New Orleans Increasingly, we are going to ask which school district is going to be the last one to stand up for its children and workers and test for lead. There really is no rational reason in the face of the devastation that lead brings to children and others and the overwhelming evidence of its ubiquitously destructive impact in schools, and for that matter, other public buildings, for any steward of public trust and responsibility not to assure communities that they are protecting the safety of families and workers.
After our success in Houston in winning testing for lead in all the districts’ water fountains and other water sources, and what seemed to be the quick agreement in New Orleans to move in the same direction, we have been heartened. Attention is growing as well. PBS is coming to New Orleans to film ACORN’s affiliate, A Community Voice and LSU Health Science Center’s testing program in both the schools and adjoining neighborhoods. A lead education program that is embedded in the ACV housing education classes is also going to be filmed and featured. Three New Orleans schools have already been tested for the impact of lead on both the soil and water sources. The PBS angle focuses on the way in which science is being used as a tool for change in the communities, which seems spot on in this fight.
Local 100 United Labor Unions was somewhat surprised that Dallas continued to drag its heels in responding to us on this issue. With fall and the return of classes, a meeting with a school board member and resumption of school board meetings as well as an emerging coalition of various groups united in their call for such testing, found a positive response finally. Not only are they going to do the testing, but the Dallas Independent School District also finally agreed with our position to test retirees that had been exposed to lead and other chemicals in the warehouses.
Dallas had little choice as well because they were beginning to seem a pariah in the metroplex. Fort Worth had already not only agreed to test all of its water fountains, but having found evidence of lead already in several of them, has moved to replace them. Arlington, half-way between Dallas and Fort Worth, has also announced a testing program as well. Other school districts in the Houston area, including neighboring suburban districts of Alief and Cypress-Fairbanks are also moving forward on a testing plan now. In Texas, districts are beginning to fall in line, but although Local 100’s representative in Arkansas reported some success in lining up allies among teacher groups to push for testing in Little Rock and Pulaski County, both districts are still lagging, even as so many of the trains have pulled out of the station on this issue.
Other public buildings where we clean, as well as state and public facilities where our members work, are high on our list as well. The simple rule of thumb should be that wherever there is a public water fountain, there needs to be a lead test.
How hard is that to get done?