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‘Really f***ed up’: Progressive writer blasts Democrats for playing politics, cowering to unions, and ignoring science in refusal to reopen schools

Parents across the country have been clamoring for state governments to reopen schools, yet in blue states those calls are largely being ignored, while red states are far more likely to have reopened schools. The Democratic intransigence on opening schools has not escaped Americans’ attention — both on the political right and left.

One Bay Area writer — and admitted left-wing progressive — is taking her fellow leftists and the Democrats they support to task for playing politics with kids’ lives by cowering to teachers’ unions and ignoring science in their refusal to get schools open again.

Dr. Rebecca Bodenheimer, an Oakland-based writer, posted what she called her “rant” about the politics involved in the fight over reopening schools this weekend — and she went directly after the “Democratic apathy” and the party’s ties to teachers’ unions.

Noting that experts in public health, including the CDC, have said it is safe to reopen schools and that reopening should be a priority, Bodenheimer lamented that “anyone can sit by and think this is an acceptable state of affairs for a developed country” and said it makes her “blood boil to see how little this country cares about kids.” And then she went after the specific culprits in all of this: Democratic leadership and teachers’ unions.

“The politicization of this issue is what’s really f***ed up,” she wrote.

“Schools are largely open in red states and closed in blue ones,” Bodenheimer continued, pointing to “Burbio’s K-12 School Opening Tracker.”

The tracker — which features an “in-person index” based on weighted averages of virtual, hybrid, and in-person instruction — clearly shows that red states are far more likely to have students back in the classroom than blue states.

Bodenheimer has found herself flummoxed by the situation.

“It’s very difficult for me to understand the simplistic thinking that says: Trump said open schools, so we must keep them closed at all costs,” she said. “I have never felt so alienated from the people I usually align myself with politically. I will never understand how the left in this country has decided that advocating for putting kids first is somehow right-wing.”

She’s not the only one her in tribe noticing the left’s failure, she said. Liberal California parents like her are about ready to take out their frustration on Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom:

I’m hearing from progressive parents all the time who are so infuriated about the Democratic apathy around school reopening — from politicians like Gavin Newsom, who are willing to allow their stances to be dictated by teachers’ unions — that they’re considering supporting the recall effort, maybe even switching parties.

But she reserved her harshest criticism for the unions that have ignored the science surrounding the coronavirus and schools:

[H]ere’s the thing: parents are not willing to sacrifice their kids’ wellbeing for the sake of ideology or being a good leftist. And they shouldn’t. It’s our most important job to do what’s best for our kids. And if that means calling out teachers’ unions, so be it. I won’t stay silent while unions ignore the science and the entire public health community, and all the research telling us schools aren’t drivers of transmission, that spread is much lower in schools than in the surrounding community. Last March we didn’t know any better. But now we know — and we’ve known for months. Europe opened up in the fall. Florida, Texas, all the red states opened up. Rhode Island was one of the few blue states that was committed to putting kids first. Can you remember even one major outbreak that was tied to school transmission (not a handful of cases, but an outbreak)? I can’t. And teachers aren’t at greater risk either.

Many of the parents I’m working with on this issue see themselves as progressive and have until now supported organized labor and unions (I myself went to the picket line for Oakland teachers 2 years ago), but it’s so clear to us that teachers’ unions are dead wrong on this issue and that their interests are diametrically opposed to what’s best for our kids. Your own kid might be doing ok in remote learning, but by and large, kids aren’t doing well. Mine sure isn’t. Just remember: the principles of child development haven’t just vanished because we’re in a pandemic. It’s still not good to have our kids in front of the screen for hours upon hours every day. Kids still need to learn alongside other kids and still need to play with other kids. What I’m saying is, there’s no amount of improvement of distance learning you can do that will make it be a good platform for learning.

Unions and their allies, according to Bodenheimer, need to abandon their “absurd justifications” for not reopening — “like denying there’s any learning loss associated with distance learning or suggesting parents can be adequate substitutes for teachers” — and get back to work. The teachers’ unions’ “tone-deaf and ridiculous” claims are undermining the proclaimed worth of teachers, she noted.

