Notes from the Covid Classroom #3
I got called into the office for advocating for my students!
As November brought colder days, some of my students grew more frustrated with having to eat outside. Not only do my students eat outdoors, but they also eat while sitting on the ground or on cold steel bleachers. They do not have chairs to sit on, nor tables in which to rest their trays of food.
The administration has not determined a temperature cut off, so regardless of how far below freezing it gets, the kids must eat outdoors. Only when raining or heavily snowing do they come indoors to eat. The administration forces the students to remain silent when eating inside. According to them, the simple act of speaking can spread the virus, even if nobody has any symptoms.
Students have spoken to me about their qualms with the outdoor lunch policy. They know my feelings about my school’s Covid protocols, because I have not shied away from speaking openly about the unscientific nature of these asinine mitigation measures. The kids feel comfortable speaking to me about their feelings.
So I decided to fan the flames of resistance that began flickering in some of my students.
I gave a quick lesson to my seventh grade class on asymptomatic transmission, because my administration (and my colleagues) fear that symptomless kids can spread a killer virus. This false and inhumane assumption influences the lunch policy.
I went through some of the scientific literature and showed them clips of Fauci and Maria Van Kerkhove of the World Health Organization, both of whom called asymptomatic spread rare in early and mid-2020. With the relevant science in mind, I asked the students to consider why, without any hard evidence that healthy people spread disease, would our school make kids eat outdoors in sub-freezing temperatures? Obviously, this led them to question the mask policy, too, since if healthy people do not spread viruses, masks in school cannot serve a purpose (at least not a scientific one - a political one, certainly.)
The lesson concluded with my instruction to take their grievances to their parents. I told them that they need to advocate for themselves, and they need to let their parents know about their discomfort in eating outdoors in the cold. I explained to them how private schools function compared to public schools, and how their parents could essentially control policy if they spoke up. Parents have power, if they know how to use it.
That very day, not long after school ended, I received an email from a concerned mother.
I responded to the email that evening. I wanted this parent to know the full absurdity of the school’s outdoor lunch policy and its impact on the kids.
Her final email to me thanked me for my candid response. She let me know that other parents had concerns about the outdoor lunch policy, too.
Two days later, my principal and vice principal called me into the office for a meeting.
All three of us sat around a table with our faces half hidden behind cloth masks. My principal began with trivialities: “How are things going? How are your classes?” My vice principal sat slouched and silent. She said nothing for the entirety of the meeting.
Then, my principal stated the reason that he summoned me to his office.
“I received an email from Mrs. —. She’s upset about her daughter eating outdoors, but she also said you told her you did not agree with our lunch policy. We do not appreciate you publicly stating your disagreement. This should be something discussed internally,” he said.
I had already reached out about my concerns to my administration, but apparently I had to reiterate many of them in light of the email under question. So I explained to him that I found our school’s Covid policies pathological and unscientific, and because of that fact, I would not refrain from repudiating the school’s policies publicly to anyone.
I then explained: “There is zero epidemiologically relevant asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic transmission; I referred you to the literature before. When the Covid Health and Safety Team discusses policy for our school, does anyone reference the scientific literature?”
He paused. The silence lingered for a few uneasy seconds. Perhaps he felt too embarrassed to admit that nobody considered consulting the scientific literature when making their decisions.
Finally, he stated that he did not want the students to feel uncomfortable.
But I pressed on: “Then why do they eat off the cold, wet ground? And they have nowhere to set their masks. Some lay them on the ground and put them back over their faces. Improperly handling a mask can lead to bacterial pneumonia. And kids should not have to wear masks to begin with. Why doesn’t anyone consider the negative implications of forcing children to wear masks?”
I could tell that he didn’t expect my forthright tone.
But once I got the call to come to the office, I resolved myself to speaking without restraint on this issue. And I felt good knowing that I had at least some parental support - additionally, my students all really like me and my class, so it’s good to know that the kids got my back, too. What would my administration do? Fire me for wanting the kids to have a normal school experience?
I asked him if anyone conducted a proper cost-benefit analysis with regards to the lunch policy.
“What’s to gain from having children who are not at risk from this disease struggle to eat outside? Some do not even eat because they’re too cold. This can lead to behavioral issues, since hungry kids might become disgruntled; not eating can also negatively impact their ability to concentrate in the classroom,” I said.
The meeting then moved on to other issues about Covid. I ended our conversation with saying something ballsy that I believe caught him by surprise.
“When will the Covid narrative collapse for you: after your third or fourth booster?”
Leading up to Christmas break, I began taking some of the students inside who prefer eating inside, which is most of them. The student from the email wants to eat indoors daily, especially since she has a condition in her left hand, and the cold causes her to experience pain in that hand. I take her inside to eat with her friends every day now.
My lunch duty partner, though, seems scared to go against the policy; he keeps some of the kids outside. My classroom can only fit so many kids, and I never actually received permission to bring any of the kids in, not even the girl whose parent reached out in the email - I just bring her and others inside to eat anyway.
But now we’re back in the building after Christmas break and Omicron has the liberal teachers and the administration at my school scared. They want to remain open, which is a good thing, but cases in my county have increased dramatically, and some local schools have already gone virtual.
I have noticed that some of the youngest kids, even kindergartners, still eat outside, regardless of the below freezing temperatures we have recently experienced. The teachers from the lower grades seem particularly hysterical. They have all their windows open wide; students sit in class with heavy jackets and wrapped in blankets. My room remains the most sane, and comfortable: I crack the window slightly to appease the administration, but I crank up the heat, so no student needs a parka or blanket to learn in my class.
This past week my students were the only ones in the school to eat inside, even though the boss still has not approved indoor lunch.
Hopefully after my upcoming “health and safety” meeting, where the administration will discuss Covid policies in relation to the Omicron surge, I don’t get any heat for keeping my students out of the cold.