Home > News > In the News > Herbicides banned on Hawaii public school campuses, superintendent says

By Susan Essoyan – The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, 27 June 2019 | Source

HONOLULU — Superintendent Christina Kishimoto, after hearing that Roundup was being used on some campuses, sent a memo Tuesday to all principals stressing that herb­icides are banned at Hawaii public schools.

She also called for the immediate removal of any herbicides stored at schools.

The action came after a community meeting Monday evening at Leilehua High School called by Board of Education Chairwoman Catherine Payne to hear concerns about the use of herbicides and pesticides at schools. Nearly 60 people attended, including parents, teachers and activists.

Several parents told officials that custodians at some schools are still using the weedkiller Roundup, which contains glyphosate. An agriculture teacher at Leilehua who attended the meeting said she regularly sprayed it around the perimeter of the campus to keep down the weeds.

Parents at the meeting and many others who submitted testimony urged school officials to adopt and enforce a clear policy prohibiting glyphosate-based herbicides such as Roundup on campus.

“What our keiki need is clean food, clean air, clean water,” parent Ku’ike Kama­kea­­-Ohelo said. “Please enforce your policies. That’s what we need. We need policies with teeth.”

Payne and Kishimoto said school custodians have been trained and directed for years not to use herbicides, and they promised to take action.

“We certainly do not want any of these products used on our campuses at any time,” Payne said.

The plaintiff in a landmark California case against Monsanto over the health risks of its herbicides also came to the meeting in Wahiawa to help raise awareness of the issue.

Dewayne “Lee” Johnson, a groundskeeper at a Bay Area school, was awarded $289 million in damages last year by a jury that concluded Monsanto had failed to warn of the dangers of its glyphosate­-based weedkillers. The award was later reduced to $78 million by a judge. It is being appealed, so Johnson has not received a payout.

He developed an incurable case of non-Hodgkin lymphoma after extensive exposure to Ranger Pro, a professional-grade herbicide with high levels of glyphosate.

“Why I’m here today is to keep this story going and to keep the word out there about the product that I used and about how unsafe it can be for people and especially kids,” said Johnson, whose trip was sponsored by the Protect Our Keiki coalition.

Kishimoto’s memo went to all superintendents and principals for distribution to agricultural teachers and custodians on each campus.

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