Opening Schools is Unsafe

LENOIR, N.C. — Yesterday, I sent the email message below to all members of the Caldwell County Board of Education as well as Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps. While I await a response, I am sharing it with you in hopes that you will also contact these folks to let them know that opening schools is unsafe. You can find their contact information here.

Greetings Caldwell School Leaders,

I plea that you read this article: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/08/push-reopen-schools-fail/614869/

I hope you will set the example this state needs and choose only Plan C for school reopening. In addition to my background in public education, I also have an extensive background in community preparedness and disaster management. I led Frye Regional’s response to the H1N1 pandemic. Different situation, but not principles. Indeed, sending children to school violates one of the most basic tenets of public health, the Precautionary Principle. In fact, because we have generally ignored it, our case count is unnecessarily high. Returning children to school will cause an exponential increase in cases.

You can read about it here (in an ironic defense of Coopers’ pragmatism, a bit too early apparently), but the definition is: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically. In this context the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof.”

Clearly, by this standard, the burden of proof is on Governor Cooper and you. I believe it is impossible, based on the overwhelming consensus of infectious diseases experts and epidemiologists, for anyone to prove that the activity of returning to school is proven to be scientifically safe. In fact, the opposite is true. In this article, I outline, in detail, the response as it should be for those trained in disaster response and/or public health. I encourage you to read it, for the same principles and practices should be guiding every agency (including the school system) that is an Authority Having Jurisdiction.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

That’s the end of the correspondence. What I did not say, but perhaps should have, is that they have the privilege of overseeing the public’s schools. This is a time when we might just have to assume the responsibility that they are abdicating, and essentially close the public schools by simply refusing to cooperate. That is what the Precautionary Principle requires. Since our leaders don’t lead, then we have no choice but to step in and say, “We have the proof. This is unsafe and we will not cooperate.”

Yes, I am calling upon county-wide civil disobedience by parents, guardians and educators if the people charged with the most basic responsibility of public schools — protect children — won’t do that.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2020. Top photo by Jennifer Griffin on Unsplash. ‘Germs’ photo by Janine Robinson on Unsplash