Thursday, March 23, 2017

Maryland State Department of Education
now says screen safety is "inferred"

On March 15, 2017 the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) knowingly provided misinformation to the Senate EHE Committee in its testimony regarding SB1089, claiming that Department has plans to address the health risks posed to our children by classroom digital devices.

In its letter to the Senators (see full letter, below), MSDE testified that screen time health issues are part of its draft ESSA document.

When pressed, however, the Department now says that screen time issues are "inferred" in the ESSA draft and offers only the following reference to classroom screen time:
  1. Develop guidelines/policies related to digital content that ensures accessibility and encourages personalized learning, prepare students for College and Career, and promote academic achievement and digital literacy. August 2017 State 
  2. Provide models of best practice for the use of technology in daily instruction and encourage the use of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA) Practice Tests. 
This is unacceptable and insufficient. Our children are legally owed a safe classroom environment.  Maryland's entire medical community, including the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland Chapter and MedChi has endorsed HB866 and SB1089, underscoring the urgency of this legislation to protect children of all ages from being SERIOUSLY AND UNNECESSARILY HARMED by the schools' hazardous equipment in a variety of ways, from myopia and permanent retinal damage to depression, sleeplessness and addiction.

The schools can't and won't protect our children. They are not medically qualified.  The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is hiding from their School Health responsibilities now too. (See below.)

We must have medical oversight for the medical hazards facing our children, introduced by the use of school-issued equipment.

Call or email Delegate Luedtke's office (410-841-3110) or contact him @EricLuedtke. Ask him to find a way to get HB866 passed, and back over to the Senate.

Each day, this legislation becomes more and more important.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Thank goodness for Google cache. 

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene's Office of School Health web page that outlines its responsibility for classroom screen safety is still available to the public:

Oh, no! Now that's missing too?
It's okay. We saved it here

Despite what DHMH tried to say:

On March 10, 2017, members of the House and Senate Committees considering SB1089/HB866 were told of the DHMH responsibility for screen safety guidelines, as identified on the DHMH Office of School Health web page. But that page has disappeared.

Dear Delegate Kaiser, Senator Carter Conway,

The classroom screen safety bill (HB866/SB1089 "Primary and Secondary Education - Health and Safety Guidelines and Procedures - Digital Devices") now being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee will be heard by the Senate EHEA Committee next Wednesday, March 15. This bill directs DHMH to create safety and health guidelines to address the serious health risks facing Maryland students, now that the children are using digital devices in school every day.

OSHA has protected adults from many of the same health hazards posed by computer equipment for decades; doctors are quick to point out that the risks are more serious for growing children. Maryland students using digital devices in school every day now face increased myopia, permanent retinal damage, dry eye disease, headaches, sleeplessness, obesity, anxiety, addiction and more.

Drafting classroom safety guidelines is already DHMH's responsibility as part of its School Health program. This is made clear on the Department's School Health web page:

Responsibilities of the Office of School Health include:
⦁    To develop policies, procedures, and programs to meet the health and health related needs of school aged children

This bill simply directs DHMH to craft guidelines for classroom digital device use specifically, because the school equipment poses serious medical risks to children, requiring professional medical oversight.

MedChi and the American Academy of Pediatrics' Md. Chapter (MDAAP) endorse this legislation, recognizing "there is a growing body of evidence that there are serious potential health risks for children associated with excessive use of digital devices," and that "it is critical that health and safety guidelines be developed to ensure that those risks are accounted for in the use of digital devices in the classrooms."

The medical community also underscores the need for consistent, statewide guidelines from DHMH and notes that "legitimately, the local jurisdictions don't have the time or expertise to put a framework together."

The Children's Environmental Health and Protection Advisory Council (CEHPAC) also endorses this legislation, recognizing that Maryland's children need to be medically protected from known health hazards. Children's advocates nationwide are anxiously hoping for its passage, as a blueprint for their own states.

With 26 co-sponsors from across the state for HB866 , and both Baltimore County and Montgomery County Senators co-sponsoring SB1089, this legislation has broad bi-partisan support. The Fiscal Policy Note reports that the bill will not cost anything.

More technology is becoming increasingly accessible to more and younger Maryland students, so it is critically important to direct the state's medical experts to protect them from avoidable harm. I hope you will help to ensure this effort is successful.

Thank you very much for your consideration,

Cindy Eckard

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Here's what the Senate EHEA Committee saw before a majority voted SB1089 down.  Thanks to Senators Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, Johnny Ray Salling, Bryan Simonaire and Ron Young for protecting our kids from being harmed in school.

Montgomery County Attorney questions MSDE claims regarding safe use of digital devices. MSDE letter regarding SB1089, is below.

Dear Ms. Gable,

According to Tiffany Johnson Clark, Esq., the MSDE draft of Maryland's ESSA Plan addresses issues surrounding the amount of screen time that public school students will have on digital devices.  In my review of THE DRAFT DOCUMENT, I have not been able to find the specific section that addresses the amount of screen time that students should be on digital devices while in public school classrooms.  Can you please assist me in locating the section of the draft that speaks to this issue?

We believe that this representation from Ms. Clark has been used to influence the votes of members of the Maryland legislature on a bill that seeks to address this very issue.  In an effort to provide the legislature with accurate information, we would like to have the specific citation to where the issue of digital device screen time in public school classrooms is addressed in the draft ESSA Plan.

Thank you for your expert assistance.

Janis Zink Sartucci, Esq.
Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, MD


The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) believes there is little proof of harm to our children as a result of using digital devices in school every day. This, despite the entire medical community underscoring serious medical risks. Both the Maryland State Medical Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland chapter strongly support this bill.

Read on... written by the chief ed tech proponent in the school system... signed by the MSDE legislative representative.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Senate EHE Committee votes down screen safety bill, putting Maryland students at risk for blindness from school equipment

Thank you Senators Nathan-Pulliam, Young, Salling and Simonaire for voting to protect our kids. Perhaps the others will reconsider? 

March 17, 2017

Dear Delegate Arentz and Co-sponsors of HB866,

Last night the Senate EHE committee voted down SB1089, the cross filed bill for HB866, which directs DHMH to do its job, and create safety guidelines to protect our children from hazardous school equipment, as part of its Office of School Health. A simple, no-cost request that our children do not suffer from permanent damage from using devices that are unsafe.

The Committee voted it down last night, following Wednesday's hearing wherein the Senators saw a very informative video, received favorable oral testimony from a pediatric ophthalmologist and the American Academy of Pediatrics Maryland chapter, all of which underscored the urgency of this effort.

Piles of letters were received by the Committee in support as well, outlining all the risks our children face because of unregulated use of devices in school. Experts from around the country in a variety of specialties from optometry to psychiatry weighed in, alongside some of Maryland's largest parent coalitions.

Please do everything within your power today to persuade your colleagues in the Ways and Means Committee to favorably review HB866. A social media campaign was launched before dawn this morning among parents across the state, and across the country.

Whosoever knowingly harms a child will be held responsible.

Thanks very much for your help,

Cindy Eckard

Monday, March 6, 2017

Watch the VIDEO of Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Hearing, held Wednesday, March 15th. Testimony for SB1089 begins at 2:02:02. 

This is the video the lawmakers saw during the Senate hearing for SB1089 on Wednesday, March 15th.

LEARN MORE about the MEDICAL RISKS facing students. 

The Maryland State Medical Society and the Maryland Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics endorse screen safety bills HB866 and SB1089: