Teen Leaders join the Fight for Climate Justice

October 17, 2019

On September 23, with the new school year in full swing, Boston hit a baking 92 degrees. Peak summer heat is now regularly experienced when school is in session, creating sweltering classrooms for students and staff. MassCOSH has a long history of fighting for practices that create healthier indoor air quality in schools, finding that hot, humid classrooms exacerbate asthma symptoms in staff and lower academic performance in students.

Our Teen’s Lead at Work (TL@W) peer leaders are taking on hot classrooms, working in tandem with our Healthy Schools Initiative to improve indoor conditions. Their student status allows them full access to classrooms to which adult MassCOSH staff could only visit in early mornings or evenings, before and after buildings hit peak heat.

Our teen leaders are also building important relationships with students, educators, the Boston Education Justice Alliance, and the Boston Teachers Union to help document unhealthy air quality. Armed with digital thermometers, this partnership is documenting just how hot it gets in classrooms, using hard data to back their observations. TL@W is also hosting a Tufts University Tisch Scholar to help them establish a comprehensive database of heat stress in Boston schools.

Over the course of the school year, we aim to make the case that heat should be treated as seriously as snow, advocating for a requirement that when classroom heat index temperature rises above 85 degrees, schools explore options for “no test days” or even early dismissal. MassCOSH will also push to include air conditioning as part of the City’s plan to modernize school buildings.