“If parents or anyone else could fill in so easily, why should we pay teachers more?” she asked. “Why should we value them as professionals?”

Record-high number of suicidal children forces San Francisco to sue its own school district to reopen

Following an alarming number of child suicides and suicide attempts, the city of San Francisco is suing its own school district to reopen.

The University of California-San Francisco Benioff Children’s Hospital at Mission Bay reported record-high numbers of suicidal children seen and treated last month. “The UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital has seen a 66% increase in the number of suicidal children in the emergency room, and a 75% increase in youth who required hospitalization for mental health services, the lawsuit said, quoting pediatricians, child psychiatrists and emergency room doctors,” USA Today reported. Doctors also saw an increase in anxiety, depression, and eating disorders among children.

The lawsuit calls for San Francisco’s public schools to reopen, saying classroom closures are “catalyzing a mental health crisis among school-aged children.” Schools have been closed for in-person learning since March.

The lawsuit filed by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera includes “alarming testimony from hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, doctors, and parents on the emotional and mental harms of extended distance learning.”

“The medical evidence is clear that keeping public schools closed is catalyzing a mental health crisis among school-aged children in San Francisco,” Dr. Jeanne Noble, director of COVID Response for the UCSF Emergency Department, said.

One San Francisco parent said her 7-year-old son had “uncontrollable meltdowns that turn (the) whole house upside down.” Meanwhile, her 10-year-old daughter is exhibiting “depression and anger.” The mother believes her daughter’s “mental health will continue to suffer” as long as she is kept out of the classroom.

Another mother said her 15-year-old daughter cries often, is frustrated, and “losing faith not just in [San Francisco Unified School District] SFUSD but in the world.”

The lawsuit highlighted that 114 of San Francisco’s private, parochial, and charter schools have reopened to 15,831 students and about 2,400 staff. Those schools have had fewer than five cases of suspected in-person transmission, according to the lawsuit.

“Distance learning is a form of instruction; it is not school,” the lawsuit says. The suit argues that children need the emotional, social, and developmental skills that can only be learned in-person. The lawsuit says that denying students to go to school “constitutes a substantial violation of their constitutional rights.”

“SFUSD and teachers’ union leadership need to step up. Get your act together, [district] leadership has earned an F,” Herrera said. “It’s unfortunate we have to take them to court to get it sorted out, but enough is enough.”

Public health officials gave the green light for schools to reopen in September, but the district and teachers unions have not been able to reach an agreement to reopen classrooms. The San Francisco Unified School District’s Board of Education did have time to bar a gay parent from being appointed to the Parent Advisory Council because he was white. School officials also found time to begin a campaign to rename several San Francisco schools that are deemed “inappropriate,” including Presidents George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

“We wholeheartedly agree that students are better served with in-person learning,” the school district’s spokeswoman, Laura Dudnick, said on Thursday. “Bringing students back to school in a large public school district is very complex and requires partnership.”

“We are eager for the city to make vaccines available to our staff,” Dudnick said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines on how schools should reopen, and the health agency declared that school reopening’s should not be conditional on having teachers and faculty vaccinated.

In July, Dr. Robert Redfield, the now-former director of the CDC, warned about the psychological damage that lockdowns and remote schooling could inflict on children.

But there has been another cost that we’ve seen, particularly in high schools,” he said. “We’re seeing, sadly, far greater suicides now than we are deaths from COVID. We’re seeing far greater deaths from drug overdose that are above excess that we had as background than we are seeing the deaths from COVID.”

The former CDC director also said in July that he would “100%” have his grandchildren go back to school.

Last month, the nation’s fifth-largest school district declared that it wants to reopen as “quickly as possible” following a rash of student suicides. Clark County School District in Nevada saw double the amount of student suicides in nine months this year compared to all of last year.

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