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McGuinty shrugs off warning about WiFi in schools

Royan Lee, a teacher at Beverley Acres Public School uses technology to create a more interactive, collaborative and social classroom. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for these students to use iPads if the Ontario English Catholic Teacher's Association got its way and all computers in all new schools were hardwired instead of set up on wireless networks.

jennifer roberts The Globe and Mail

Premier Dalton McGuinty is shrugging off concerns raised by an Ontario's teachers' union about WiFi in public schools.

The Ontario English Catholic Teacher's Association says computers in all new schools should be hardwired instead of setting up wireless networks.

It also says WiFi should not be installed in any more classrooms, citing health risks.

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But Mr. McGuinty says he's following the advice of Health Canada and the province's chief medical officer of health.

He says he's been reassured by Canadian experts that WiFi doesn't pose a danger to students.

While Health Canada has cautioned parents to limit the use of cellphones by children, it said that based on scientific evidence, low-level exposure to WiFi is not dangerous.

"I know that they continue to monitor these things very closely," Mr. McGuinty said.

"They take a look at the research and the knowledge that we accumulate around the world on an ongoing basis and, again, I place my confidence in them."

But the union, which represents 45,000 teachers, cites research by the World Health Organization to back up its claim that schools shouldn't have WiFi.

The global health agency warned last year about a possible link between radiation from wireless devices such as cellphones and cancer.

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Some believe wireless access to the Internet could pose similar risks.

In a position paper released Monday, the union said the "safety of this technology has not thoroughly been researched and therefore the precautionary principle and prudent avoidance of exposure should be practised."

The province has said it's up to school boards to make decisions about whether to use WiFi or not.

Some Canadian private schools and at least one public school board in British Columbia have removed or strictly limited Wi-Fi due to safety concerns. But many other public school boards across Canada continue to use it.

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