Steps to advocate for your school and public parks
STEP 1: Ask Questions
What was it that made you question pesticide use?
Did you see a sign posted?
Did you see a pesticide applicator?
Did your child receive a chemical burn?
Or, are you simply concerned about the harmful effects of pesticide use and want to ensure schools and city managed spaces are pesticide-free?
If you have answered yes to any of these questions, you have a legal right to know what pesticide(s) are applied on public schools, parks, and other city managed property.
Obtain Pesticide Application Records
Every citizen has the right under the Healthy Schools Act of 2000 to obtain the pesticide application records. You can find the assembly bill here.
Every school site is required to maintain pesticide application records for 4 years. Records must include what pesticide was applied, when it was applied, where it was applied, and how much was applied.
Ask your school office for pesticide records of the last calendar year. Bring your knowledge of the law with you. If the school does not have these records, ask them to direct you to the school district’s Director of Facilities or the Director of Landscape who would best assist you with your request.
Every citizen has the right to obtain public records under The California Public Records Act.
Request pesticide application records of the past 12 months from your city clerk’s office. You will most likely need to fill out a form requesting the information and pay a fee.
Register for the voluntary 72-hour pesticide notification
The Healthy Schools Act of 2000 mandates the right to know prior to a pesticide application on public school grounds. Ask your school office where you can register for the 72-hour pesticide notification. This notification will allow you time to take action on the upcoming application.
The Healthy Schools Act of 2000 states a “warning sign shall be visible to all persons entering the treated area and shall be posted 24 hours prior to the application and remain posted until 72 hours after the application.” The sign must include pesticide name, manufacturer, intended date and the reason for application.
STEP 2: Do Your Research
Now that you know what brand of the pesticide being used and the quantity applied, educate yourself of the active ingredient, the health and environmental impacts of the pesticide and the big picture facts of how a pesticide comes to the market. Search for support from like-minded advocators and successful least toxic municipalities.
Identify the active ingredient in the pesticide used. Pesticide Material Safety and Data Sheets (MSDS) and product labels can be found online. It is appropriate to be mindful that different brand names contain the same active ingredient.
Research the active ingredient. There are many resources offering information and citing scientific studies of the most common pesticides used.
Resource Guide-Coming Soon
Important Concepts to Understand
The active ingredient in a pesticide is a small percentage of the total formulation. *Inactive ingredients are not required to be listed and could be more toxic than the active ingredient.
The accepted regulation from the USDA, FDA, and EPA for granting registration of a pesticide only requires a 90-day scientific study from the manufacturer of the single active ingredient, not independent scientists and not the total formulation.
The EPA does not require testing of the active ingredients and inert ingredients combined to register a pesticide. Scientific studies have suggested that not only are classified inactive ingredients toxic, the combination of active ingredients and inactive ingredients increases the toxicity level.
We simply don’t know the long-term health and environmental effects of pesticides.
Investigate and reach out to successful school districts and cities that use least toxic method
Ask how you can receive a copy of their pesticide application policy.
Below is a list of School Districts and Cities that have already reduced or eliminated their pesticide use.
Los Angeles Unified School District
Marin County Unified School District
Palo Alto Unified School District
San Francisco Unified School District
Santa Barbara Unified School District
Berkeley Unified School District
Mendocino Unified School District
Newport-Mesa Unified School District
Irvine Unified School District
Mill Valley Unified School District
Find an example of a research report for a school district here and here.
Visit www.nontoxicirvine.org for more information
STEP 3: Engage and Educate the Community
The more community support you have, the faster you will achieve your goal.
Post on social media-Nextdoor, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
Engage fellow parents and community members in conversation about your concerns.
Create a team and start a petition.
STEP 4: Speak to Community Leaders
With a team in place and an organized next step, present it to the proper decision maker(s).
Find the administrators in charge of landscape maintenance and policy decision makers
Schedule a meeting to discuss concerns of their pesticide use.
Schedule a meeting to with the principal and ask for his/her support.
Contact the proper administrator. This could be the Director of Maintenance/Operations/Facilitates, Superintendent, Landscape Manager.
Contact the person in charge of city landscape maintenance.
Find a city council member who might be interested in supporting your cause.
Meet with the administrator/decision maker(s)
Bring at least two people from your community who could help influence the decision maker.
Present your ideas, solutions and discuss potential strategies.
Decide on a test park or school.
STEP 5: Stay the Course
The school district and city is responsible for implementing a new application procedure on the test site. Stay engaged and ensure the plan has been implemented properly and is on track.
Schedule a monthly meeting with your team.
STEP 6: Change and Implement Pesticide Policy
Work with leaders to create and implement an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) procedural policy.
Give examples of other school district’s and city’s policy.
Consider creating a committee to oversee the policy
The committee could be made up of students, student groups, faculty members, school administrators, facility and landscape staff and any company contracted by the school district. The committee could help with the implementation and development of the policy to ensure everything is running smoothly.
Our toolkit is a work in progress. Resources and information will be added in the upcoming months. If you need support at any time, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Together we can be a collective voice and make a difference!