A group of B.C. teachers says the province’s COVID response is causing more harm than good to B.C. students.
The group B.C. Educators for Human Rights issued an open letter to B.C. teachers April 26 and called the response to COVID “out of balance” in relation to children.
“We feel teachers have relinquished the bond of their profession out of fear; our risks are not as great as what has been identified.”
The signatories then ask B.C. teachers to join them. “We implore you to add your voices to ours. Teachers have a part in ensuring children keep the right to their mental and physical health.”
B.C. Educators for Human Rights (BCEHR) signatories, Tabitha Krauskopf (Prince George school district), Anna Chambers (Langley school district), Sarah Rowat (North Okanagan school district), Jessie Duncan-Wersta (private-school system), Jolene Devcic Ryall (North Vancouver school district), Emilie Perron (Vancouver school district), and Meghan Taylor-Macdonald are all B.C. teachers.
“COVID-19 mitigation measures are having a detrimental impact on our children and youth,” reads the letter.
The letter goes through a list of reasons why BCEHR thinks the “response to COVID is out of balance,” including their assertions that: “the risk of dying of COVID-19 in British Columbia is 0.03 per cent … the risk of dying in a car crash in 2019 was approximately 1.22 per cent; asymptomatic spread is rare (0.7 per cent or less); two out of 45,000 teachers in B.C. have been in ICU for COVID. No deaths reported thus far; 211 out of 45,000 teachers in B.C. have WorkSafeBC claims for contracting COVID within the education sector,” among others.
Krauskopf said her nascent group—which has only been together for about three weeks and already has 50 members and rising—felt obligated to write the letter because teachers are essentially caregivers.
“Most of us got into teaching because we wanted to make a difference.” She said teachers are there to protect, care for and help children. She added mask wearing and non-pharmaceutical interventions that children have to endure are causing them harm. “As professionals working with kids, I don’t know how we can stay silent.”
Krauskopf cited an incident where a young girl fell into a panic attack because she left her sweater outside.
“Other kids were playing, and she knew she wasn’t supposed to cross social-distancing boundaries, and she worked herself into a panic,” Krauskopf said. “That shouldn’t be happening. It’s such a small problem that’s been made into such a big thing, that she would be afraid to go out and get her sweater off the playground when the risk outside is almost nothing.”
Krauskopf said she’s also witnessed kids panicking because they were having a hard time breathing and wouldn’t take their masks off out of fear.
She also cited mental health issues. “You can feel it. It’ll go okay, but depending on what’s happening in the community, or when new health orders are circulated, you can feel how it changes in the classroom and with the kids. They are more depressed and they act out more.”
Krauskopf said she hopes the letter raises awareness among B.C.’s teachers and empowers them to speak up.
“A lot of (the measures) are designed to make people feel safer, but children are at very low risk from COVID.”
She said she wants to empower parents too and let them know teachers are concerned about their kids.
Krauskopf was shocked when she started looking into the mental health status of children over the course of pandemic containment measures.
“There’ve been massive increases in suicide attempts, suicidal ideation, and self harm in children as young as nine.”
Krauskopf said Kids Help Phone received 4 million calls in 2020, more than double the amount (1.9 million) they received in 2019. And she cited a report from Hamilton Health Sciences that said McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton has seen a massive spike in youth suicide attempts.
“It’s not just kids. Families are struggling. And child abuse in the home is escalating too,” she noted. “COVID is terrible, and it’s really affecting people, but we need to widen the lens now and start looking at how we can help children.”
She said that help includes a relaxation of mask-wearing rules in schools and a decrease in some of the social-distancing measures. She also wants to see sports reopen for children.
“I’d like kids to just be able to start being kids again, especially when the risks are so low outside.”
B.C. Educators for Human Rights can be found at facebook.com/BCEdforHumanRights.