Executive Director, PennEnvironment
Executive Director, PennEnvironment
Councilmembers demand action after media expose, lack of action by District
For More Information:
David Masur, PennEnvironment, (267) 303-8292
Anne Kelly, office of Councilman Mark Squilla, (215) 686-3458
[Philadelphia, PA] – Members of Philadelphia City Council were joined by members of the Philly Healthy Schools Initiative, including parents, labor union representatives and others, to announce the introduction of new legislation by Councilman Mark Squilla to attempt to tackle the threat posed by crumbling and peeling lead paint in Philadelphia’s public schools.
“For over six months, concerned parents, teachers, principals, and other community members have pleaded with School District officials to fast-track the work needed to protect our kids from lead paint in our schools, all to no avail,” noted public school parent and PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “Today’s introduction says that foot dragging and procrastination when it comes to protect our children’s’ health will not be tolerated.”
Councilman Squilla was joined by Councilmen Bass, Green, Gym, and Henon as original cosponsors to the proposed legislation, which will be formally introduced on Thursday’s Council session day. The legislation’s introduction comes after an investigatory series by two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters from the Philadelphia Inquirer uncovered elevated levels of lead dust and other environmental health threats to be pervasive in the city’s public schools.
“We hope this legislation will create a good working relationship among the School District, City Council, the PFT, Healthy Schools Initiative and parents to develop a process with specific guidelines on the remediation of lead paint from our school buildings with proper oversight that will insure accountability,” added Philadelphia Councilman Mark Squilla.
“We all know about the threat that lead poses to public health and our children,” noted Jackson Elementary School parent Laurie Mazer. “Yet I’ve been shocked and appalled by the lack of coordination, communication, and lackadaisical implementation of best practices to make sure our kids are protected from this threat in our schools.”
The legislation being proposed by City Council will set best practices for identifying, removing, and cleaning up crumbling lead paint in city schools; mandate that School District officials inform parents and school workers prior to doing lead paint removal, as well as all testing results and protocols being used; and set timelines that will help solve the problem quickly and reduce the threat posed to the health of children and others in Philadelphia school buildings.
“Philadelphia Federation of Teachers cares deeply about ensuring that all our schools that are safe, healthy, clean and welcoming for all students and staff,” stated Jerry Roseman, Director of Environmental Science & Occupational Safety & Health for the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health & Welfare Fund. “Exposures to lead, asbestos, mold and other hazards must be controlled and controlled now. We think the bill sponsored by Councilman Squilla is an incredibly important step in that direction.”
At earliest, City Council could take up the legislation in the fall, after the summer recess.
“I have devoted a significant amount of attention and my legislative work has focused like a laser beam on lead and its detrimental effect on children in various settings, added Philadelphia City Councilwoman Bondell Reynolds Brown. “The research on the health dangers of lead is very disturbing. This work is hard and difficult but important.”
“Councilman Squilla’s amendments to the administrative code would help protect Philadelphia children from lead exposure by ensuring that their schools are certified lead safe,” noted Dr. Marilyn Howarth, Director for the Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. “As a physician in Philadelphia, I have seen the burden of lead exposure on our children. Councilman Squilla’s proposed ordinance is long overdue.”
“Protecting school children’s health is a top priority for Philadelphia’s public school principals,” stated Cindy Farlino from CASA. “We are the eyes and ears on the ground in our schools to see the problems and report them to be properly addressed. Our members were mortified and distressed by the findings in the Inquirer series over the past two months.”
The Philly Healthy Schools Initiative will continue to press City Council to introduce legislation to better protect children from the threat of asbestos in schools, which is a known carcinogen, as well as proposals to create an independent Healthy Schools Task Force.