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Telling the Principal to Keep the Poison Out of School

lawnThe first thing I thought when I read Nancy Gift’s blog post about landing in her kids’ principal’s office to fight the spread of poisonous herbicides on her school lawn? Wait, she gets a letter from her school about impending herbicide applications?

Gift, author of A Weed By Any Other Name: The Virtues of a Messy Lawn, or Learning to Love the Plants We Don’t Plant, is quick to point out she doesn’t complain about just any herbicide. But she was headed into do battle the school’s hire ups over 2,4-D.

A popular herbicide, the EPA lists its short term effects as “nervous system damage.” Just want you want around kids and their developing nervous systems. Long term effects, by the way, are even worse: “damage to the nervous system, kidneys and liver.”

Hence Gift’s trip to the principal’s office and the resulting fight with an assistant superintendent who waxed on about the “aesthetics” of a school lawn.

Since we’re already on the elementary school level here, I’ll go ahead and say it: aesthetic, shmaesthetics. We have refrained from using pesticides on our lawn for two main reasons: our daughter and my belief in benign neglect. When the dandelions go to be too much, I had my husband pull out the rototiller and laid down new grass seed. Hard work, but worth it to keep the cancer at bay, in our estimation.

But in six years of paying taxes to the local school district, I have yet to see a letter in my mailbox regarding the sort of pesticides and herbicides used on the grounds. A check with a parent whose child is in the district (mine is still in nursery school) came up with the same answer. It makes me question the validity of that old saying “no news is good news.”

As more schools fight the sort of public relations nightmare Gift stirred up in her hometown, I wonder how many schools will opt in on those letters – and how many will opt out.

Image: Kevin Dooley via Flickr

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