The Washington Post

In Pr. George’s County, momentum builds against cellphone towers at school sites

The president of the Prince George’s County chapter of the NAACP wants the county school system to halt the construction of cellphone towers on school property until school officials review information about the possible dangers that the towers could pose.

Bob Ross joined a chorus of residents who recently testified as part of an ongoing protest of the school system’s plans to allow 73 schools in the county to become sites for cellphone towers.

Nearly 1,100 people have signed an online petition calling for school leaders to stop the construction of the towers.

Ross recently told Schools Chief Kevin M. Maxwell and the school board that he considers the cellphone towers a matter of environmental justice with concerns being raised about the exposure to radio-frequency radiation.

“If there is a possibility to cause harm to our children . . . it is your responsibility to look at all the possibilities,” said Ross, who decided to join the group of concerned residents after members of the newly formed Safe Schools for Prince George’s County met with members of his board.

The group’s online petition also calls for a moratorium on the construction of the cellphone towers.

“We are calling for cancellation of ALL cell-tower contracts and the halting of all construction of cell-towers at all Prince George's County public school properties,” the petition reads. “Please join us in telling the Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education and our elected officials that we are not willing to risk the health of our children and that we do NOT want cell towers at or near our schools.”

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said this week that it is unlikely any change will occur.

“The board and the administration did considerable homework when it came to the issue of public safety regarding the cellphone towers,” Eubanks said during a phone interview. “I understand folks’ concerns . . . but there is no reason to believe that the cellphone towers are more dangerous than any other technology that we are exposed to on a regular basis. If we thought there was any real possibility that this was dangerous, our board members would be up in arms like the other parents.”

The school system has an agreement with Milestone Communications, which is working on nine sites for such towers, including Benjamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton and Oxon Hill Middle School in Oxon Hill.

Under the agreement with Milestone, the school system would receive $25,000 for each site and 40 percent of the gross revenue from the tower on its site. The school system estimates that the agreement could generate $2.5 million over five years.

Ovetta Wiggins covers Maryland state politics in Annapolis.



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