American Academy of Pediatrics: School closures, lockdown contributing to increase in children taking their own lives

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LAS VEGAS, NV –As the United States grapples with how to safely open schools, the American Academy of Pediatrics is leading the push to get kids back into the classroom for the safety of their mental wellbeing.

The group cited evidence showing closing schools has contributed to depression and suicidal ideation in children:

“The importance of in-person learning is well-documented, and there is already evidence of the negative impacts on children because of school closures in the spring of 2020.

“Lengthy time away from school and associated interruption of supportive services often result in social isolation, making it difficult for schools to identify and address important learning deficits as well as child and adolescent physical or sexual abuse, substance use, depression, and suicidal ideation.”

No school knows the tragic effects of social distance learning better than the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. The school has reported at least 20 student suicides since distance education started last March. The number is double that of 2019.

The rash of suicides is one of several reasons the Clark County Schools have begun the process of re-opening schools. Teachers and support staff are slated to return on February 22, and pre-K through 3rd-grade students are set to return on March 1. 

The grandmother of one child lost to suicide spoke with 8 News Now reporter Cristen Drummond about the various factors which led to her granddaughter’s death. Darlene Terryberry said her granddaughter died from suicide by hanging on October 3.

Terryberry found her granddaughter, Angel, in her bedroom.

Describing her granddaughter as a loving 17-year-old senior at Green Valley High School, Terryberry said she adapted to online learning quickly at first, but that the isolation from friends began to show in by Fall:

“Going to school, she did have friends, and there were girls she could talk to or be around. She may have texted with them a little bit or something, but she didn’t have that relationship with them outside of school, oh, she missed that.”

After her death, Terryberry discovered a journal kept by Angel detailing some of her private struggles with being separated from her schoolmates. Admitting she saw some changes in Angel, the grandmother said she thought it was normal teenage behavior:

“When I would see she wasn’t quite up. I just thought it was normal teenage stuff. If I had any inkling that there was more going on, I would’ve had her to a doctor in a heartbeat.

“I don’t think I ignored things; I just didn’t see them. But maybe I should’ve pushed harder to get her to talk and open up.”

The grandmother said that she wants to send a message to other parents of children that may feel isolated during the pandemic:

“If they look a little depressed or there is anything, don’t pass it off. Really look and do what you can.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics updated its back-to-school recommendations in June, saying that the academic, mental, and physical benefits of in-person education outweigh the risks of COVID-19. 

The group, which represents and guides pediatricians across the country, called for the country to move to in-person education as soon as possible:

“The AAP strongly advocates that all policy considerations for the coming school year should start with a goal of having students physically present in school.”

The group’s recommendation recognizes that schools were not amplifying the spread of the virus and that children were less likely to become seriously ill than adults. The new recommendations include grade-based safety precautions that can be taken to allow students back into the classroom.

For example, the group recommends pre-Kindergarten schools focus on hand hygiene, cohorting classes to minimize crossover among children and adults, and utilizing outdoor spaces when possible. The group recognizes that face coverings and social distancing would be difficult for younger children.

However, in middle and high schools, masks and social distancing would be more effective in limiting the change of virus spread.

Terryberry lamented the loss of her granddaughter, saying Angel “always wanted everyone to be ok. Never wanted to let on that she wasn’t.”

When Drummond asked if she thought Angel could still be alive if schools had been open, Terryberry responded, “I think there is a good chance, yes.”

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This is huge: Kentucky AG claims closure of religious schools in the state a violation of First Amendment

December 1, 2020

 

FRANKFORT, KY – The Republican Attorney General for the state of Kentucky told Fox & Friends on November 30th that the closure of religious schools in the state was a violation of the student’s and their families First Amendment rights. 

The AG, Daniel Cameron, said that he will be sending a lawsuit to the United States Supreme Court after his state level attempts to overthrow the Democratic Governor’s emergency order to close all schools have failed.

Cameron alleges that the Democratic Governor, Andy Beshear, has “repeatedly” trampled upon the “First Amendment free exercise of religion here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”  He continued:

“Again, I respect his responsibility to keep people safe. 

But we have to safeguard our religious freedoms here in Kentucky.  And so, when you tell folks who send their kids to religious-affiliated schools, which is an act of worship within itself, that they cannot go to school, it infringes upon the First Amendment rights.”

Cameron’s allegation came after Beshear ordered all schools in the state to close upon alleged rising numbers of infections of the COVID-19 virus. 

The order requires all schools to conduct school sessions virtually until the new semester begins, in January. 

However, four counties that have fewer than 25 cases per 100,000 people, the elementary schools in those areas will be allowed to reopen on December 7th.

Cameron does not appear to take issue with the closures of public schools, however, does when it comes to private religious schools.  He explained:

“You have to have a delicate balance in terms of keeping people safe and respecting the constitutional rights of our citizens.  What he [Beshear] has done repeatedly is infringe upon the First Amendment free exercise of religion here in the commonwealth of Kentucky.”

Beshear’s office claims that Cameron’s lawsuit is nothing more than him playing politics.  Crystal Staley, a spokeswoman for Beshear, said:

“The Kentucky Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the governor has the constitutional authority to issue orders to help save lives.  This week, Kentucky has a 9% COVID-19 positivity rate, 112 red zone counties and nearly 10,000 students and staff in quarantine.  Of those, nearly 1,700 tested positive for the virus.”

Beshear spoke to CNN regarding school closures and points that he is not only closing private religious schools, he is closing all of them over the virus.  He said:

“As far as the schools, we’re treating everybody the same, asking everybody to share this sacrifice.  These same folks have sued us every time we have tried to do something to stop COVID-19.  Right now we can either all work towards the solution…or some of us can try to knock down the steps that we take and the result is additional lost life that we can avoid.”

Cameron’s latest lawsuit failure occurred on November 29th when a lawsuit that was filed by him and two private religious schools failed to sway a three member panel of Judges in the Circuit Court.  Despite the setback, Cameron said:

“We’ve had over 1,500 parents join us in this litigation.  We’ve had over almost 10 schools, Christian-affiliated schools, join us in this litigation as well…We’ll be applying for review by the Supreme Court hopefully today.”

While Cameron is fighting to keep religious based schools open in Kentucky, other leaders and organizations argue that all schools should be open to children. 

UNICEF has spoken out urging leaders to keep their schools open while warning of the negative impact children may face if they are not socialized and kept in a school setting.

The United Nations also spoke out about school closures, saying that there was not enough evidence to support that closing schools keep children any safer.  They said that “the net benefits of keeping schools open outweigh the costs of closing them.”

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