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Hawai'i Board of Education Bans Herbicides on School Grounds in Response to Community Concerns

June 28, 2019
Center for Food Safety

Picture: Hawai'i BOE meeting on June 24, 2019.

Hawai'i Board of Education Bans Herbicides on School Grounds in Response to Community Concerns

Honolulu, HI—This week, the Hawai'i State Board of Education (BOE) released a memo announcing that it will be banning the use of herbicides on public school campuses effective immediately. The announcement is the result of a public meeting held on Monday between BOE officials, community members, and Dewayne "Lee" Johnson—the first plaintiff to win a cancer suit brought against Monsanto/Bayer.

Hawai'i Center for Food Safety and the Protect Our Keiki coalition hosted small, intimate meetings with Johnson throughout the last week, where he discussed his career as a school groundskeeper who regularly used toxic herbicides, especially Monsanto's Roundup, at work. Johnson developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma as a result and subsequently sued Monsanto for damages. The agrochemical giant was held liable and ordered to pay Johnson nearly $300 million, which was later reduced to $78 million.

During Monday's meeting, the school district superintendent admitted that she was not sure if the Department of Education is fully compliant with the current integrated pest management policies. The newly-issued memo guarantees that no herbicides will be used on public school grounds.

The following is a statement from Autumn Ness, co-director of the Hawai'i Center for Food Safety:

"We are so delighted that BOE Chair Katherine Payne and Superintendent Christina Kishimoto listened to our community's concerns and took action so swiftly on this important issue. We're relieved they took our input seriously and acted to protect our children and school district workers. We are also grateful to Dewayne "Lee" Johnson for sharing his story.

The memo clarifying the department ban on herbicides is a clear and detailed one, even going so far as to explain how to properly quickly dispose of any herbicide on property. We will continue to work with the BOE to draft and pass a distinct policy that includes enforcement measures for any violations.

It is our hope that if we work together, agency by agency, state by state, we can help decision-makers to realize that relying on toxic chemicals to manage pests is not in anyone's best interest. We can do better. We have taken experts in organic land management on tour to listen to each agency's unique challenges and develop solutions that don't rely on toxic chemicals.

The Protect Our Keiki coalition includes the Hawai'i Center for Food Safety, the Hawai'i Alliance for Progressive Action, Beyond Pesticides, Hawai'i SEED, Pesticide Action Network, and the Frost Family Foundation.

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