LETTER: Safety paramount during pandemic
I know everyone cares about doing the right thing for our children and schools, but unfortunately the right health and safety practices are being negatively influenced by people's need and secondary gain to show they care about other important freedoms and rights. I understand these are difficult issues to dissect and separate, but I urge you to stay true to the PA School Health and Safety Plan requirements such as implementing prevention and mitigation policies in line with the most up-to-date guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and maintaining the health and safety of all students, educators, and staff. Let the people know that you care about all issues and that the health and safety of everyone is paramount during a pandemic.
As Theodore Roosevelt said, "Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care." Therefore, since caring for our children is of paramount importance for everyone, it is important that everyone knows the differences between a guideline, a mandate and a law.
Guidelines are only voluntary recommendations that are developed from health and safety studies. There is little oversight or necessary health and safety protections with guidelines during a pandemic.
Mandates are quickly implemented to deal with emergency situations, like a pandemic, and mandates are in effect for a limited time. If a mandate is not successful, a law may be passed.
Laws are long-term rules, voted on by elected representatives, taking more time to create, and not timely enough in dealing with rapidly changing situations like a pandemic. Both mandates and laws are enforceable by the police and this can be done through a fine, jail or prison time.
Also, the health department can issue a mandate to deal with a pandemic and only a legislature passing a law or a lawyer arguing the mandate before a court of law can overturn the mandate, more time and more money.
Therefore, isn't caring for our children with the most caution and precautions more important than a lawyer wasting precious time and money arguing and placing the schools, police, essential workers and everyone's collective health and safety at risk, especially when a long-term law may very well end up taking the place of the mandate anyway? Because, if the pandemic prevails without a mandate, then a mandate or a law will be passed. If the pandemic prevails with a mandate in place, a law will be passed.
Finally, as an expert witness with a good grasp of knowledge on health and safety guidelines, regulations, accreditation, standards and practices, everyone should be aware that there is an "expected standard of care" for health and safety, especially when children are involved during emergency situations, like a pandemic.
So please, we know how much you care, now show how much you know and provide the expected standard of care for all of us and especially for our children's future.
Dennis Smiddle - Former Health and Safety Licensing Representative for PA Child Care and Assisted Living facilities. In addition to being a PA School Safety Assessor and Expert Witness withe the Expert Institute.