Worse than sad, it’s shameful that Louisiana treats its condemned inmates better than its children in school.
The past 18 months have brought unique problems for education of the state’s children, with draconian measures taken at first in response to the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. After closing doors everywhere at the end of the spring 2020 semester, in some districts these would remain shut for the entire 2020-21 school year. Even where classrooms reopened, policies such as quarantining if a child had been anywhere close to someone who came down with the virus remained in effect.
This segregation took a noticeable toll. Comparing test scores with 2019, those of 2021 dropped nearly five percent, largely driven by increased pervasiveness of remote instruction in the interim.
But not reflected in the scores was another developmental setback. Throughout practically the entire regular school year, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards had ordered a face covering mandate that included children in schools – despite the fact that the virus adversely affects very few children, to the point that a child is over three times more likely to die from a lightning strike sometime in his life than from the virus.
By contrast, a growing body of literature confirms that mask wearing by children significantly impairs their ability to recognize emotions and speech, which serves to delay their development. This particularly become problematic for younger children and those with exceptionalities. It’s such a risk relative to any benefit that no country in the world follows such an extreme course.
Sensibly, Louisiana’s education superintendent Cade Brumley has resisted such measures. He argued for the rollback of the mask mandate to leave that in the hands of districts and, last month in the face of large numbers of students sent home from school because they had been in the same area as someone who contracted the virus which disrupts learning even more, he gave guidance that districts should not order automatically the quarantining of such students.
This reasonable suggestion recognizes the reality that almost no children suffer from the virus and don’t pose a threat to adults because teachers and staffers can be vaccinated and/or wear masks themselves (not that masks provide much in the way of suppressing transmission in any event). It also is forward-looking, recognizing that the virus is endemic and will behave like influenza in the near future, a virus which doesn’t send elected officials into a tizzy.
For his trouble of injecting a bit of wisdom into the public policy arena, Brumley provoked savage reactions. Edwards, his health mandarins, and two of Brumley’s employers from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education all got riled over this.
Yet contrast this with how under Edwards the state has changed its approach to inmates on death row, in response to legal action. These inmates, often kept in isolation from each other, now can congregate a few hours a day, justified in part by the threat to their mental health if unable to do so.
So, convicted murderers get to hang around each other but children who have no evidence of sickness and have a nearly zero chance of infecting another child to any more than trivial effect get isolated from their peers for days and miss valuable instruction time. Add in a destructive mask mandate – an order about which when suggested that legally it had the power to do so BESE refused to override – and you have to wonder whether such policies constitute state-sanctioned child abuse.