Salling pushes for health reg­u­la­tions in pub­lic schools

The Avenue News - - FRONT PAGE - By: GIANNA DECARLO gde­carlo@ches­pub.com

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

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