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10 July 2016

Rhode Island: North Kingston Teacher Resigns Over Concerns for the Health and Security of Children Exposed to Wi-Fi

“We have nothing to lose by playing it safe and delivering the internet to students via safe, hardwired connections.”

NK teacher McDonald resigns

by Shaun Kirby, ricentral.com, 9 July 2016

NORTH KINGSTOWN—Facing termination from the North Kingstown School Department because of her refusal to administer testing last fall, high school math teacher Shelley McDonald has decided to resign. Her decision, accepted by the school committee at its June 28 meeting, comes after a long fight with school administration on testing which she felt, if she consented to give the tests to students, had the potential to violate her privacy.

“I chose to resign because I just no longer had the energy, the support, nor the finances to fight what clearly looked to me like an unwinnable situation,” she said on Wednesday.

This past February, McDonald went before the school committee because of her refusal to administer PARCC tests to students in March and December 2015. She has been a long-time opponent of the school’s installation of wifi in classrooms, citing health concerns with electro-magnetic radiation created by the technology at numerous committee meetings over the past two years.

She had also claimed that the terms and conditions of the test’s publisher, Pearson, Inc., include the potential release of personal information, such as social security numbers, to unknown third-party groups, something to which she did not want to agree.

A memorandum of agreement was drawn up between the school department and the North Kingstown teacher’s union which stated that only very specific items of personal information, such as the teacher’s name and district email address, would be accessible by Pearson. The MOA added that teachers would be held ‘harmless’ in administering the test unless in cases of ‘gross negligence.’

Superintendent Philip Auger declined to comment specifically on McDonald’s resignation. He has been adamant throughout the ordeal that McDonald’s termination was decided because of her insubordination in administering the tests when no other teacher held such opposition, not her repeated claims that wifi was potentially harmful to students.

McDonald has maintained that she has ‘done her job’ in administering the PARCC exam this past fall.

“My primary concern with signing the Pearson document has always been that, in doing so, I would agree that it is okay for Pearson to sell and share my student’s information, personal and otherwise, with third parties,” said McDonald in March. “Of course, I found it disturbing that Pearson would have access to my personal information, [but] my students and their families trust the school department and me, as their teacher, to do what is in the best interest of the children.”

“In this instance, I felt that in agreeing to Pearson’s privacy policy I would betray that trust,” she added. “I believe that parents and students should give informed consent on this matter, not the teachers.”

McDonald said on Wednesday that she will continue to advocate for the safety and well-being of students before the school committee and the community at large.

“Parents need to understand the risks and they need to consider that even though there are studies and officials who declare that microwave emissions from WiFi and cell phones and chromebooks pose no risk to health, there are just as many studies, scientists and medical organizations that are suggesting that clear risks do exist, especially for children,” she said. “Exposing students to unchecked microwave radiation in their classrooms is quite literally a gamble.”

“We have nothing to lose by playing it safe and delivering the internet to students via safe, hardwired connections.””


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