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A plea to open schools

Naomi Schaefer Riley explains for City Journal why the benefits of reopening schools compensate for potential health risks.

Then there is the physical toll that staying at home will continue to have on students. Heavy use of screens has long been tied to obesity. Without any organized sports or even school-sponsored PE—and no open basketball courts or playgrounds—plenty of kids won’t get off the couch this summer. Those who do will have parents who find workarounds. …

… Medical experts seem to agree that the coronavirus does not affect children in significant numbers, that those who do get it experience almost entirely mild cases, and that kids’ chances of contracting a new form of the disease look exceedingly small. It’s true that kids can transmit the virus to adults at home, that certain teachers may not be able to take these risks, and that some kids probably won’t be able to attend. But even given these caveats, other countries hit hard by the virus are opening schools. The United States needs to do so as well.

Remarkably, as many as two-thirds of parents want to keep schools closed “until officials are certain that reopening will not pose a health risk.” Maybe that’s not as surprising as it sounds: American parents have spent decades trying to minimize risks for children, arming them with everything from bicycle helmets to tracking devices. The combination of public-safety campaigns and a never-ending stream of lawsuits against schools, toy companies, and other entities involved with children has created a culture of overprotection. Federal, state, and local officials have spent three months tapping into that instinct by stoking our fears of the virus. If they can’t bring themselves to explain that opening schools poses only minimal risks to kids, they should at least concede that keeping them closed presents plenty of dangers of its own.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...