Work to adopt a least-toxic pest management policy in your school district! Here are ten steps you and others in your community can take to change your school. For more information and assistance on these steps and more, contact the Healthy Schools Campaign at 888-CPR-4880.
Ten Steps to a Healthy School
1. Research: Start with the Superintendent's Office.
Questions to ask:
- What pesticides are used in the district?
- What are the health effects of these pesticides?
- What are the district's pest problems?
- Does the district have a policy on pesticides?
- How are pesticide decisions made?
The first step towards a healthy school comes from understanding how your district approaches pesticide management. Keep following up to get your answers —you need these facts!
2. Get Help! There is power in numbers! Who can help or would be interested in joining the Healthy Schools Committee?
Establish a core group of supporters. After completing your research, develop a core group of people to work on this issue. A group, as opposed to an individual, is more effective. You can find members in many ways. Talk to friends, family, neighbors, and other parents, teachers, and school staff within your school and/or school district. Contact local groups with possible interest, such as the PTA, public health professionals, or local community and environmental organizations. This group does not need to be large in numbers, merely in commitment level. Your core group of people should be willing and able to devote time and energy to the work. Contact the Healthy Schools campaign at 888-CPR-4880 for other suggestions on establishing your core group!
3. Establish your group's goals. What do you want? Consider these goals:
- Ban most hazardous pesticides
- Least-toxic IPM policy
- IPM Committee of public & school representatives to oversee IPM policy & program implementation
- What do you and the other members of the group want the school district to do? Clearly defining the policy that you want the district to adopt helps organize your ideas. Defining the steps helps to assure that the district will pass and implement a strong policy on pesticides. Download a sample school board policy.
4. Talk with District Staff to Get Support.
After determining your goals, meet with school staff responsible for pest management to determine their position. The more that they feel part of the policy design process, the better the chance of program success. Be prepared to talk about successful alternative solutions in other school districts. Be sure to bring people to the meeting who represent your community, including teachers, parents, and students.
5. Get the support of the School Board – research Board members and the process/rules.
In order to pass a policy, you must convince the majority of school board members that a least-toxic IPM policy is the right approach to pest control. Are there school board members who are friendly to your ideas? Set up a meeting with them – talk about your plan and get advice on how to proceed with the rest of the Board. If you don't have an initial ally on the Board, do a little research. Have any Board members opposed the idea of pesticide reform in the past? Ask allies and friends in other community, labor, and environmental organizations who have done schools work before. Additionally, research how to get a policy passed and implemented in your district. Does the policy need to go to a committee of the Board? Does a Board member need to sponsor it? What is the timeline? How often do the Board and its committees meet? Contact your District office and visit the School Board webpage for this information.
6. Build Public Support—Create a BUZZ!
Regardless of how many allies and how much opposition you have on the School Board, you need to create a community buzz. Talk to everyone you know and meet about the least-toxic IPM policy—explain why it's so important and how it affects the children in your community! Get the support of religious groups, neighborhood organizations, local business owners, labor unions, and public health folks at the city, county, and state levels. Ask them to sign a petition, distribute flyers, and write letters to the editor. Ask county and statewide groups to send letters of support for your work. Most importantly, ask everyone to contact School Board members and to attend the School Board meeting when you present your policy. The School Board must hear public support for the least toxic IPM policy! Call the Healthy Schools campaign for examples of petitions, flyers, etc.
7. Publicize your issue: MEDIA!
Use the media to spread the word about your work! Contact local newspapers and radio and TV stations and build relationships with reporters. The more discussions and information distribution about least-toxic IPM policies, the better! The public needs to hear about this issue! Call the Healthy Schools Campaign for media strategy advice.
8. Present your policy to the School Board. Pack the room!
A least-toxic IPM policy has its greatest impact when formally adopted by the district school board. At this point you have already researched the process for passing a policy. Take the steps appropriate for your district. Usually, a board sub-committee will review and approve the policy before it goes to the full board. As you prepare to present your proposal at school sub-committee and board meetings, line up your Board member support, ask fellow group members and allies to speak in favor of the policy, recruit supporters to pack the room, and prepare for opposition.
9. Follow-up! Monitor what the district is supposed to do & stay on them!
A least-toxic IPM policy is only effective if implemented and maintained. Your district will not fall into old habits of pesticide dependence if someone (you & other members of your group) is following-up! Maintain communication with the offices of the Superintendent and other appropriate departments to ensure access to information, including important meetings. Track these meetings and have someone representing your group attend as many of these meetings as possible. Additionally, you need to work with the district to develop a strong IPM committee.
10. Establish an IPM Committee of parents, teachers, students, community members, and school staff to monitor the district's implementation.
Long-term success comes from continued support from parents, teachers, and staff. Be prepared to take an active role in IPM implementation by sitting on the IPM Committee. A seat on the IPM Committee offers the best vantage point to not only watchdog but also to play a vital role in the nuts and bolts of IPM decision-making. Since IPM in schools is a relatively new concept, many schools and their IPM committees have to learn as they go. Passing IPM policies is the easy part. Implementation is usually more difficult. Make sure the people who care about your issue stay informed and involved. Send e-mail announcements, set up a phone tree, etc. Don't lose the momentum and passion of the people involved!
For more information and assistance on how to pass a good least-toxic IPM policy, contact the Healthy Schools Campaign at CPR.