Students Weigh In On COVID-19 Restrictions

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For the past two years, children have compromised their educational goals to satisfy coronavirus restrictions.

“I’m a junior and I’ve never had a normal year of high school,” said Cami Glebocki, a 16-year-old student at Severna Park High School. “Most of my classmates, I wouldn’t even recognize their faces.”

After all the broken promises about flattening the curve and the efficacy of vaccines, young people, who beat COVID-19 quicker than the annual flu, are increasingly aware of the injustice of their situation.

“I loved musical theater and chorus,” said Caitlin Gillespie, a 2021 graduate of Broadneck High School. “When those activities were canceled, I ended up getting treatment for an eating disorder. It took four months to find a program. There are hundreds of kids on that waitlist.”

Taking a gap year, Gillespie is now working part-time at a local retail shop.

“During my senior year, our school traditions were tossed out the window,” the 18-year-old said. “No homecoming. No senior section at football games. Interaction with friends was strictly texting and FaceTime for an entire year.”

Fifth-grader Savanna Goodman of Pasadena struggled under COVID restrictions at Lake Shore Elementary School until her parents started homeschooling.

“If a girl in my class would cough then she’d be taken to the nurse’s office,” Savanna said. “Sometimes she’d stay there for the rest of the day. When a friend let a mask slip under her nose, the teacher and the principal yelled at her.”

On January 7, the seven-member Anne Arundel County Council rejected mask mandates with four members in favor and three opposed. The mandates need a supermajority, five votes, to pass. The council saw that decision reversed by the county health officer under the direction of County Executive Steuart Pittman. With many schools now adopting a more restrictive “masks at recess policy,” there are fewer opportunities for Anne Arundel County students to simply breathe fresh air.

“I have a friend who has panic attacks,” added 10-year-old Savanna. “She’s gotten worse during COVID.”

For many young people, the constant rule changes have eroded their sense of dignity. At Broadneck Elementary, some teachers are touting a new stopwatch-enforced five-minute “snack time” policy that requires students to eat with masks on, removing their face covering only long enough to take each bite of food.

“For chorus, some of my friends have been asked to wear a mask that looks like a duck beak,” Gillespie said. “If you play a wind instrument, there is a requirement to wear a face mask with a slit by your mouth. And for musical theater, the actors have to wear full face shields.

“It seems intentionally dehumanizing,” she added.

Some members of the younger generation are losing hope in the system they are meant to inherit.

“When I think about the future, it makes me feel I won’t be ready for middle school,” Goodman said. “It makes me feel upset. I feel like things keep getting worse.”

Questioning authority has become a last resort.

“Young people have no voice. We can’t vote. We don’t own TV stations. We don’t own newspapers,” Gillespie said. “Where are the adults who will stand up for us? Who will defend our generation? Our future is being stolen.”

In Anne Arundel County, the Board of Education promotes something called Unity Days where social justice and equity are celebrated, while the real systemic injustice aimed at the young and the vulnerable is hidden in plain sight.

“I wish the school board and other adults would understand that these are important years for us developmentally,” Glebocki said. “We’re young and healthy and we’re being held to a standard that doesn’t apply to us and has no basis in science.”

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  • Boxita

    Thank you so much for this article. It is refreshing to see people willing to report the stories our kids are going through at school. My son has been yelled by a couple of teachers when he attempted to pull his mask down to take a deep breath. For this and other reasons, this week is his last week at his public school.

    Thursday, January 20 Report this