HOOPER: We Need A Blue Ribbon Commission To Get To The Bottom Of Why We Haven’t Reopened Schools

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Ryan Hooper Contributor
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A year ago this week, schools across America made the well-meaning and appropriate decision to shutter their doors as an unknown, deadly virus swept our nation. As the year progressed, the decisions to keep schools closed were anything but well-meaning and appropriate — they were immoral and reckless.

Those who have stood in the way of school doors the past year — figuratively and literally — should be investigated with a blue ribbon style commission for the devastating and irreparable damage they have caused to our students, families and nation.

Calls for a blue ribbon style commission in the past have investigated national scandals and crises from JFK’s assassination to terrorist attacks on 9/11. The disastrous way our government has handled the critical matter of reopening schools the past year warrants a full-scale examination by an independent, bipartisan committee with education and medical expertise.

Government officials throughout the country from the executive office to local jurisdictions have spent the past year neglecting the overwhelming science and evidence which has recommended schools reopen for in-person instruction. The consequences of such decisions has led to immense and indescribable harm to our children, much of which they will suffer from for a lifetime. As U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres calls it, “A tragedy for them, a tragedy for their countries, a tragedy for the future of humankind.”

The impact closed schools would have on students in terms of their academic and emotional well-being should have been obvious to any adult at the table making decisions on schools. But a dereliction of their duties caused kindergarteners to miss a critical year of school, literacy rates to plummet, an alarming jump in suicides for our adolescents and failing grades nationwide to rise like never before. In the most advanced and prosperous country in history, adults in charge allowed this to happen by refusing to competently prioritize and provide one of the most basic and fundamental human rights to children — a quality education.

Why did they do so? Who is to blame? How do we prevent this from happening again? These are all questions that have kept me up at night the past year as I, a teacher in Baltimore City Public Schools, have watched my own students go missing, suffer emotional damage and fall behind academically.

I certainly have my own answers to these questions, as does everyone. Some will point blame to teachers unions that have staunchly opposed reopening and the Democrats who have sided with them. Others will fault former President Trump’s mishandling of the virus and the public distrust his administration had sewn. Local leaders such as superintendentsmayors and school boards will be accused of incompetence and failures of leadership. Health officials such as Dr. Fauci and the CDC will be questioned on their evasivepolitical and questionablerecommendations.

Many of the excuses we have heard for schools being closed from the aforementioned people don’t hold a lot of weight. Republicans in Florida or Texas and Democrats in Rhode Island and Connecticuthave all successfully reopened their public schools. Catholic schools nationwide have opened their doors as well. So why didn’t the rest of the country?

If we want answers to these questions, we have to have a deliberate and credible investigation into what transpired in the past year to cause schools across the country to unjustly remain closed.

Trusted answers for the American public will not be found in a Tucker Carlson monologue or Randi Weingarten interview. It will take a bipartisan and independent blue-ribbon commission to ensure that the students and families who have suffered through an unbearable and detrimental year of virtual learning rightfully receive the compelling answers they deserve.

Our nation would be wise to hold those accountable who callously caused this self-inflicted, national emergency and make the necessary recommendations to guarantee this type of unforgivable child neglect could never happen again.

Ryan Hooper is a social studies teacher in Baltimore, MD.