Op-Ed: California makes it too hard for schools to shield kids from extreme heat
As temperatures soar in parts of the state, parents of students in many schools are looking to turn on the air conditioner during school hours.
But the California Public Education Code doesn’t tell schools to do that. And as a result, many school districts are failing to protect their kids from the extreme heat as temperatures soar.
Under California law, schools are required to follow a standard of “reasonable safety.” That means a school must provide a kid with a “sufficiently safe, well lighted location” to attend school.
The standard doesn’t say what temperature kids need to be protected from on a daily basis to “have a sufficiently safe, well lighted location.” And while schools are supposed to give kids an “assuring environment.” They are not required to provide a totally air-conditioned environment in a school.
The standard also does not give schools the authority to turn on an air conditioner for the entire class at the same time. That would be in direct violation of the code.
So when students need air conditioning during the heat of the day, parents have to deal with the fact that there’s a risk that air conditioning could make class unbearable.
“I have students in elementary school, middle school and high school,” said Julie Boudreau, a mother of two in California. “I have some who can’t handle even the slightest bit of heat. They need more than the air conditioner.”
Boudreau said her children are the type that just need a little extra room to be on their best behavior. But Boudreau has to worry that turning on the air conditioner could make it worse for her kids.
And the fact is, that’s what happened to two students in El Segundo Unified School District last month when the heat hit so hard inside the school buildings that students couldn’t stay cool for a day and a half.
It happened when children in a second-floor classroom of the El Segundo High School discovered that they had to stay sitting at their desks until temperatures dropped enough for the air conditioner to cool them down.
An El Segundo Unified school official said the two children’s first day back after the heat was so unbearable that