State Boards Can Lead on Setting Lead Remediation Policies for Schools
Alexandria, VA – The 2015 lead crisis in Flint, Michigan, brought national attention to a hidden danger in many U.S. public schools. Elevated blood lead levels in children—even at very low levels—contribute to learning deficits and behavioral and attentional problems. No federal law requires the testing of drinking water in schools, and recent reports from the Government Accountability Office reveal a dearth of lead testing of water or paint in school buildings. A new NASBE analysis explores why many school districts are not testing for lead and how state policymakers can take preventative, active measures to protect students and staff.
According to NASBE’s State Policy Database on School Health, 24 states require districts to address water quality in schools. However, only 13 states including the District of Columbia require school-based testing of lead in drinking water. None requires testing of lead-based paint in all schools.
The lack of resources to follow through on such monitoring exacerbates the problem, says NASBE’s Joseph Hedger, author of the analysis. Aging buildings contribute to a host of other environmental factors that schools need to address: poor ventilation, air quality, thermal heat, moisture, and dust and pests, among others.
To help districts remediate lead in schools, state boards should set policies that specify acceptable lead levels in schools and requirements for testing, remediation, and monitoring. They must also ensure that compliance is achievable with limited resources and that state agencies are coordinating efforts.
“Children require healthy and safe learning environments to succeed in school,” writes Hedger. “As long as classrooms and school buildings go untested for lead, public school students remain at risk.”
Read and share “Tackling the Lack of School-Based Lead Testing.”
NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.