Let's Be Careful With the 'Kids Are Safer in School' Rhetoric. That's What Left Wants You to Say.

Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, science teachers Ann Darby, left, and Rosa Herrera check-in students before a summer STEM camp at Wylie High School Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Wylie, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, parents have understandably been frustrated with school administrators dragging their feet on decisions about whether or not to reopen schools in the fall and what precautions students and teachers will be required to take to prevent the spread of the virus if in-person classes do resume.

An ongoing theme in a lot of reporting on the issue is that not reopening schools will put children in grave danger—that schools are essential to preventing everything from malnutrition to violence to suicide. The implication—and in some cases, it’s more than an implication—is that children are safer in government schools than they are at home with their parents. While in some cases that may be true—children living in poverty, for example, may suffer from malnutrition without the breakfasts and lunches provided at school—in the vast majority of cases, kids are perfectly fine at home with their parents.

The Washington Post, however, warned that “Pediatricians across the country are sounding the alarm: The stress of unemployment and financial insecurity has strained relationships between children and those who care for them.” The closures of schools and daycare centers, the article claims, “have forced children closer to adults who may not be safe. In a world without school, doctors and advocates say, no one is there to watch, to speak up, until it’s too late.”

When they cite “adults who may not be safe,” they’re talking about you, parents. We’re expected to pay no attention to the fact that the WaPo article admits that “Across the country, from California to Iowa to Massachusetts, child abuse reports have plummeted since the virus arrived.” They attribute the plunge in child abuse reports to the fact that there are no government employees hovering over children to look for signs of abuse.

The column offers mostly anecdotal evidence that children at home with their parents are in more danger than they would be at school, although they did cite the American College of Emergency Physicians, which, according to WaPo, “said doctors nationwide have reported treating more serious injuries in a week than they are used to seeing in a month.”

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The rhetoric presumes that only government schools can properly protect and care for children and that children nationwide are dependant on the government not only for food, but for mental health counseling, suicide prevention, and socialization as well.

I realize that teachers are calling for schools to remain closed. It’s parents—many of them conservatives—I see sharing Facebook posts insisting we get kids back to school so they can have access to suicide prevention services and free lunches.

Parents must push back against the notion that schools are our children’s de facto parents.

Having been involved in homeschooling for a decade and a half, I’m quite familiar with the cries to regulate home education for this very reason, and also with the accusations that we can’t be trusted to protect our own children. Never mind that there’s no proof of claims that children are safer at school. And never mind that a three-year study from the National Center on Child Abuse Prevention Research found that 39% of children who died at the hand of a parent had previously been involved with or were known to child protective services—in other words, the children were tragically killed under the noses of the very government agents tasked with protecting them.

I fear that many parents, desperate to get their kids back to school, are buying into this notion that their kids are safer when they’re away from their loving parents. It sets the stage for further regulation, not only on homeschooling but on parenting in general. For years there have been calls for homeschooled children (and their homes) to be regularly inspected by government agents tasked with sniffing out bad parenting. But government nannies are not just interested in homeschoolers. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has been agitating for universal “home studies” for all newborns in the state. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also wants to send government agents to check up on newborns.

And make no mistake: Those calling for government intrusion into family life are not just interested in preventing physical harm to children. They are very, very concerned about parents indoctrinating their kids with ideologies and religious beliefs that conflict with those of our Woke Overlords—who have taken over everything from the arts to academia to your local public schools.

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Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Bartholet gave the game away earlier this year when she said, in calling for a ban on homeschooling, “The issue is, do we think that parents should have 24/7, essentially authoritarian control over their children from ages zero to 18? I think that’s dangerous. I think it’s always dangerous to put powerful people in charge of the powerless, and to give the powerful ones total authority.”

“But it’s also important that children grow up exposed to community values, social values, democratic values, ideas about nondiscrimination and tolerance of other people’s viewpoints,” she added.

In other words, the purpose of public education is not reading and writing and arithmetic, although those may be welcome outcomes. Rather, the purpose is to instill children with “community values”—Bartholet’s woke left-wing values, to be specific. Every hour your kids are stuck at home soaking up your family’s values and religious beliefs is an hour they’re not being indoctrinated with radical Marxist agitprop and science-denying gender-bending nonsense—and that scares the bejeebers out of the public-education revolutionaries.

I get why parents are anxious for schools to reopen in the fall. Many have to work and/or don’t feel up to the task of homeschooling. But let’s be careful about parroting progressive talking points about kids being safer at school. While it’s true that there are many children in very bad, even tragic, situations for whom school is the only refuge (and we should care about those kids and do everything within our power to help them), that’s not true of the vast majority of children. Moreover, we must be vigilant in protecting parental rights. Every time we repeat the “kids are safer at school” rhetoric we put one more nail in the coffin of family autonomy and open the door to increased government intrusion into our lives and homes.

As parents, you know what’s best for your own kids, and no teacher or government agent, however dedicated, can love and protect your progeny as well as you can. As conservatives, let’s make that point rather than saying we need the government to take care of our kids.

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