When I interviewed for various teaching positions, I always made the statement: “My kids come first.” The last five years of my teaching I endured much pain and suffering both physical and emotional due to my MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivities). The problem is I always viewed it as MY problem and MY suffering. Through the foggy headedness of MCS, I didn’t really realize how much my kids were suffering too.
I get it now. And now I have to keep my word. MY KIDS COME FIRST. I would love to suffer in isolation with my almost daily headaches and other various symptoms. I would like to make this my own pity party but I can’t. Because I believe each and everyone of us is given a purpose. I do NOT view that I am being punished. I have come to view my MCS as a gift. Without it I would have continued to have lived the smallest life possible.
MCS is quite simple. Expose one to toxins get sick(er). Eliminate the toxins get healthier.
The problem is the toxins are (legally) not labeled in fragrances. So let the education begin. I used to feel shame when I sent letters or emails that were ignored by administrators, the Board, my union but now I just show up at Board Meetings and speak my truth.
I have included below the best approximation of what I said to the Board of Education. I would like to emphasize that the issues addressed are NOT solely found in our district. Quite the contrary these issues are found in lots of schools in multiple countries. I addressed MY school board because it is just that: MINE. When our school goes synthetic scent free then I will work on the all the schools in the county then the state then the country then the world.
I hope you will join me. Educate yourselves. Educate your kids. Educate your school board. Educate your politicians. PLEASE.
Speech Number 2:
I am supposed to be a science teacher at G. Ray Bodley. I have Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and after repeated exposures to synthetic fragrances I am on sick leave. I refuse to resign. I do not know my status as of mid-September when my sick days run out. The Board will have to make that decision.
The Fulton City School District Code of Conduct states, “The Board of Education (here and after, Board) is committed to providing a safe and orderly school environment where students may receive and district personnel may deliver quality educational services without disruption or interference.”
I was not afforded this opportunity. It is unfortunately too late for me. But I am not here for me. I am here to insure my kids have a safe learning environment.
Willful Blindness is a legal term – in non-legalese it means to remain deliberately ignorant of the facts so that you cannot be prosecuted taking the defense you didn’t know. One of my goals is to make sure that all are educated about MCS and the toxicity of synthetic fragrances so that no one in this district will be able to hide behind ignorance as a legal defense.
The toxicity of synthetic fragrances is analogous to the toxicity of smoking. When the Clean Air Act went into effect 10 years ago there was much said about second-hand smoke not being dangerous and if smoking was banned all bars and restaurants would close. Obviously both assumptions were false. Schools banned smoking just as schools will need to ban synthetic fragrances for the safety of all. The list of toxic chemicals in synthetic fragrances is long – these scents do not remain within the personal boundaries of the user – they pollute the air of everyone in the room.
I sent a letter to the School Board on July 19th and spoke at the last board meeting – I asked the school board to insure that all of the students and staff in our district were guaranteed a safe healthy learning environment. I have received no response.
It doesn’t matter as a teacher if you give me all motivated, intelligent, prepared, curious learners – no matter how many professional development days you sent me to. If you are going to ask those same learners to sit in a soup of toxic chemicals while they are attempting to learn learning cannot take place. Toxic chemicals are legally put in fragrances including laundry soap and perfumes. Chemicals such as toluene, formaldehyde and antifreeze. Kids do not understand what is in these products.
Last meeting, I mentioned the American Lung Association’s Sample Fragrance Free Policy. In reference to the possible adverse effects from scented products:
headaches, nausea, weakness, malaise, loss of appetite, upper respiratory symptoms, difficulty with concentration, numbness, shortness of breath, skin irritation. I have all of these and I can guarantee no student can learn effectively under these conditions.
We are in the business of education. I will return to the Board meetings and continue to educate the Board until my kids are safe.