California Educator

MARCH 2011

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there are days in her classroom when she isn’t sure whether she should reach for her inhaler or head for the emergency room. When an asthma attack happens to her — or her students — it can result in missed school days, fatigue and poor morale. Driver offered her perspective about CTA promotes asthma education M elanie Driver is president of the Fair- field-Suisun Teachers Association. She is also asthmatic and admits asthma health risks posed by environmen- tal triggers in schools at the state Capitol on Feb. 28 in a policy briefing titled “The Burden of Asthma on California’s Schools.” Sponsored by CTA’s Teachers for Healthy Kids: Healthy Air, Healthy Kids project, the event is part of a continuing effort to raise awareness about what teachers and schools can do to prevent asthma and asthma trig- gers and maintain indoor air quality in schools. Also in attendance were members of the California School Boards Associa- tion, the California School Employees Association, the Regional Asthma Man- agement and Prevention Program, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Asthma is a chronic, lifelong respiratory BELOW: F-SUTA President Melanie Driver and CTA Board member Don Bridge confer during a policy briefing about asthma in California schools. disease that causes breathing problems due to inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, wheez- ing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest. One out of six children in Cali- fornia under the age of 18 has been diag- nosed with asthma, which is the number one cause of student absences due to chronic disease. Students with asthma not only miss school, but also miss out on so- cial interaction with other children and may experience trouble with concentrating due to medication. There is no cure, but it can be managed and controlled by mini- mizing asthma “triggers” in the classroom — reducing dust mites, improving ventila- tion, using “green” or nontoxic cleaning products, eliminating scented products, and eliminating moisture and mold. Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District demolished Crescent Elementary School in Suisun in 2003 due to black mold contamina- tion, which has been linked to asthma. Driver decided to become involved in changing things districtwide when her classroom at Wilson Elementary School developed a leak and students began adversely reacting to the mold that resulted. In her testimony to the panel, Driver described how a district effort supported by CTA’s Healthy Air, Healthy Kids project changed things for the better. 26 California Educator | MARCH 2011 CTA photo by Len Feldman

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