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School Band Directors Say Ear Plug Requirement ‘Absurd’

December 9, 1987

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (AP) _ High school band directors who’ve been ordered to wear earplugs during indoor rehearsals because of worker compensation cases say the new policy is out of tune.

″It’s absurd,″ said Littleton High school band director Jim Anderson. ″It’s like asking someone to put boxing gloves on and type, or tie a swimmer’s legs together and race.″

Green Mountain High band director Wayne Iiams tried the earplugs issued for the Jefferson County school system during one rehearsal. Then he threw them away.

Band directors in the school district, which has its headquarters here and sits just outside Denver, said earplugs would make their jobs impossible.

″It’s difficult enough to provide music on a competent level with your ears wide open, let along plugging them up,″ said Greg Eriksen of Boulder High School. ″And if you stood up in front of the students and the first thing you did is put ear plugs in your ears - that would degrade them.″

The new policy requiring band and shop teachers to wear earplugs and have hearing tests followed two worker compensation lawsuits filed in 1984, said district spokeswoman Marilyn Saltzman. Both suits claimed hearing loss.

A woodshop teacher’s claim was defended successfully, but the district lost the case filed by a band director.

Last spring, consultants found several classrooms in the district exceeded federal noise standards.

Most shop teachers agree they need to be shielded from machines that make ″awesome noises,″ said Bob Ware of Bear Creek High School’s technical arts department.

But band directors want no part of the earplugs.

″There’s no question I’ve lost a little hearing standing in front of those drums at games all these years,″ said Byron Gillett, of Aurora’s Rangeview High School. ″But it’s an occupational hazard you have to accept.″

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