Waiting for Governor Larry Hogan to Sign
the Classroom Screen Safety bill
Update 4/24: Governor Hogan has just signed the bill
Children's health advocates have
much to celebrate in the wake of the Maryland General Assembly's
vote on HB1110: "Public Schools – Health and Safety Best Practices – Digital Devices." The bill passed unanimously in both the House of Delegates and the Senate.
Many thanks to all of our elected officials for protecting our children.
And special thanks to Delegate Steve Arentz for his sponsorship and leadership of this bi-partisan effort.
This bill recognizes the public
health threat facing our children at school and speaks directly to
preventing harm to students. It acknowledges that the
physical and psychological threats related to daily use of digital
devices are posed regardless of the subject matter.
It mandates that the department of education develops "health and safety best practices," in other words, preventative measures to protect our children from documented associated health risks such as myopia, dry eye disease, retinal
damage, sleeplessness, obesity and anxiety.
safety and health best practices will be developed by the Maryland
State Board of Education (MSDE) in consultation with the Maryland
Department of Health (MDH) by June 1, 2019, and presented to local districts by July 1, 2019.
This is a key point: the agencies who are
responsible will alone be accountable for the creation of best
practices. The state's medical experts will help the department of
education develop a uniform set of recommendations to share with local
districts, many of which lack the resources to do this themselves, to
protect their own students.
The best practices that will be
developed are not required to be adopted by the local districts. This
recognizes a long-standing tenet that the state does not dictate policy
to the local school boards. Nonetheless, it is expected that many local
districts will opt to employ the state's best practices.
Local districts might also choose to incorporate some of, or modify, the best
practices offered by MSDE. As such, the state's documentation will serve
as an important medical resource for districts, offering the best
research available. Adopted in part or in whole, they will establish a
critical guide to protect our children, one which schools, teachers,
parents and parent groups can share and distribute.
original text called for a significant group of stakeholders to be
convened, the amendments from the Education Subcommittee - which removed
the stakeholders' participation altogether - do not in any way diminish
the import of this legislation. Nothing in the original text required
MSDE or MDH to heed the stakeholders' input or include it in their best
practices; it merely required MSDE to convene a work group, a
requirement that could have been satisfied by a single meeting.
bill's import is that it officially acknowledges the health threat posed
to students by the digital device use required by the schools, and -
absent the stakeholders' group - now appropriately places the
responsibility for remedies precisely and exclusively where it belongs:
with the state agencies whose job it is to provide a safe, healthy
learning environment for our kids.
The Education Subcommittee's
change from "guidelines" to "best practices" is actually an improvement
on the language. "Best practices" is more concise and offers citizens a
more clearly defined set of expectations and specific performance
Given the unanimous support for this bill in both the
House and the Senate, it's difficult to imagine that the creation of
this documentation will take place in a vacuum; our elected officials
are well aware of the extreme interest parents and advocates have in
this ongoing process.
As the spokesperson for the American Academy of
Pediatrics' Maryland Chapter mentioned in the Senate hearing - which was echoed by the
Maryland Occupational Therapy Association representative - those who
have research and experience to offer MSDE and MDH will of course pursue
a dialogue in the coming months to provide critical input.
Wild horses couldn't keep some of us away. Many medical experts and child development professionals have been researching these issues for years. We certainly don't need a work group to be heard.