North Coast school board trustees will be asked to formally ban the use on district campuses of glyphosate, an herbicide frequently sold under the brand name Roundup.
The proposed resolution is on the agenda for the Coast Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, May 16. The meeting will start at 7 p.m. at the district office conference room, 1350 Main St.
Glyphosate has come under intense scrutiny in recent years, with thousands of lawsuits being filed against the manufacturer, some judgements coming down with awards in the lawsuits, and numerous countries and health agencies either banning the herbicide outright or issuing stern warnings about it, based on scientific studies and research showing that the herbicide causes cancer.
One of those lawsuits was filed in 2017 by Cambria ranch owner Teri McCall, who alleges that three decades of Roundup use by her husband, Jack McCall, caused his cancer and death from it at age 69. “I just don’t think my husband would have taken that risk if he had known,” she said then. “His misfortune was taking Monsanto’s word that Roundup is safe.”
At the school board meeting, trustees will consider a resolution “recognizing the health risks that exposure to glyphosate herbicide poses to our school community and environment,” and that “stakeholder groups have called for permanently eliminating” use of that product on all district sites because the board stands with the community.
In approving the resolution, the board would also would “unequivocally oppose all use of glyphosate” and requests that any remaining supplies of the herbicide “be immediately removed from all district sites, disposed of properly and banned from all future use.”
The issue of Roundup on school grounds has arisen before, but this time, Cambria grandmother and Liz Bannon saw (and photographed) district employees on May 2 spraying something on a campus. The two workers were enveloped head to toe in white gear designed to protect them from hazardous materials, so Bannon asked what they were spraying. It was Roundup.
She posted the photo on various social media sites, asking, “Why are our schools using Roundup?”
She said the workers told her they were doing what their supervisor had told them to do. Reaction responses were fast and furious. When asked by The Cambrian that day about the use of Roundup and how it related to a board’s authorization last fall to buy an expensive Foam Stream system for weed control, Board President Samuel Shalhoub seemed shocked by the news and vowed to follow up on the issue very soon.
The next day, District Superintendent Scott Smith issued a statement to community members that said, “Please accept my sincerest apology for the recent incident where staff was using weed killer in an unacceptable manner. Once we found out what was happening, we immediately suspended the use of these products and will not permit their use in the future. If you see our grounds crew conducting weed abatement be assured it is utilizing the Foam Stream equipment that is 100 percent natural, environmentally friendly and non-toxic.
“We will strive to do better in the future and want to thank the community for your patience and continued partnership.”