As parents across the country prepare for a difficult transition back to school this fall, it looks like there might be extra pressure to stay on top of things in one state in particular. In Massachusetts, for example, school officials have reported parents of kids who missed virtual school to social services, alleging possible neglect.
According to the Boston Globe, school officials from several different districts have reported "dozens of families" to the state's social services, mostly against mothers who had no previous complaints filed against them. School officials told the newspaper that, in each case, there was a history of repeatedly missing virtual classes as well as homework assignments, not simply missing one class. But still, Michael Gregory of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative of Massachusetts Advocates for Children and the Harvard Law School told the news outlet that "it's the exact wrong thing the moment calls for."
Schools in Massachusetts are required to notify the Department of Children and Families if they have reason to believe a child is being abused or neglected, according to the state's website. But, of course, we are living in a very different world at the moment.
Parents and caregivers have undoubtedly been struggling ever since schools across the country closed back in March in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. Many parents have been trying to work from home or attempt to return to work as businesses have opened back up in recent months, while also caring for their children. One mom in San Diego even lost her job, alleging in a lawsuit that her boss became frustrated that her children could be heard during work calls.
With the upcoming school year on the horizon, states have released reopening guidelines and plans. For example, some schools in Massachusetts are implementing "hybrid learning," which involves a combination of in-person and remote learning, according to NBC Boston. It's a lot for parents to manage, especially during the pandemic when there is already so much uncertainty and fear. And now there's the additional concern that school officials could potentially report instances of kids missing virtual classes to child services.
In August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shared a study that found a sharp increase in anxiety, depression, and even suicidal thoughts during the pandemic. As of late June, 40% of adults surveyed across the country reported issues with their mental health or substance abuse. The emotional labor of raising children during quarantine as well as working and managing distance learning is simply a lot. In fact, some parents have even decided their kids won't do remote learning at all during the pandemic.
Em Quiles, a mother of two who works full time, knows a little something about the struggle, telling the Boston Globe that she was forced to leave her teenage son frequently in charge of monitoring her 7-year-old's virtual learning, even as he had his own to do. Quiles told the publication she had spoken to her son's school about her struggles in the spring, but apparently no help was offered. In June, the Department of Children and Families called Quiles after her son's school had accused her of neglect because he had missed classes and assignments, according to the Boston Globe.
Considering the fact that only 36% of parents surveyed by Commonwealth Magazine in the spring in Massachusetts reported their children were regularly attending virtual classes, reporting Quiles for neglect seems harsh. Scott Hechinger, a public defender in New York, called the reports "despicable" in a tweet.
If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here.