Office of Citizen
Office of Citizen
Rest in Peace,
"Cleveland's plight is unique because of an unusually high rate of lead poisoning"
Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 08/13/2008 - 09:14.
The results of a study on violence in the Cleveland public schools, commissioned by the Cleveland Municipal School District, has their leadership and the Cleveland Plain Dealer finally focusing on lead poisoning as a cause of failure of our schools and school children. In an article in today's PD, "Cleveland schools struggle with finding and helping potentially violent students, study reports", a researcher from the American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C., which performed the CMSD study on violence in our schools, is quoted saying "Cleveland's plight is unique because of an unusually high rate of lead poisoning - from paint in aging houses - that can affect behavior and academic performance." CMSD Board Member Louise Dempsey is quoted in the article as saying "I'm very pleased to see a lot of this stuff out in the open," she said. "Let's not kid ourselves, we've got to be honest if we're going to solve the problem." I'm pleased to see this getting CMSD Board-level attention.
The PD goes on to say: "The report notes that the schools must deal with issues that stem from the poverty and chaos that many students find in their neighborhoods." "The study, which cost $337,000, says other community agencies treat the same children, but the district and those agencies don't communicate well."
The 85+ local, regional, state and federal agencies, institutions, foundations and organizations that make up the Greater Cleveland Lead Advisory Council have focused considerable attention and resources working to address the problem... they are the organizations referenced as "other community agencies treat the same children". GCLAC communicates very well, so it is worth analyzing how well CMSD is integrated within our active lead poisoning prevention network.
The 2007 GCLAC Annual Meeting had the subject of "Lead Poisoning and Education, How Lead Poisoning Challenges School Performance", which led to formation of a GCLAC Sub-Committee on Lead Poisoning Prevention and Education. I will inquire into the level of engagement between the GCLAC Education Subcommittee and CMSD leadership - I believe it has become well established.
There is certainty the education system has an important role to play in lead poisoning prevention, and may become more effective educating our children by recognizing the impact of high lead poisoning on a very large percentage of students - perhaps over 50% in some classes - and proactively managing lead poisoned students' progression through their lifelong learning.
I believe our vision must be formed around the realization children harmed by lead - at levels lower than 5 micrograms per deciliter - are different than children not harmed by lead. They will have different learning processes and capabilities, and will behave differently, necessitating individualized case management.
All children born and living in high lead risk neighborhoods and homes (pre-1950) should be tested for lead poisoning each year through age three, and children with lead levels above 10 mg/dl should receive public health assistance to eliminate lead in the child's environment and blood, if very elevated. This is a minimal safety net that does not prevent lead poisoning of the "canaries" identified through testing. Schools and educators could play an important role better educating parents and children about lead poisoning prevention so they and future siblings and generations avoid the harm.
Further, a very high percentage of parents do not have their children adequately tested and none of the testing results are provided to schools or included in student files to be used in analyzing student performance and behavior concerns. That is a good example of how "the district and those agencies don't communicate well."
Every CMSD student at all ages should have a complete lead profile developed for their files, to include all past lead testing results since birth. CMSD should also have an active role making certain all children in the district are tested, from birth, and lead is eliminated from children's environments. CMSD must then leverage the completely new insight gained through awareness of the harm of lead on specific students to craft specific programs and strategies to help those harmed by lead succeed at CMSD.
I hope the recent report to the CMSD on lead poisoning and and violence in the schools accelerates and expands CMSD leadership efforts to become a world-leader addressing the harm of lead poisoning on students and schools.
With a strong foundation in place to address the harm of lead poisoning on students and Education, and report he funded in hand proving it is a problem, it is time for Eugene Sanders to become a leader in the battle to eradicate lead poisoning in Northeast Ohio by 2010, and help those lead poisoned in life succeed in learning. To become engaged with GCLAC, I suggest Dr. Sanders, CMSD school board members and all other concerned community leaders contact Beth Baron, GCLAC Outreach and Advocacy Associate at 216-658-7206 or bbaron at lutheranmetro.org