When Cynthia Rivera’s 17 year old son, a junior at El Dorado High School in Placentia got a call to the principal’s office during his football practice, suspension was the last thing he expected. The urgency in the call sounded like there could have been a car accident, and maybe one of his friends was hurt. Different scenarios raced through his mind, but instead he was greeted by a panicked headmaster requiring that he not participate in football for 14 days because he had been exposed to COVID in one of his classes.
Cynthia and her son were shocked. He had just tested negative earlier that week and was displaying no symptoms of COVID. Taking these two facts to the principal was not enough. He was operating under strict rules from above and it did not matter that Cynthia’s son was healthy and did not actually have COVID. It was enough that he was in a classroom where a kid contracted COVID and he was less than 6 feet away from his classmate. That is the rule, and Cynthia would have accepted that rule. However, the enforcement of this COVID rule is arbitrary. In the “offending” classroom, Cynthia and her son measured the distance between her son’s seat and the seat of the classmate with COVID and found it was just under 6 feet. Upon measurements in other days and classrooms, it was virtually impossible to keep that 6 feet distancing and there were repeated violations ranging from 1 to 5 feet. Why should her son be penalized for the negligence of the school staff from proper spacing? Cynthia took this fact to the superintendent.
After repeated requests, this was the response Cynthia received: “Dear Mr. and Mrs. Rivera, Thank you for the follow up communication. I’m glad to hear your son tested negative and hope his second test has the same result. I did connect with the school team regarding your case. After review, it was determined that your son was a close contact to a Covid-19 positive student and the Health Services staff correctly followed the guidance from the Orange County Health Care Agency. As a result, the quarantine from extra curricular activities stands for the 14 day period.
While I realize this is not the response you were hoping for, please understand that we make every effort to apply the guidance consistently regardless of whether a student is 2, 4, or 5 ½ feet from an infected individual. Thank you for understanding our position as we work to keep our schools safe. Thank you again. - Assistant Superintendent, Executive Services, Placenta-Yorba Linda Unified”
In the name of “safety”, there is a real life impact. Since he was 5 years old, Cynthia, her son and the entire family have dedicated their lives and time to her son’s football practices and games. Before this suspension due to COVID exposure, the family had never missed a practice or game. Her son is a rising star, a starter and wants to play in college, and maybe take this professionally if the opportunity arises. But odds are decreasing, as he happened to be coming of age in high school in 2020 and 2021, when kids were locked up at home for over a year.
The Rivera family had to seek therapy for their son, who was getting depressed. Thinking that things were back to normal, he returned to school and football practice, but in the middle of the season, is now being yanked out. Cynthia feels for her teary-eyed son, who now has to be suspended for 14 days. She says, “The consequences are very severe for not being sure if there is even a threat. Missing two games for a junior is huge”.
Cynthia and her family represent a normal family that is being adversely affected by a societal paranoia that is out of control. But she is not the only one.
Another local California mother from another district had to deal with her son being sent homie for a stomach ache from constipation. This stomach ache is actually a COVID symptom and while the child and parents may be insistent he does not have COVID, the availability of tests is limited and doctors will not test kids for COVID who have just a stomach ache. Simply exhibiting a symptom is now cause to send a child home for 2 weeks.
Similarly, other children have allergies and this paranoia over germs (George Carlin is rolling over in his grave), fueled by myopic government mandates, is causing people to overreact to seasonal allergies. One family in North Carolina complained that their son had pollen allergies and was also sent home.
It is now a trend for overly paranoid school officials to bar students from going to school or attending extracurricular activities because “better safe than sorry” even if it completely disrupts a child’s learning and trajectory or building a skill or craft, like Cynthia’s son’s football. Even worse, this standard is arbitrary based on what some bureaucrat feels is safe.
Have we stopped to assess the balance of resuming our activities and employing overly harsh restrictions that are based on irrational paranoia, and not by data, actual results and science? Maybe some training is due for superintendents and teachers, to remember their job is to teach and grow knowledge and young minds, and balance that with COVID safety? Common sense is not so common anymore and it’s once again, the kids that end up suffering as they are treated like lepers for simply being in the same room as someone who had COVID. No wonder, mental health is on the decline for our teenagers and young adults. This is just unacceptable and the idiocy must stop if we really care about our children, who are the most resilient from COVID.
Marc Ang (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the President of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance in Orange County, co-chair of “Recall Gascon Now”, was the Director of Outreach for the “No on 16” campaign, a community organizer in Southern California and the founder of Asian Industry B2B who specializes in race relations and the minority conservative experience. His book “Minority Retort” will be released in late 2021