When My Daughter’s School Went Online, I Wrote This Letter to her Principal

This decision wasn’t about the kids

On July 29th, a freight train derailed and caught fire in Tempe, AZ, collapsing a 100 year old bridge. On August 5th, the local school district voted to delay in-person education until at least October, having been remote since March. The fallout from the July disaster will be less costly and easier to fix than that of August. Photo credit Thomas P Seager, PhD

***On 8/5/2020, my daughter’s school district voted to push back the start date for in-person schooling from 8/17 to “at least” October. This is the letter I sent her principal within the hour. It was a shot from the hip and not my most eloquent composition, but the point survives the passion and I think it exemplifies how a lot of families are feeling right now.

I’m writing to you personally to let you know that I am disenrolling my daughter from school tomorrow in response to tonight’s decision by the school board to continue online-only learning until at least October.

I have never been more disappointed or disgusted with this district than I am tonight. You are depriving kids of normal social/emotional developmental experiences in service of the irrational fear of adults. The kids need to be the priority and they are suffering. I see the distress first hand and this decision represents an intentional increase in the very real risks teens in our district face. Teen mental health is at a breaking point. Teen suicides are through the roof. You are taking away their extracurriculars and their sports and activities which keep them on the path to success. You are removing their motivations to succeed and hopes for their futures.

My daughter’s education is not yours to sacrifice. Schools exist to serve students, not employ teachers, and any “educator” who does not consider themselves an essential worker has no business working in schools. My daughter is #2 in her sophomore class. She is driven and strong with an exceptional mind and a financially stable and supportive family…and she is breaking. As you well know, most kids at [her high school] do not have the same luxuries as she. Because of this, the achievement gap between the haves and the have-not will turn into a chasm from which the most vulnerable students will never recover.

Despite her fortunate circumstances, I will not continue to put my daughter through the mental and physical toll of social isolation — sitting in the same chair for six hours per day, staring at a screen — while she struggles with the excessive reading being assigned, for lack of any other way to teach. She overcame her dyslexia and graduated from her IEP two years ago and it took six years and hundreds of hours of tears and struggle to get her to that point. We will not relive it just because your teachers would rather hide in their houses to avoid a risk that is smaller than that which they face driving their cars to work. School is more than reading and busywork. It’s experiential. Online school [in these circumstances] is good for no one, especially when forced upon kids to prevent them from getting a disease that has a statistically nil chance of hurting them.

This is a shameful, harmful, and unjustified decision and I will be educating my daughter myself with other like-minded families because this school has nothing to offer her online. She is devastated at the lack of support and concern for her needs expressed by the board tonight and while the messaging is that keeping schools closed is the “moral, selfless” position, it’s very clear that the reality is the opposite.

The literal train derailment which occurred over [the lake bridge] last week is nothing compared to the willful derailment of our kids’ futures which occurred tonight, by the very people who have pledged to put them first.

It’s nothing short of a dereliction of duty and it’s not the adults who will suffer — its the kids.

Regards,

A.J. Kay

Mama, writer, lover, fighter — I wear my heart on my sleeve because my pants pockets are too small. www.ajkaywriter.com

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