When COVID-19 first reared its ugly head in the United States last spring, we immediately closed schools, with no knowledge of how it would affect our children.
But as spring turned to summer turned to fall, evidence mounted from countries around the world and select U.S. cities that sending our kids to school is not only safe, but preferred. Yet nearly a year later, many of our kids remain at home with no other option but virtual school and the consequences are staggering.
Over the course of the last year, children needing mental health counseling jumped dramatically, with emergency rooms seeing a 24% increase in mental health-related visits from children ages 5 to 11 compared to last year. The increase among teens is even higher, reaching a staggering 31%. Adolescent suicides are up and an estimated 17 million kids – many of whom are reliant on subsidized school lunches – are at risk of going hungry.
Meanwhile, academic success has dropped dramatically. In some parts of the country, failing rates have risen as much as sixfold, with Black and Hispanic students most affected. Thousands of students have completely vanished from the education system altogether.
These aren’t just statistics. I’m seeing it firsthand. As a single mom of school-aged kids, I’ve witnessed both the short- and long-term impacts of keeping my children home. Isolation can negatively impact anyone if it goes on as long as it has, but it’s particularly harmful to those with developing brains.
So if all of the science – including that from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics – is telling us schools are safe and that keeping them shuttered is detrimental to our kids, then why are they still closed?
Enter: Teachers’ unions and local school officials.
In too many places, union leaders have conspired to harm students by depriving them of a safe and vital environment in which to learn.
Take, for example, Virginia’s Fairfax County, where the local teachers’ union demanded COVID-19 vaccinations for all teachers. Yet after receiving priority placement in the vaccination line, the union reversed their position and continue to delay reopening schools.
The science is clear: We need schools open, and we need them open now.
Many of our teachers are caught in the middle, acting as they always do – in the best interest of their students. Many wished to be back in the classroom. Others did their very best, saddled with new processes and protocols to make the best out of the virtual experience.
But the science is clear: We need schools open, and we need them open now.
Parents, not the government, should decide whether to send their kids back to school, at the very minimum in a hybrid environment. Even big city mayors in liberal enclaves like Chicago and Washington, D.C., are now fighting their unions to make this happen, including taking them to court to force schools to reopen.
I believe in public schools. I’m a product of them. My kids are educated in them. I also believe in our teachers. If teachers want a COVID-19 vaccination before heading back to the classroom, they should be afforded one.
The kids aren’t all right. Many are suffering emotionally, socially and academically. It’s time we put our children, not the teachers’ unions, first.