Toxics Action Center: Pesticide Free MA Schools Initiative
Project Manager: Sherry Ayres, Toxics Action Center
Partners: GreenCAPE, Earth Decade Committee, Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Pesticide Action Committee, Sherborn Groundwater Protection Committee, Stoneham Parents for Healthy Schools, Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group.
In May 2000, a law requiring schools and day care centers to take steps to protect children from unnecessary pesticide exposures was passed. Referred to as the Children's and Families' Protection Act (CFPA), the law eliminates the use of the most hazardous pesticides; requires parental notification of pesticide applications, and requires an alternative pest management strategy (referred to as Integrated Pest Management, IPM). Lawmakers envisioned citizen participation to be vital to effective implementation of this law.
The objective of this project was to work with five to ten neighborhood groups and their municipalities on implementation of the CFPA. Toxics Action produced and disseminated a Citizen's Guide to the law and assisted the partnering communities in developing and implementing their IPM Plans. The lessons learned were shared with policy makers and appropriate state agencies to enhance future implementation efforts.
In addition to creating a base of understanding of the challenges posed by implementation, the project created a substantive informational guide and organizing manual for citizen's concerned about children's exposure to pesticides in schools. The guide, in its final or earlier draft forms, was distributed to approximately 75 individuals who expressed an interest in working on the issue of pesticides in schools. Through speaking engagements at our annual conference and a number of other forums, including NOFA's Winter Conference, Sarah Little's Regional Pesticide Awareness Forum, and YWCA's Environmental Health Forum, Toxics Action Center educated approximately 150 people about CFPA and the need to engage citizens in its implementation. Through the project, we provided assistance to five groups that made significant advancements in the implementation of CFPA in their schools and towns. Their endeavors have formed a base of experience and expertise that will help inform the efforts of other school districts.
In conjunction with TURI and MASSPIRG, Toxics Action Center also held a meeting with UMASS Extension and Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEA) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to report back on citizen's experiences with implementation so that they might inform the state agency's training and enforcement initiatives.
With Toxics Action Center's assistance, citizens have made steps forward in their local school districts implementation of the Children and Families' Protection Act (CFPA). Here are some of the highlights:
- As a result of GreenCape's efforts, Barnstable school officials have been made aware of CFPA, have named a coordinator, and are working on an IPM plan to submit to the state. Members of Sudbury Earth Decade have conducted a survey of the IPM progress of all of Sudbury's schools. Sudbury's high school, elementary schools, and middle schools have created indoor IPM plans. The DPW is in the midst of creating outdoor plans for the schools. Due to the advocacy efforts of Earth Decade, the new high school was already built with a number of sustainable green features. Accordingly, citizens will continue to work with the high school to implement an outdoor IPM plan that complies not only with CFPA, but also the Conservation Commission's 'proximity to drinking water supplies' restrictions.
- NPAC plans to work with their local Jamaica Plain school to create a 'gold standard' IPM plan that they hope will serve as a model for all Boston Public Schools.
- Sherborn Groundwater Protection members have worked with the school administration and custodial staff to create a model indoor and outdoor IPM plans. Since submission, citizens have continued to watchdog pest management practices in the school.
- After reviewing the school's IPM plan, Stoneham Parents for Healthy Schools advocated for a stronger plan that involved parent input. The school is now in the midst of forming an IPM committee that will have representatives of the school committee and Stoneham Parents for Healthy Schools.
In terms of the Information and Education component of the project, Toxics Action Center has produced the final version of its Citizen's Guide to Implementing the Children and Families' Protection Act. The guide is a visually exciting, reader-friendly, well-researched description of the need for and requirements of the law and the means through which citizens can evaluate their school programs and advocate for protecting children from needless exposure to pesticides.
The guide includes:
- A actual copy of the legislation;
- A questionnaire to analyze the school's implementation progress;
- A fact sheet on the health effects of pesticides;
- A fact sheet on the myths surrounding chemical-dependent school pest management programs;
- A fact sheet on how schools are saving money with IPM
- One school's IPM success story;
- Sample indoor and outdoor IPM plans;
- Sample notification information and letter;
- Sample Record Keeping Forms;
- A description of IPM team roles;
- A bibliography of additional resources.
Thirty-five of these final citizen guides were distributed at the TURI statehouse event, to program partners, and other local activists interested in pesticides in schools. The guide will be posted on our new website.
The statehouse event, organized by TURI, served as a springboard for Toxics Action Center's Advocacy and Outreach work. Information packets were distributed to each of the senators and representatives in whose districts our partners are located. The packets included a guide, a press release, a sample letter-to-the-editor about the project, and a fact sheet about IPM. Toxics Action Center also worked with TURI to send out press releases, with a local angle supplied by the partner organization, and conducted follow up media work with papers in partners' regions.
Unexpected issues encountered by Toxics Action Center in this project were the unique political nature of the school environment and the different approach needed to implement regulations that are already on the books as opposed to pushing for the creation of new regulations. Our experience has shown that those school districts with the most progress in implementing CFPA were those with citizen advocates that were already involved in the system (member of school committee, parents, town officials, etc.).
Given the limited resources and overburdened responsibilities of many school districts, CFPA implementation was determined by collaboration with citizen advocates (to draw upon their expertise and efforts) as opposed to citizen pressure. Indeed, most citizen advocates were wary of creating a dynamic of conflict with their own school system.
One of the ways in which Toxics Action Center addressed this issue was to put more emphasis on the guide's resource and information sections so that the guide became less of an organizing manual and more of an informational handbook that offered officials all information necessary to implement the law in his/her school. The way in which Toxics Action plans on addressing this issue in the future is to target outreach to parents, teachers, and custodians through organizations, such as Parent Teacher Associations, parent magazines, and teachers and janitor unions in order to involve individuals that are already part of the system, and therefore would have an easier time establishing a partnership to ensure the law's implementation.
Toxics Action Center's TURN project was an attempt to assist in the implementation of a new law that had never been attempted before. In many ways the project was a pilot to determine what resources and tools were needed to implement CFPA effectively in schools across the Commonwealth. As described previously, our project was not completed exactly as planned due to political realities that shifted the focus of the project. These experiences helped us identify the current holes and challenges with the law's implementation and to get a sense of how implementation might look like on the ground, what worked, and what didn't work. The lessons learned through this project will inform not only future endeavors to restrict pesticides in school, in Massachusetts and also throughout the nation.
In its original proposal, Toxics Action Center outlined the project's objectives and a list of evaluative questions that would determine how well we were meeting those goals. Quantitatively, as listed in the accomplishments above, the evaluation of the project was strong in the areas of informational materials, outreach, and organizing assistance. The evaluation was weaker in terms of media work and generating more statewide action and attention on CFPA, which we plan on focusing on this fall. Qualitatively, the project has been an impressive endeavor to assist the implementation of a brand new law. The outcomes and challenges of the project will inform not only future endeavors to restrict pesticides in school, not only in Massachusetts but throughout the nation. It was a valuable project that, while not achieving all of its originally stated goals, has produced a quantity of good work and information that will be built upon in the future.
Toxics Action Center is currently conducting outreach to publications and other organizations to advertise the project's citizen guide and publicize the situation regarding implementation of CFPA. Toxics Action Center is collaborating with MASSPIRG to conduct a survey of pesticide-use in Massachusetts' schools since the passage of CFPA and to write-up a report on the status of the law's implementation.
This page updated Wednesday November 30 2016