COVID and Vaccination politics are making for some very strange communication coming from my children’s school district, Littleton Public Schools. This week, every parent with at least one student in the district received a notice that Littleton was discontinuing the use of school buildings as community vaccination clinics. On the face of it, it seems reasonable enough. The school district can decide what it wants to do with its buildings during non-school hours (3-7 PM). And yet, the reason for this change is anything but reasonable.
According to the letter sent by the district superintendent on January 25, 2022, the issue arose when the district learned “the State of Colorado does not require minors to be accompanied by a parent or guardian as long as parental consent is collected and shared prior to the appointment through the vaccine provider’s online scheduling system.” This means that students could sign up online for a vaccine and mark that they have parental consent, even though they might not. They could then receive the vaccine without the parents ever being involved.
And, as it turns out, a few of them did just that. The access to a potentially life-saving vaccine was too much for some parents, though. They were ”outraged” when their children exercised free will and circumvented the intent of the system in order to get vaccinated. But, the parents were not outraged at their children for making this decision. Instead, the ire of the anti-vaccination parents was directed at the school district for providing access to the clinic.
The situation was further complicated by the fact that this flawed vaccination procedure was ”uncovered” by a couple of students who posed as older than they were and/or falsified written parental consent and then captured the process on camera. It was a deliberate attempt to eliminate the clinic, as they knew that the “outrage” would soon follow.
This is why we can’t have nice things.
We can’t have a fully vaccinated public because we are afraid of providing access to it for all who want it for fear of upsetting those who do not. We can’t embrace personal responsibility because we believe that the actions taken by an individual do not matter, only the actions of an institution that followed their own procedures. We can’t take a stand for public health or collective action as a school district because we fear the impact it will have on the reputation of the district.
This is all done ”for the kids.” It is in their name that both the inclusion of the clinic at a school building, and ultimately the removal of that clinic were done. But, how can it be both? How can it be “for the kids” if we are simply teaching them that the way to get rid of something you don’t like is to create a “fake outrage” amongst those who are already outraged at the science of vaccination? How can it be ”for the kids” when everyone in the district receives a letter that we care more about the feelings of a few parents than we do about letting kids make informed decisions about their own health.
I believe that this kind of communication sets a dangerous precedent. Clearly, the district felt as though they had no choice. They cannot be seen to support students getting around parental consent. They cannot be seen to advocate for kids not listening to their parents. And so, the precedent is clear. My children’s school district does not stand by the science or information literacy that they are teaching. They do not stand by the students who need a way to circumvent the ill-informed opinions of their parents. And ultimately, the school district communicated to one and all that the people with the power to change things are the ones who lie and then are offended by what those lies allow.
I am disappointed with the decision to close down this clinic. But, I am even more disappointed with why the decision was made. It was ostensibly made “for the kids,” and yet, it feels to me like it really was “for the parents.” When we make decisions about public health and public education with outraged parents as the only stakeholder, we are doing it wrong.