A hot potato: After four students of Weston Elementary School in Ripon, California were diagnosed with cancer in three years, parents and students alike have begun protesting to force the school to remove a Sprint cell phone tower. The school says the tower is safe and isn't going anywhere.

Kyle was ten years old when, in 2016, he was diagnosed with kidney cancer. In 2017 another ten-year-old boy, Mason, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Some parents raised the issue with the school, noting the low likelihood of two children having cancer in the same 17,000-person town, let alone at the same school. In the last two years, two more current students and one former student were diagnosed with cancer.

The Modesto Bee spoke with the brother of the former student, who had a brain tumor removed in a 12-hour surgery last year. “They don’t know if he will be able to walk or eat on his own again. He is 22 years old. He does not deserve this.” Parents of the afflicted students echoed the same sentiment, “kids should not be guinea pigs and we should not be taking chances with children’s lives.”

On Monday, over two hundred students stayed home, while their parents attended a public meeting to discuss the next step. Earlier this year concerned parents hired Eric Windheim, an electromagnetic radiation specialist, who concluded that although the tower was within government standards, it probably is the cause of the cancer. “Children are still developing, and their cells are still dividing. It’s the worst possible time in their life to be exposed,” he told CBS Sacramento.

His report was a topic of serious discussion at the meeting, but the school contradicted the report in a letter saying they had had the tower tested repeatedly and found the radiation levels to be well below legal requirements and completely safe.

Distressed parents claim the report can’t be trusted due to the financial incentive Sprint offers the school to let them operate the tower there, about $2,000 a year for 25 years. Sprint themselves say they are confident that their tower is within legal bounds but want to work with parents and the school to make sure it isn’t harming students regardless.

It’s difficult to say if it’s the cell tower causing cancer, if it’s some other factor or if it’s just a massive coincidence. But as parents have been saying, “if there’s even a slight possibility, then take it out.”