging off or have to walk down overheated hallways.”
The Healthy Schools Programs relates back to an ongoing issue with Baltimore County Schools that are not equipped with air conditioners, resulting in many local schools having to be closed due to rising temperatures.
The Healthy Schools bill will now go to a legislative committee vote which, if voted favorably, would then be brought to the Senate floor.
SEN. JOHNNY RAY SALLING