Editorials

Our View: It’s time for Ripon schools to get rid of the cell phone tower

Ripon school parents want cell tower removed over cancer fear

Ripon, California, Unified School District is working with Sprint to move a cellular phone tower near Weston Elementary after four students were diagnosed with cancer and parents voiced their concerns.
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Ripon, California, Unified School District is working with Sprint to move a cellular phone tower near Weston Elementary after four students were diagnosed with cancer and parents voiced their concerns.

Here is a message to Ripon schools: Move it.

That’s not encouragement to get up and exercise. It’s advice on resolving the school district’s public relations headache, which might go away if a cell phone tower is moved to another location.

It’s not proven that five current and former students of Weston Elementary, and three teachers, got cancer from a Sprint cellular tower put at the Ripon school 10 years ago, as some parents suspect. Their concerns, first raised two years ago, finally came to a head when 200 parents packed a recent school board meeting, and some pulled their children from school and demanded transfers to other campuses.

But the notion of cell phone radiation causing cancer isn’t disproved either.

Because some doubt remains, Ripon Unified School District should err on the side of caution and get rid of the tower. It’s the only way to make sure students and teachers aren’t being unduly exposed, and it just might help to mend fences with an upset community.

Chances that the cell tower is sickening people seem small, if you believe the company and the establishment. Sprint says the tower complies with federal regulations, whose safe-exposure limits are far higher than needed — thousands of times — to keep people safe, according to the Federal Communications Commission. “There is no reason to believe that such towers could constitute a potential health hazard to nearby residents or students,” the FCC says about cell towers in general.

The American Cancer Society seems to buy that, noting that anyone using a cell phone — nearly all of us — is exposed to many times more radiation than someone near a tower.

However, the American Cancer Society also says, “it’s not clear how cell phones and towers might be able to cause cancer, (and) research in this area continues.” And the California Department of Public Health says, “research suggests long-term, high (cell phone) use may impact human health,” concluding that the jury is out.

But the California Brain Tumor Association insists that “the jury actually is back and it has given its guilty verdict. We are convinced that the science, on a global basis, is far more definitive than the claims by industry and government agencies imply.”

As long as there is disagreement, why not just remove what they’re disagreeing over?

Initially, school officials said they were legally bound by the 15 years remaining on a 25-year lease with Sprint. It has nothing to do with the $2,000 a month that Sprint pays the school district, the district said, and that’s believable.

Now the school district says it’s asked Sprint to let the district out of the contract so the tower can be moved. Sprint spokeswoman Adrienne Norton on Monday confirmed that and said they hope to meet this week to work things out. “We very much hear what the community is saying, we understand their concerns and we’re working to come up with alternative solutions as quickly as we can,” she said.

It’s a shame this didn’t happen long ago. Waiting till now makes it look like the powers that be don’t react unless there is public outcry, and a potential black eye for those entrusted with the safety of our children.

Whether cell tower radiation is real or imagined, what’s not imaginary is the emotional well-being of families. Ripon schools should have had that at heart all along.

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