Use with Caution

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has prescribed what, for elementary schools planning to resume campus-based instruction, comes as a bitter pill:  no waivers applications will be considered before the county’s COVID-19 case rate drops below 200 cases per 100,000 people.  As a result, more than 1.5 million public and private school students will be forced to continue their education via distance-learning and other off-site modalities when the new school year begins and, perhaps, well beyond.

Even if no question is raised concerning LACDPH’s authority to issue such a prescription, the underlying science it employed to inform its decision making, or the soundness of its conclusion, it behooves responsible consumers – whether of pills, or policies – to ask: What are the associated warnings and possible side effects?

Remarkably, LACDPH has failed to furnish any indication that the continued closure of school campuses may expose children, parents, and society to an array of potentially devastating sequelae.  To illustrate some of the adverse side effects of which the good physicians and social scientists at the Department make no mention, consider the fictitious drug “Noclazrum” as a medicinal surrogate for an extended campus-closure prescription.  Its accompanying information might read something like this:

NOCLAZRUM is a broad-spectrum* learning-blocker that may reduce transmission of COVID-19. Its effective mechanism of action consists of binding children to their homes, and blocking direct contact with teachers.  (*Noclazrum is suitable for administration to children enrolled in public, public charter, and private schools.)

WARNING: Noclazrum interferes with children’s ability to learn. Environmental distractions such as those caused by parents, siblings, dogs, cats, birds, ambient noise, smells, and/or the availability of (non-educational) television, smart phones, tablets and other hand-held devices may intensify this effect.    Extended use of Noclazrum may be accompanied by the retardation of achievement in core academic subjects, resulting in chronic inability to attain proficiency. Use with caution when children reside in low-income households, are English learners, or have special needs, as these effects may be long-lasting and irreversible. Lack of proficiency in core academic subjects frequently leads to economic deprivations, socio-emotional deficits, and elevated health risks. When administered in broad-spectrum form, Noclazrum may precipitate a rapid widening of the achievement gap.  Prolonged physical separation from classmates may produce, or intensify socio-emotional and mental health manifestations, such as regressive behavior, sullenness, anxiety, withdrawal, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, inability to concentrate, fidgeting, crying, aggressiveness, etc.

PARENTS: Noclazrum can be expected to produce stress, which, in the absence of financial security, may be severe.  Parents may experience emotional lability, anxiety, and/or depression.  Irritability, disturbances of sleep, and chronic fatigue are common. To reduce the severity of side effects in school-aged children, parents should stay at home following the administration of Noclazrum, remaining attentive to their child, providing supervision and support, as necessary, and avoiding engagement in any distracting activity.  Such activities include talking on the phone, watching television, playing music, cleaning, cooking, exercising, and relaxing. Parents may experience the desire to increase alcohol consumption following the administration of Noclazrum.  For parents of multiple children, these effects are likely to be intensified.  Before discontinuing Noclazrum, consult a teachers union official.

PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Use of Noclazrum in combination with enrollment attrition, tuition reduction, and a decrease in charitable activity is known to increase morbidity, particularly in private schools with underlying conditions such as serving low-income families.

TEACHERS: Noclazrum may be habit forming. Use with caution.

Note: The commentary and views expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessary represent those of the California Association of Private School Organizations, or its members.

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