This School Photo Hurt My Soul

What world do we want for our children? When I saw this picture, I knew it was not this one. My soul and my heart literally hurt just thinking about this. As a Pediatrician, but more importantly as a father, I am not ok with this. I would never, ever, send Eli to school to do this. I am almost beyond words.

 

I have said this many times before… I am a firm believer that kids need to be back in school. But I do not feel that this is the way. I believe this kind of response can and will amplify the current mental health crisis for some students.

 

We must open up schools in the safest way possible and work to reduce harm, but we also shouldn’t make our children live in bubbles. Harm reduction is a common public health measure I studied extensively in my Epidemiology Masters. We know, from years of experience that abstinence rarely works as a general public health measure. When abstinence is preached, people do things underground anyways. When we teach about safe practices and harm reduction techniques, we reduce the risks and this tends to work much better for the masses.

 

We will never reduce our children’s risk down to zero. We must reduce it as low as we can within reason.

 

I truly understand the fear from the staff’s point of view as well. When I posted this photo to social media, most people were outraged to see kids practicing music like this, but a minority were more upset about the post and thought this was better than kids being at home at called this “a first world problem” or something similar. I certainly understand that perspective and I don’t want kids to be home either, but I personally don’t feel that bubbles at school are the right option for getting kids back. Teachers and administrators want to be safe and they also don’t want to bring anything home to their families. I understand this fear and I empathize with them on this point.

 

We must figure out what risk is reasonable and then work from there. All other essential professions have to assume some risk right now. Heck I am examining sick patients every day. I am all up in the runny noses and diarrhea diapers. There is some risk I can catch a disease and pass it to my family. I understand that. That is the reality of life and the reality of being a doctor.

 

School is also essential and should be treated as such. We should provide all the tools and resources possible to keep everyone as safe as possible within reason. Around here, daycares have been open for most of, if not, the whole pandemic and they have been able to keep the risk to a minimum. 

 

We can get kids back to school safely without them having to learn in a literal bubble.

 

Humans are social creatures. Children are social beings. We need to hug, we need to play, we need to smile. These are not optional human behaviors.

 

Let’s focus on risk reduction, not abstinence. We know from many years of experience which works and which does not.

 

PS I understand that everyone might not agree with my perspective on this. That is ok. This is very complicated and I understand the other side of this conversation. I can only speak from my heart and say what I am feeling and when I look at those photos, it makes me sad. I personally, don’t think this is the answer to getting kids back and you can agree to disagree.  This is an extraordinarily complex issue and risk varies by location and so many other factors.

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