BC Children’s Hospital Psychiatrist: Safety more important than school right now

    Vancouver – Reopening schools doesn’t matter right now and the government’s priority should be the safety and security of kids.

    “School doesn’t matter right now, we need to focus on safety, security, and the things that will make you healthy,” says Dr. Tyler Black, who is medical director of a child psychiatric emergency unit at BC Children’s Hospital.

    His advocacy for the health and safety of children runs contrary to political messaging in BC and in other parts of the world that brick and mortar school is most important regardless of the death and illness caused by the pandemic.

    His points were made in a long series of tweets.

    His point throughout is that more trauma can be inflicted by the devastating impact of the pandemic and further endangerment physical schooling will bring.

    Here’s what he had to say:

    “I am an expert in child & adolescent emergency psychiatry. This is my expert opinion: It’s complex, and it is not easy to answer.


    Education = GOOD

    In person schooling in a deadly pandemic

    = GOOD + BAD.”

    “First, the pandemic is bad for people. Without mitigation strategies, it tears through the public and grandmothers, fathers, children die. So far, 640k people have died with mitigation strategies, which is (at 6 months) nearly matching the WORLD’S YEARLY SUICIDE RATE.

    “Second, death is traumatic. While it may be true that kids less likely to spread COVID, it’s certainly true that kids are less likely to die from the disease. But grandma? Mom? Teacher? If we don’t control the spread of disease, children will be exposed to more death.

    “Third, education is good for kids. Education exposes us to new ideas, important skills, social situations, and real-world training for being an adult. Education comes in all forms. Camps. Schools. Sports. Peers. Parents. Public Announcements. Television. Video Games.

    “Fourth, social interaction is good for kids. Though neurodiversity changes the importance of this, most kids benefit from rich social lives, where they can meet people from diverse background and share/develop social skills.

    “And finally, in-person schools are the way that our farming-based economy evolved kids: daycare + education + social experience all in one. Perfectly designed? No. Right for every kid? Definitely not. But a societal solution to kids’ needs.”

    “But is in person school “good for kids?”


    – professional teachers

    – social experience

    – academic standards

    – child care

    – sports and leisure activities

    – chances to expand world

    – pathway to good employment

    – parental pride / source of support


    – bullying

    – psychiatric distress and suicide rates increase

    – hours of operation not compatible with youth brains

    – not safe for everyone

    – introduces expectations + “mould-fitting” in diverse kids

    – source of in-home conflict (homework, wakeups, marks.)”

    “Any pediatric emergency department member or child psychiatrist who has worked for at least 12 months consecutively will tell you, flat out, that school days cause more distress than non-school days.”

    “See, school is both a pathway to personal and social success, and **one of the major causes of stress**. It’s the kids “full time job.” We put SO much pressure on kids:

    * attendance

    * marks + competition

    * social expectations

    * extracurricular activities

    “Frequently, as an expert in emergency child and adolescent psychiatry, I have to use the phrase “School doesn’t matter right now (short term), we need to focus on safety, security, and the things that will make you healthy”

    “That never means I think school is bad or they should never go, and I certainly think that education, social experiences, and adult-guided childhood development are very important.

    “But it DOES MEAN when safety is on the line, school is less important.”

    “If a mother and child are fighting over bedtime, and the fight results in the child locking themselves in the bathroom and ingesting a bunch of Tylenol, guess what instantly doesn’t matter all of a sudden? That’s right: the frickin’ bedtime.

    It’s not about the bedtime.

    It’s about safety. Creatively solving things. Ensuring that the kid can handle the stress and the mother can handle the kids stress.

    “Ensuring that safety planning and precautions are in place. Tben – gradual return to school expectations.

    “I now see this being played out on a world-wide stage with MILLIONS (no joke) of lives on the line.

    “While there are some kids that flourish because of school structure, there are others that do not. Some kids get into great social structures, others do not. Some kids experience positive role modeling, others are exposed to bigotry, racism, and exclusion.”

    “And from the science end, there is NO convincing evidence that:

    * creative non-school based education

    * technical skills learning

    * home education

    * distance education

    * hiking-based education

    is INFERIOR to school.”

    “In conclusion, if you are media or a politician, please:

    1) don’t cite science as supporting “schools reopening is best for kids”

    2) recognize that saving lives is likely the most trauma-supported thing we can do for kids

    3) be creative in supporting learning

    “Now is a world moment to both PROTECT our kids and NOURISH their well-being. there is NO reason to REQUIRE IN SCHOOL EDUCATION to accomplish those things, there are many ways to do it.

    “So, maybe take a page out of the Dr. Black playbook:

    “School doesn’t matter right now, we need to focus on safety, security, and the things that will make you healthy,”


    1. There are safer ways to reopen – set caps on class sizes to 15, mandating masks, fixing ventilation issues, and installing washing stations for all rooms.

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