Ms. Barnett is the founder and Executive Director of the Healthy Schools Network, a national 501c3 not for profit environmental health research, education, and advocacy organization organized in 1995, and the coordinator of the loosely held national Coalition for Healthier Schools, organized in 2001 to provide the national platform and forum for environmental health at school. In 2017, her work was honored with two national awards: the William K. Reilly Award from American University School of Public Affairs for Environmental Leadership, and the American Public Health Association’s David P. Rall Award for contributions to public health through science-based advocacy. In 2017, the organization she leads received its second Award from US EPA for IAQ in 2007 a Green Apple Award from the Collaborative for High Performance Schools for advancing Indoor Air in Schools. In 2014, she received a National Partner Award from Green Seal, and in 2016, she was recognized by New Orleans’ Walter A Cohen Alumni Association for helping to save the historic African American high school from demolition post-Katrina.
Understanding that children are not just little adults, that schools are not just little offices, that most school occupants have chronic health issues, and that schools have poor indoor air and sanitation, as well as legacy toxics, in early 2020 she pivoted HS Network and key national partners to address COVID, children, and schools. A new widely supported policy call emerged for schools to adopt comprehensive Infection Prevention and Control Plans. She also shepherded the health policy’s adoption by the American Public Health Association and organized and hosted multiple webinars on the new policy call as well as on safer disinfectants and on Indoor Air. During this period HS Network staff also co-led a New York statewide coalition on lead in school drinking water, successfully updating the state’s 2016 law’s 5ppb action level to a 5ppb action level. New York is the third largest K-12 system in the nation and includes the single largest district, New York City. The office also partnered with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg SPH on research into extreme weather events impacting schools. In January 2021, she organized a virtual national summit “COVID, Climate, Children, and Schools” which began with a justice panel; key speakers included Senator Gillibrand, Governor Christine Todd Whitman, and American Federation of Teacher’s President Randi Weingarten.
Since its founding of the Network, it has spoken truth to power, challenging the nation to ensure that schools are environmentally responsible to children and other users. It is recognized as the nation’s leading voice for children’s environmental health at school. Among the landmark policies shaped and won are the New York State Board of Regents’ Guiding Principles and recommendations for school environmental quality (1995); several new laws to improve indoor environmental quality in schools in New York City and state. It has also fostered coalitions in cities and states and guides parents into constructive advocacy. With state and national partners, it has advanced green cleaning laws in schools in a dozen states; federally, it has championed funds to help schools with construction and repair, and shaped authorizations for US EPA and Education to promote healthier school facilities. In 2016, the Network published its fourth triennial State of the States’ data and policies report Towards Healthy Schools: Reducing Risks to Children, in collaboration with state and national partners.
Healthy Schools programs created
Healthy Schools/Healthy Kids Clearinghouse© offers scores of fact sheets and other resources for parents and others (1996) with information about children, indoor air, cleaning, pesticides, PCBs. The service has won awards from US EPA/2 (2001), US EPA OCHP (2005).
National Healthy Schools Hero Award© established in 2000 to honor policy leaders and activists.
National Healthy Schools Day© established as an annual day of public awareness in 2002, partnered with EPA, CDC, APHA, and NGOs, spurring hundreds of activities nationwide.
NewsSlice curated online news and event listing for the field, seeded with US EPA support in 2003.
National Collaborative Work Group on Green Cleaning and Chemical Policy Reform in Schools (2006) organized with public and private re-grants, resulted in child-sensitive green certification standards, and new policies adopted in a dozen states.
Environmental Health at School (2015-16) first-ever conferences on how to address children’s school-based exposures, resulting in new public health policies and emerging research on how to establish public health systems for children.
Prior to founding the Network, her professional work included: sustainable development initiatives in 17 rural counties around New York’s Adirondack Park; administering rural county mental health services, creating sheltered work and a multi-district K-4 early intervention program; and five years reporting for TIME Magazine in New York City. She holds a BA from Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA (Psychology) and an MBA (Health Systems Finance) from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY. She and her husband live in upstate New York; their two sons and families are in Colorado.