Parents Plead with Board of Education to Let Childrens' Lives Return to Normal
- Category: Health
- Published: Tuesday, 15 February 2022 14:21
- Joanne Wallenstein
With COVID rates falling steeply and the New York State mask mandate for schools set to expire on February 21, 2022, some parents are urging the Scarsdale Schools to relax COVID restrictions. Currently Scarsdale’s rules exceed state requirements, and some parents want the district to allow children to eat lunch and converse with friends, sip water when they want it and permit parents to come inside the school to see their children’s classrooms.
At the Scarsdale Board of Education meeting on February 14, 2022, Tali Newman and Kim Liebowitz both gave impassioned comments asking the Board to act.
Here is what they said:
I respectfully ask that the Board answer in specific terms what it is doing to help reclaim normal life for our children.
I want to make sure that all listening to this meeting are aware of the things that were once taken for granted which have been taken away from our children. The children wear masks all day.
They are not allowed to take them off except for one or two mask breaks and a short lunch. If they are lucky, they get outdoor recess. They are not allowed to speak during lunch or snack. They are permitted to drink water only twice a day during mask breaks. They watch movies during indoor recess. Group projects are replaced with ipad time. They are not allowed to have family members visit school. I have never seen the inside of my son's school. All of this is causing a profound negative impact on their mental health. None of this is mandated by the state. This is a choice that you – the BOE and our administration – are making.
I recently sent the Board via email the Urgency of Normal Toolkit. The Toolkit — Children, COVID, and the urgency of normal. The Toolkit was written by 15 nonpartisan doctors and his since been signed by over 1000 healthcare providers.
As mentioned in the toolkit, CDC data shows that COVID poses very little threats of serious disease for students, and yet they are subject to disproportionate restrictions. Teachers, staff and family members are well protected by vaccination.
Two years in, protecting the mental, social and emotional health of students should be our priority at this point.
Indicators of student mental health and distress are alarming.
Policies to improve and protect student mental health are urgently needed.
Depressive and anxiety symptoms doubled during the pandemic, with 25% of youth experiencing depressive symptoms and 20% experiencing anxiety symptoms.
A study of eating disorder hospitalizations found a 120% increase.
According to national CDC surveillance data, ER visits for suspected suicide attempts in adolescent girls increased 51% in 2021.
Health is about more than the mere absence of COVID-19. Reclaiming normal life for our children is the best way to support and protect them. In lieu of simply allocating resources to our children's mental health, let's correct one of the causes of their distress.
In that regard, I wanted to point you to one of the Scarsdale Board's stated goals for this year:
Participate in legislative advocacy impacting public education via efforts suggested by our Administration or coordinated by the New York School Boards Association (NYSSBA) and Westchester Putnam School Boards Association (WPSBA).
On Wednesday evening, February 9th, the Eastchester Board of Education adopted the following resolutions: (read those in bold)
WHEREAS, due to recent changes, the District is no longer legally obligated to conduct contact tracing of close contacts; and
WHEREAS, the Board deems it to be in the best interests of the District’s students to relax certain social distancing, outdoor masking and other Covid-19 protocols to the extent such protocols adversely affect student education, mental health or physical, social or emotional wellness as soon as practicable, consistent with legally enforceable laws.
RESOLVED, that the District’s Reopening Plan and social distancing and other Covid-19 protocols be promptly reviewed and modified or eliminated, to the extent necessary or appropriate, to eliminate any adverse impact thereof on student education, mental health or physical, social or emotional wellness, including as necessary or appropriate to (1) relax restrictions on District visitors and events, (2) eliminate all outdoor masking requirements and (3) relax lunch restrictions and allow all students to eat lunch under normal conditions comfortably in each building; and be it further
BOARDS CAN ACT. In light of the Board's stated goal of advocacy, I respectfully request that the Board let the community know what IT is doing to advocate for and prepare for the removal of the state's mask mandate and to return normalcy to our children's school experiences (i.e., no more silent lunch, no more social distancing, no more drinking water only 2x a day, parents IN the building).
Dr. Kimberly Greene-Liebowitz
I want to speak to you tonight about COVID mitigation measures in our schools. Thank you for the announcement that masks will become optional upon termination of the mask mandate.
OUR CHILDREN NEED NORMAL
Our understanding of COVID has evolved over the past two years as has the virus, which is now more contagious but less pathogenic. A zero-COVID strategy is not achievable for four key reasons:
1. Frequent mutations
2. Nonhuman hosts
3. Asymptomatic spread
4. Waning immunity
With that in mind, we need to focus on vulnerable populations and treatment rather than elimination of infections. I know you are all aware of this.
Children, even unvaccinated ones, are at extremely low risk of adverse events or death due to COVID. One study of 199 hospitals showed zero pediatric COVID deaths Dec 26-Jan 15, 2022 vs 495 deaths in persons over 50. In New York, the difference is stark: 56 deaths in children 0 to 19 since the pandemic began vs 28,391 over 70 years. Children make up 0.1% of the fatalities.
With this in mind, it is past time that we end the majority of the mitigation measures in place in the schools. These measures have a small effect on reducing disease spread, but given the airborne nature of Omicron – and likely of future variants, given that evolution has been trending towards airborne – their benefit has significantly declined over the past two years. Children and adults in this community go to restaurants, theater, museums. They fly on planes and stand in line in stores. In all these situations they are closer to strangers than our children would be with their friends at lunch. These children are together all day, every day, and there is little utility to separating them at lunch or in the classroom.
Costs exceed benefits.
Limiting spectators is illogical. If people can go to Madison Square Garden with thousands of people who don’t live in this community, they can surely sit next to their neighbors for a school play or a sporting event. Both parents. And grandparents. And siblings.
Childhood is time limited and can never be recaptured. These years that have been stolen from our children are gone forever, never to return. I realize some may find these words inflammatory, but they are the truth. 85% of the brain’s development occurs by the time children are five years old. Social-emotional development occurs in grade school and beyond, and kids cement their knowledge during these formative years. We can’t lose any more of that time to mitigation measures. These kids will never be able to make up for the loss.
Our children need normal lunch. Normal snack. Normal breaks. Normal water consumption. Normal room temperatures. Normal celebrations. Normal events. NORMAL CHILDHOOD.
Please tell the community tonight that you will eliminate all mitigation measures now.
Let our children grow up normally.