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Parenting Politics/Community

I Live in a Community That Doesn’t Care if My Kid Dies

I live in a community that doesn’t care if my kid dies.

I realize that sounds harsh. Like OMGwhere do you live? How could people not care? 

I live in a suburban county that, by all outward appearances, seems like a nice enough place.

Lots of people who live here love it. And again, by all outward appearances, it’s nice. It’s got affordable homes. Good schools. Quaint downtowns with trendy restaurants and shops. Community events. A Costco.

And a whole bunch of COVID-deniers.

Living here wasn’t my first choice. It was closer to my last. Having grown up in a neighboring county, I knew all about my current county’s sordid history. But it was the halfway point between my husband’s workplace and mine when we moved here 13 years ago, and as landing a job was hard enough for both of us at the time, we had to settle.

And settle we did.

Because now, we are surrounded by all these “nice” people with their “nice” schools and their “nice” downtowns and their “nice” community events who could not give a damn if my kid lives or dies. (And if they do, they sure have a shitty way of showing it.)

My child had a stroke in utero, which resulted in Cerebral Palsy, hemiplegia, and cerebrovascular disease. This means he is at much greater risk of severe illness or death should he contract COVID-19 than people without pre-existing health conditions (who are also at risk of death even without pre-existing conditions — we all are).

The school systems in our county are all “mask-recommended.” How adorable that recommendation is because only a small fraction of people actually take that recommendation seriously and do wear a mask. And our vaccination rate is abysmal to boot.

“How simple it is to implement proven mitigation strategies that are recommended by the CDC, AAP, and state health department to protect not only my child, but also the many other children and community members at risk,” I pleaded with the school superintendent and Board of Education, both in conversation and through letters. “We have evidence that it’s effective. It worked so well last year, and it allowed children to learn in-person with little consequence,” I added. What a waste of time that was because nobody — not one single person in a position of power within my community — cares.

There is a small group of us who care. We gather on a community page to strategize, support one another, and vent when one of our children falls victim to the situation in our schools. There are others out there too. I see them in stores or at the gas station. This offers some solace.

But the vast majority? They either claim COVID isn’t real or say we should all get infected to “build our immunity.” They actively FIGHT for the right to get infected and infect others. And they just may get their way, as my son with the disabilities? His school is now classified as the site of an outbreak. And our county far surpasses any neighboring counties in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. Lovely.

We’ve just completed our fourth quarantine among my three children due to close contact with an infected person in school. They’ve only been in school for two months. My son at greatest risk of death has been quarantined once. I was terrified as I awaited the PCR test results. Negative. This time. Thank God.

Why don’t you just homeschool then? you may be wondering. We tried that. Not only do my children thrive in-person (and suffer in isolation), but my son with disabilities requires special services to progress. I can’t provide those to him at home, alone, while working full time and tending to two other children as well.

And why should my child be denied a public education anyway? After all, under Section 504, he is entitled to FAPE (free and appropriate public education), which arguably, he is not receiving. As a former teacher myself, I am quite familiar with laws pertaining to the education of persons with disabilities, and one could argue the incessant quarantining due to the school district’s refusal to implement mitigation strategies, let alone provide a safe learning environment, combined with the lack of equal educational opportunities afforded students in quarantine absolutely violates this right.

I went through a litigious period in the beginning. Contacted officials at the state and federal levels. Began legal proceedings.

Ultimately, I don’t give a shit about that. I just DON’T WANT MY KID TO DIE. I DON’T WANT ANYONE’S KID TO DIE. Or anyone’s sibling, parent, grandparent, cousin, friend, acquaintance. Pre-existing conditions or not. They — we — should all be able to live, work, and go to school in a community that’s safe. Period.

I’ve worked too hard to help my son live since he almost died when he was born. He’s worked too hard as well. So many therapies, surgeries, interventions. He deserves the chance to keep living, dammit.

This should not be a politicized sticking point. This should be about doing our best for our fellow humans. Full stop.

But it is a politicized sticking point. And that’s clear. Because I live in a community that only cares about one thing: their “freedoms.” OK, sure.

They wear seatbelts, put their kids in car seats, drive the speed limit, abide by drunk driving laws, wear their shirts and shoes into the convenience store so they can get service — all rules either the government or local businesses have imposed upon citizens or patrons — BUT BY GOD DON’T ASK THEM TO WEAR A PIECE OF CLOTH OVER THEIR FACES TO POTENTIALLY SAVE SOMEONE’S LIFE. That’s just taking things too far.

I’m not going to get into the science (of which there’s an abundance), critical thinking (of which there’s a shortage), or political games (of which there are myriad) here. That’s for another post.

This post is about basic humanity. It’s about my son’s — and everyone’s loved ones’ — right to live. It’s about a mother’s broken heart that very few seem to care.

I would leave this hellhole if I could. But I can’t right now. So I’m stuck here.

Stuck here writing letters, investigating class-action lawsuits, voicing my concerns to those whose decision-making impacts us all, and advocating for whatever the hell it takes to get officials in this county to step up and do the right things — the very simple things that every county bordering ours is doing with great results.

I’m stuck here doing that. And praying my son — and everyone else — makes it through another day. All with the knowledge that I’m living in a community that doesn’t care if my kid dies.

And that knowledge — that might hurt the most.