As a signer of the “In Defense of Our Children” petition, I feel it is necessary to respond to Lauren Shore’s letter in last week’s Jewish Link (“Mask Wearing While Advocating for Our Kids,” December 30, 2021.) She said that the petition asks “that yeshivot should stop mandating masks in the classroom.” It was clear that she had not actually read the petition. Our preference would be to eliminate ineffective masks that children are forced to wear while just in school. However, the petition says, “To the extent there are government mandates, we should only comply with what is required, while advocating strongly for those mandates to be removed.”
The petition addresses masking, school closures, quarantine policies, testing and vaccination requirements. While omicron challenges abound, children are not at risk. A December 31, 2021 New York Post article, “Most kids in ICU at major hospital with COVID had underlying conditions: NYC doctor,” states: “Most younger children admitted to Northwell Health’s pediatric ICU amid a wave of Omicron were immunosuppressed, had cancer or other preexisting problems, said Dr. Matthew Harris, who specializes in pediatric emergency medicine.” Children are statistically at no higher risk of dying from COVID than the flu! Yet schools have never required masking and vaccines to prevent the flu.
Implying that defending children creates a “chilul hashem” ignores all the values we cherished before this madness began. When did advocating for your child’s physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health fall out of fashion? A parent’s right to protect their child is not only a Jewish concept but a worldwide, accepted moral value.
Over 1,000 people have signed the petition, and the numbers continue to grow. We aren’t asking anyone to break the law. We are asking to take stock of what has happened over the past two years and empower parents once again. A parent who wants to protect their child by masking them, vaccinating them, quarantining them, testing them, should be entitled to that right. Conversely, parents who do not, should have the same rights.
We won’t hesitate to ruin a teacher’s career if they are accused of saying or doing something inappropriate. We will suspend or even expel students for bullying. We will punish kids for skipping school. But to inject them, quarantine them, mask them, publicly shame them for COVID’s sake is acceptable? It is beyond me why it is not a crime. Historically it would be considered child abuse.
If you have read the petition, read it again. I hope you will sign it. The petition is a plea to yeshiva heads of day schools to change their current COVID policies and/or advocate for change. Why specifically this group? Because these recommendations are implemented, just not in our schools. Many states, such as Florida and Texas, have adjusted their mandates. Most yeshivas and bais yaakovs never adopted the policies to begin with. In fact, within the greater yeshiva day school network, some schools are more lenient and some more strict.
For almost two years each day school has relied on its own Vaad of medical “experts.” If this issue affects all day schools, shouldn’t there be one standard? There should be a fully transparent children’s health advisory team (CHAT) for Jewish day schools consisting of medical, mental health, emotional health and spiritual health professionals who are equally looking out for the best interest of the school, parents and children.
We are not denying the sad fact that people will continue to be hospitalized and die from COVID. As parents we are concerned with dealing with a lifetime of academic, social, medical, emotional and spiritual consequences. It’s been two long years. We were told by our elected officials that the spread could be stopped … it hasn’t. I am not blaming them; I am not blaming anyone.
But enough is enough. Stop using children when they have no freedom of choice. Adults have control of their own bodies, where they go, whom they socialize with, and some have the option to work remotely. Children must go to school and when it comes to COVID, parents currently have no input. Schools are expected to be a safe and healthy environment. Children should feel that way, and parents should feel that way, too. Policies must and will eventually change. We just can’t wait any longer.Etan Mirwis