I am a wife and a mother. I am a family advocate and a follower of Jesus Christ. I live in the state of California in a county that will not be going back to school this next week. Children across the district have been issued Chromebooks preloaded with the materials they will need to facilitate their education. I appreciate the efforts of teachers and administrators statewide who have spent countless hours throughout the summer developing curriculum and training to teach in a distance learning style. But let the children back in school.
I have corresponded with the school district, the Office of Education and other community leaders during the past six months with the hopes that I could make a difference. COVID-19 is blamed for the disruption of children’s educational trajectory, and while the coronavirus is a public health disaster, there is more at stake for the children.
When school ended in March and distance learning began, I raised my voice in concern for children who are at home for many more hours a day than ever before, many being neglected and abused. Parents have lost jobs, parents are burdened, parents are doing the best they can with the resources they have.
It was not until I became educated regarding the statistics of an even more horrifying crime: the number of children being forced into human trafficking. (I choose to spare the details and actual numbers for the children who read this.) At this particular time, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children conveys an increase of 103% in online enticement reports as compared to the same time period in 2019.
The center states: “With both kids and adults spending more time online due to school closures and stay-at-home orders, NCMEC is aware of instances where child predators are using the darknet to discuss this opportunity to entice children to produce explicit material. Some traffickers are now offering subscription-based services in which buyers pay to access online images and videos of the child.”
I close by quoting a podcast I listened to recently: “The School of Greatness,” by Lewis Howes, episode 986. I quote Tim Ballard, the founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad:
“I’m worried about kids right now a lot. I feel like we pursue good things and that they make sense but, too often, we don’t consider the children who are being hurt … do we know the trade-offs? Are we considering the trade-offs? If you’re 60 years old or younger, you have a 99.9% chance of surviving COVID-19. Teachers who create the infrastructure that keeps kids … from being assaulted are (predominately, 89%) under 60 years old. What we should really be asking is, “What’s scarier to you?
“Once we’ve taken care of the most vulnerable (population in regards to COVID-19), What’s scarier — a virus with a 99.9% survivability or the trade-off? Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of children are being … assaulted. Kids can’t get loud, they can’t organize, they can’t protest, they can’t march, and so we don’t hear from them. It’s on us as adults to stand up and be their voices and say: We will sit at the table for you. We will make sure you are represented.”
I will sit at the table. I will represent the children. How will you join me? Let us back in school.
Katie Keith lives in Marysville.