Op-Ed: California makes it too hard for schools to shield kids from extreme heat
By Paul Walsh
Last week, the governor of California, Jerry Brown, signed AB 2854 into law. The bill, approved by the State Senate last week, will require all public school districts in the state to provide heat relief for high schoolers in school gyms, at least 30 minutes before they enter. If they’re already inside, the district will have to provide them with an umbrella as well as fans.
The intent of the legislation is admirable: It aims to save lives, prevent injuries and reduce hospital costs.
But the problem?
In a few words: kids.
In practice, however, heat exhaustion is a far more common cause of heat-related deaths for children than the bill, which doesn’t take into account the fact that they’re in school.
This can be a big problem for public schools as well as for the kids who attend them. It’s the sort of situation that could easily prevent a child from reaching her or his final destination on time.
“We have to do better as a society,” said Barbara Romero, the mayor of Santa Ana, Calif. in her book “Building the Safe City.”
“The fact of the matter is that heat-related illness and deaths in schools are not uncommon in our country,” said Romero.
“We are losing too many children in our schools because they have to work in high temperatures,” she added.
When the Los Angeles Unified School District investigated heat-related illnesses and deaths in its schools last year, they found that heat-related problems were more common than they had realized.
The district estimated that at least one-third of the children with heat-related medical problems would be too young to be diagnosed as under the weather under normal circumstances.
“We are really, really lucky to have kids at our public schools that are not experiencing a heat-related problem,” said the Rev. Rick Boling of St. Augustine Park Church in Santa Ana.
“Most are kids who are very young, and we have kids in