I wanted to share some insights into what is happening in our schools in the wake of 2+ years of pandemic response measures.
WHAT’S HAPPENING IN OUR SCHOOLS?
by Sarah Smith
Although mask mandates and school closures have been dropped in most school districts, there continue to be negative repercussions that are affecting children’s education and well-being.
I’m organizing a group of 240+ NM teachers and school personnel who have witnessed the damages being done to New Mexico children first-hand. As a point of reference, here in NM our schools were closed for nearly a year, and our statewide school mask mandate was in place until mid-February 2022. What is happening here in NM may be an extreme case compared to other districts that quickly dropped their mandates.
Behavior and Mental Health Problems
- Teachers and school social workers are seeing many problems in the schools that are much exacerbated compared to pre-Covid. For instance, many kids are skipping classes and unmotivated to learn, there are many behavioral and emotional issues, etc.
- Multiple school social workers reported that many students seem to be running 1-2 years behind emotionally and socially, with high schoolers who are behaving more like 7th-8th graders.
- Students are still required to social distance and sit facing only in one direction in many school cafeterias.
- Some students in middle school and high school are hiding behind their masks. They are afraid/ashamed to show their faces, their acne, their teeth, etc.
- Some New Mexico parents reported that their children suffered depression and even suicidal thoughts due to the COVID measures. In some cases this has led to tragic outcomes, such as an 11-year-old New Mexican boy who killed himself as a result of school closures.
- These reports are in alignment with recent data released by the CDC which showed greatly increased levels of mental health problems in children nationwide over the course of the pandemic (including self-harm, eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and psychosocial issues). My summary of this CDC data was published in the New Mexico Sun newspaper here: https://newmexicosun.com/stories/623846485-new-mexico-freedoms-alliance-leader-doctors-have-been-seeing-firsthand-the-damages-caused-by-masks
Schools Have Become Hostile Work Environments for Unvaccinated Teachers
- Teachers and school personnel are mandated to receive COVID19 shots in many districts across the USA. In NM, the school teacher mandate includes booster shots, and the unvaccinated are ordered to test weekly.
- The CDC acknowledged in July 2021 that fully vaccinated people can easily spread COVID-19. This has become even more apparent with the recent Omicron variant. Thus, it is irrational and punitive to require only unvaccinated teachers to be tested and quarantined.
- There are known risks to COVID-19 tests, including cerebrospinal fluid leak, sinus problems, nasal septum abscess, migraine headaches, and severe nasal bleeds, which have required “medication, numerous nasal packings, and surgical and endovascular procedures and led to fetal risk, sepsis, and blood transfusions.”
- Some NM teachers and school personnel are being harassed and intimidated about the mandated weekly C19 testing. Several have already been terminated for non-compliance, and a construction manager from Albq Public Schools is now in the process of being terminated for refusing to test weekly. This is discrimination on the basis of medical status, and it is morally wrong as well as unlawful.
C19 Mandates are Forcing Many Capable Teachers to Leave Our School System
- There was already a shortage of teachers, and the mandates are further worsening the situation by driving many capable, dependable teachers out of the school system.
- Inferior personnel are now being hired and teachers are being asked to cover multiple classes.
- The teacher shortage has even reached the point where state employees and the National Guard are being called on to serve as substitute teachers.
- There is much more to education than having someone there who is knowledgeable; the kids need continuity, connection, and relationships with their educators. The educators need to know the students, so they can tailor the teaching and lessons to the kids’ strengths and weaknesses.
(Image from NPR)
It is clear that children’s health, development, and education have been severely harmed by COVID-19 policies such as mask mandates, school closures, lockdowns, and vaccination mandates. It is time to put education first and remove the COVID-19 mandates in our schools. In the long-run, we need to push for permanent protections to ensure that this never happens again.
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