Vax message to kids

I am aware that in the near future a decision will be made regarding whether or not to mandate vaccinations for all school employees and volunteers.

I am writing today to highlight the potential repercussions for children in our schools, should a vaccine mandate be implemented, resulting in the removal of all unvaccinated staff members from our schools.

On Oct. 8, during School District 23’s implementation day, school staff members had the privilege of hearing Kevin Lamoureux speak. He spoke with deep insight regarding reconciliation. He spoke about hope and healing, and moving forward in a way that is best for all Canadians, towards a better future for all indigenous and non-indigenous people together.

He spoke at length about the need to ensure that every single child in our schools receive love, and that our schools be so filled with love that all children can look in the mirror and love who they see. He said that every single child should be able to know that there is someone at school who loves them, and that all kids truly know school is a safe space for them. He described this as the sacred responsibility of the school staff members.

He spoke about the psychology of prejudice, and referenced Romeo Dallaire’s insights gained during the genocide in Rwanda, about how people can look at other people and perceive differences and then go on to dehumanize them as “others”, and that can result in pushing the “others” farther and farther away.

It seems tragic that we may be on the verge of making a decision that for a number of children in our schools, may directly violate the principles of inclusion he so wisely spoke of so recently.

I am thinking about the children in our schools who come from homes where for one reason or another their families and their communities are choosing not to be vaccinated for Covid-19.

What might be the impact on these students if all school employees who have similar beliefs and values are banned from schools. I cannot help but wonder how this might impact these children. Will they still feel loved and accepted? Will they still believe that school is a safe place? Or is it possible they may perceive they are also not welcome, safe or loved?

Is it possible that there are families among our school communities where strong opinions—even bordering on hate—are expressed towards people who are unvaccinated?

Is it possible that children from those homes will bring those strong opinions to school and feel emboldened to make them known due to the dismissal of unvaccinated employees? Is it possible that those strong opinions may result in bullying and harassment if it becomes known to them that another student is not vaccinated?

Is it possible that some children may learn a mindset of division, intolerance and even hate, rather than one of inclusion, acceptance and love?

Is it possible that we are in grave danger of creating a situation where prejudice against a group of people results in the dehumanizing the “others” Kevin spoke of?

If so, this would be in direct contradiction to the culture of caring and inclusion that is being sought in our schools.

Carole Baumgarten, teacher, Westbank

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