School officials have no plans to remove devices that emit an irritating sound that only young people can hear from five Nanaimo elementary schools, although they will look into concerns raised by a civil liberties group.
Jamie Brennan, school board chairman, said he’ll talk to staff to determine if the ‘Mosquito’ devices are causing harm to children following concerns raised last week.
Micheal Vonn, policy director with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said while its concerns were directed at the Vancouver School Board, the group is trying to raise awareness among decision-makers about the problematic nature of the technology, in that it could affect passersby and those who cannot speak for themselves, such as babies.
“It’s inherently problematic if what you are doing is something that could harm somebody who has no recourse and no ability to mitigate that harm,” she said. “Wherever these devices are found, we will be concerned.”
The devices also discriminate against young people because only youth can hear the sound, said Vonn.
“Would inflicting this kind of pain ever be appropriate?” she said. “It effectively displaces a young demographic, but is that appropriate? These are the kinds of questions we should be asking ourselves.”
Five Nanaimo schools have the devices: Rock City, Uplands, Park Avenue and Brechin elementary schools, and Woodbank Primary School.
They are run on a timer – from 11:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. weekdays and dusk until 5 a.m. on weekends.
Brennan said school grounds are off-limits to the public overnight, so for someone to hear the noise, they would have to be trespassing.
“We’re trying to keep down the costs of vandalism in the school district, which in my view is trying to benefit children,” he said. “The impact on children, as far as I know, is not harmful. It may be irritating.”
Those who experience the sound can get relief by simply leaving the area, Brennan added, and while the devices target a certain age group, there are several other anti-vandalism strategies that don’t.
Pete Sabo, the district’s director of planning and operations, said the devices at Nanaimo schools are generally pointed at the school, away from local housing, and people have to be on school property to hear the noise.
“It’s not a blanket, we’re just targeting certain areas,” he said.