Brickner: Suffer little children
Brickner writes, "We need a children’s bill of rights: rights to safety, strong education (true and diverse) along with proper food and shelter."
It’s hard out here for a kid.
Youthful struggles are common – family stress, study stress, school bullies. But other problems have grown alongside these concerns.
Monday, we saw another mass shooting at an elementary school. Besides three adults, three 9-year-old students were murdered.
Indeed, gun violence is now the leading killer of children in America, not accidents. Compared to Canada, the rate is 18 times higher by percentage. Yet, on the right, there’s still no sense of urgency. Most are not even saying the shallow “thoughts and prayers.” They protect AK-47s instead of kids.
Food security is another issue. Unlike Minnesota, North Dakota decided that children in homes with low to moderately low incomes don’t deserve free lunch. Six million is somehow too much, while the Legislature seriously considers shelling out $24 million for private schools.
This position, however, is consistent with what Jamelle Bouie says in The New York Times, speaking of the proposed “Parents Rights” bill:
The point of this movement …is to undermine public education through a thousand little cuts, each meant to weaken public support for teachers and public schools, and to open the floodgates to policies that siphon funds and resources from public institutions and pump them into private ones.
In other words, shift public funds to private schools, which are free to teach or not teach whatever they want, to whom they want.
The workplace is also a concern. In Arkansas, while Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders decided that the state should authorize a “monument to the unborn,” she decided to relax child labor standards for minors.
Her decision is made when illegal employment of minors is up 69% since 2018. States like Nebraska and Minnesota have been some of the biggest offenders.
The Times noted, “A 13-year-old…was burned with caustic chemicals while working for Packers Sanitation Services in Nebraska.” Investigators were told the accident occurred during a shift that lasted from 11 p.m. to 5 or 7 a.m., in violation of federal laws.
The Star Tribune reports that Packers Sanitation had at least 31 children between the ages of 13 – 17 working in meat plants and turkey farms in Nebraska and Minnesota.
We can’t even be sure of the numbers as Packers allegedly mishandled employee files and “used intimidation to stop the minors from cooperating in the investigation.”
Besides dangerous conditions, some states look to lower minimum wages for minors.
I haven’t even touched on all the restrictions on course content in schools. One parent in Florida stopped an entire class from watching a Disney movie on 6-year-old Ruby Bridges, who integrated a school in the 1960s. Funny how we don’t hear objections from parents who want truth and diversity in the classroom.
We need a children’s bill of rights: rights to safety, strong education (true and diverse) along with proper food and shelter. We don’t need more empty rhetoric about protecting our kids, when these same people don’t want to stop a bullet or encourage a student to know we have – or had - overcome some level of prejudice; that our kids from all backgrounds can say, like one developmentally disabled boy said, “I feel seen.”
Interested in a broad range of issues, including social and faith issues, Brickner serves as a regular contributor to the Forum’s opinion page. She is a retired English instructor, having taught in Michigan and Minnesota.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.