Schools and our children

By Kevin Roche

Nothing about the handling of this epidemic angers me more than the treatment of our children.  What we are doing to these young people is unconscionable and I literally want officials held accountable.  We are depriving them of a genuine educational experience.  We are damaging their future prospects in life.  We are hindering their social development.  We are causing enormous anxiety, depression and stress among this most vulnerable group.  We are terrifying them about an event that they should be taught is not threatening to them at all and that is a part of normal life.  We are interfering with the regular development of their immune systems, which will lead to health problems later. There is no rational basis for the actions being taken to limit childrens’ education  There is no, absolutely no, reason why our children should not be attending school in-person and interacting as normal. Making children wear masks, in school or out, should be a criminal offense. Telling them not to be physically close to each other is outrageous. And again, and I feel most strongly about this, it is low-income and minority children who are hurt the most by these policies, and they are the children we should be working the hardest to help.

girls on desk looking at notebook
Photo by Pixabay

Nothing I say should be understood to mean that children won’t get infected, potentially even large numbers of them.  If we weren’t obsessed with testing, we wouldn’t even be aware of that, just as we aren’t aware of the seasonal coronavirus infections that children constantly have.  We have to have a balanced sense of risk and potential harm and we have to acknowledge that the damage from being out of school is far worse than those from being in school.  Infections among children in a school should be treated as a non-event, not something to be alarmed about.  If anything, high levels of infection among this group are protective to society as a whole, because it slows the overall potential rate of transmission.

Let me repeat the obvious facts, which are obvious no matter how much those intent on politicizing our children and their education try to twist research and make things up.  Children are less likely to get infected, less likely to spread the virus if infected, and far less likely to have severe illness or die.  Their rates of serious illness are incredibly low, far lower than that from influenza, or for that matter, they are less at risk from coronavirus than they are from child abuse when forced to stay home.  Here are a couple of pieces of further evidence, adding to the existing mountain, of the unnecessary cruelty of our actions on children.  This article recounts a Spanish study of 1900 children in summer camps.  (Spanish Study)  They were carefully monitored to ascertain the level of transmission.  Over the five week study period, which involved regular testing, there were 30 index cases.  These cases had over 250 regular contacts, but there were only 12 secondary infections.  This is an extremely low rate of transmission, the researchers estimated it was six times lower than that in the general public.  The researchers concluded that it was very unlikely that schools would play any significant role in transmission.

And this is an updated study from the pediatrician group that was collecting and curating research on coronavirus and children.  (DFTB Study)  I posted extensively on the original study weeks ago.  Nothing has changed in the findings, which support the statements I made above.

And now, I want to go back to an editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association that I described a couple of weeks ago.  This editorial did a tremendous job of collecting the research on the harms to children from missing school.  Here is the link again.  (JAMA Article)    I want to list the damage that occurs when children miss school.  The authors summarized “The harms associated with school closures are profound.”  The research includes:

  1. Disruption of school leads to an annual income loss of 2% to 3% over the affected students’ lifetimes.
  2. The price tag for CV school closures so far–$2.5 trillion in lost future income for these children.
  3. A 12 week school closure costs the US $128 billion in lost productivity because of the impact on parents’ ability to work.
  4. Children lose access to meals, health care and social support.
  5. Child abuse goes unreported.

So I would literally get down on my knees and beg politicians and school boards to do the right thing and let our children lead a normal life and have a normal educational experience.  The cost of not doing that is irremediable harm to those children we supposedly care so much about.