News in Brief

November 12, 2003 2 min read

U.S. Inquiry Sought On School Conditions

Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., has asked Attorney General John Ashcroft to investigate alleged fraud and other possible violations of federal law by a nonprofit Utah corporation that is affiliated with 11 private boarding schools for troubled youths that are located outside the United States.

In a Nov. 3 letter, Mr. Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House education committee, asked the attorney general to look into allegations of child abuse, human-rights violations, and fraudulent advertising under federal law by the World Wide Association of Specialty Programs and Schools, or WWASPS, and its founders.

Ken Kay, the president of the St. George, Utah-based organization, said last week that it is simply a “service provider” to the 11 affiliated schools. “We’re not a dictator of what they do,” he said in an interview. “We are not responsible for what they do.” But he added that he believes the allegations are false.

Rep. Miller cites two articles that appeared in The New York Times this year that described alleged continual physical and emotional abuse of children at the schools. One of the articles cited said that children who attended a school affiliated with WWASPS in Jamaica were forced to spend hours each day, for weeks or months at a time, in an isolation room where someone repeatedly twisted their arms nearly to the breaking point.

— Ann Zehr

Safety Panel Won’t Ban Arsenic-Treated Equipment

The federal Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously last week not to prohibit the use of arsenic-treated lumber in new playground equipment.

Manufacturers have been phasing out the use of chromated copper arsenate pressure-treated wood in play structures. An industry ban on the chemical, which makes wood more resistant to decay and insects, goes into effect for most consumer uses after next month, under an agreement between the industry and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Existing playground equipment is not covered by the ban, but CPSC scientists reported in February that some children may face a slightly increased risk of lung or bladder cancer from playing on equipment made from the treated wood.

The main risk occurs when children put their hands in their mouths after touching the wood. The scientists recommended that parents and caregivers thoroughly wash children’s hands with soap and water after they finish playing on the equipment.

— Trotter