School Talk

The Parent Debate Over Reopening Schools Sounds A Lot Like the Football Debate

I can still hear it: ”I can’t believe you’re going to let him play football. That’s basically child abuse.” 

Wanting to send your children back to school for in-person learning is the 2020 version of letting your child play football. It hit me today that the back and forth parents of opposing views are having over reopening schools is a lot like the football debate.

Our family rule has always been that you can play tackle football when you reach 8th grade — sadly for my middle son who has been counting the days until he could finally play, his first season is not to be. He is disappointed (but at least I will get a respite from all the people who wonder —out loud— how I could let my beloved child do something so dangerous?)

I’m calling that a COVID win. 

The unsolicited football commentary in my ear has been replaced by a tribe of people who think that anyone who thinks schools should open for in-person learning “wants kids, teachers and grandparents to die.” 

Yes, that’s it. The parents who prefer in-person learning want people to die. That seems like a pretty reasonable response to a difference of opinion, don’t you think?

It doesn’t matter that their child may have had an unimaginably horrible time with distance learning in the spring. It doesn’t matter that there may be no adult who can be home to supervise a young child. It doesn’t matter that they know what the infection rate is —1.5% where I live—and have concluded that they feel comfortable sending their kids back to school. It doesn’t matter that pediatricians and epidemiologists—including Dr. Anthony Fauci himself— have said publicly that it is safe our schools to open. And no matter how many people write in ALL CAPS on Facebook that it is “unsafe”, they don’t get the final word for other people’s children.

Now don’t get me wrong. The most devout fans of reopening are also taking shots across the bough and demeaning and mocking those who are afraid to send their kids back. That too is wrong and insulting and totally undermines parent preference and autonomy. 

We all get to have opinions and make decisions for our families that are nobody else’s business. If a district is only offering in-person learning and there is no distance learning option, that is different— no one should be able to force children into schools during a pandemic that their parents believe to be unsafe.

We are in an education emergency and parents and students need and deserve options. We will make different choices because our family situations and children’s needs are different and wide ranging. Attempts to limit the options of those who happen to see things differently are not only self-centered but also unhelpful—saying that they don’t care if kids, teachers and grandparents die is just dumb.

What do you think?

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