As the Surrey School District moves forward with its plan to bring wireless internet (Wi-Fi) to all of its schools by the end of 2013, one parent in South Surrey is crying foul.
Carl Katz, who's daughter attends Peace Arch Elementary School is upset with the district's plan, citing his daughter's electrosensivity - a sensitivity to wireless signals - as the reason.
According to Katz, who is also electrosensitive, the condition means that high-speed wireless signals such as those used in Wi-Fi transfers can cause anything from dizziness, to nausea and anxiety in those afflicted.
"There are kids out there who are sensitive now and most parents have no idea what's causing their child's anxiety, the dizziness, the nausea," said Katz, noting that there is also a smaller group of individuals who could be more adversely affected. "There is also a subset of people who's hearts are affected and their hearts go out of rhythm, so it can be potentially life-threatening."
For Katz, who works as an IT technician by day and is one of the founding members of Citizens for Safe Technology, an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the harms of wireless technologies, the issue is about protecting his child from an unsafe environment.
"As a parent who's electrosensitive, you don't ever want this, the sleeplessness, the dizziness to happen to a child if you can help it," he said, adding that cellphone signals don't cause the same effects as Wi-Fi due to their intermittent signals.
Over at the Surrey School District, spokesperson Doug Strachan said the plans to roll out wireless in all of its schools was an initiative started two years ago, and since that time, the issue has come up infrequently at best.
"It pops up from time to time," said Strachan. "I think the first time was about three years ago and then there was a district parent advisory meeting a few weeks back in early January and there were a few inquiries as a result of that, but overall, not very many."
That's not to say, said Strachan, that the district isn't listening.
"(Some parents) do have sincere concerns but with any health issue we defer and take our direction from the health experts," he said, noting that Wi-Fi has been deemed safe by Health Canada. "I'm sure these parents are convicted in their concerns, but we have to carry on with our plans based on what the health experts tell us."
But for Katz, that isn't good enough.
"I don't want my daughter exposed to it and she complains all the time that she's lightheaded and I know exactly what it is, I don't want to alarm her but I know what it is," said Katz.
When asked what he might do now that it's clear the district is planning to move forward with its initiatives, Katz said he isn't sure how to proceed.
"I don't know at this point," he said. "I know a parent whose kids went to Earl Marriot, she pulled her kids out because of this but I work and we're not in a position to home school, so that's a big question mark."
For now, Katz said his goal is to make sure parents are aware that this is an issue, and to hopefully inform those who's children may also be suffering from electrosensitivity that it is an actual condition.
"My goal is to make as many parents aware of this as possible because there's strength in numbers," he said. "If the district is willing to bend over backwards for students suffering from peanut allergies, they should be doing the same for kids who are theoretically allergic to wireless."
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