In the Face of the Opiod Addiction Crisis We Worry About Test Scores
An article in today’s NYTimes describes one of the under-reported by-products of the opiod crisis effecting New England and the entire nation: child abuse and neglect. The article, by Kathryn Seelye, offers one incident as an example of the impact drug abuse by adults is having on children. The article opens with these paragraphs:
It was a horrific video — a young mother who had overdosed was lying unconscious on the floor of a Family Dollar store in Lawrence, Mass.
Adding a gut-wrenching kick to the scene was that the woman’s 2-year-old daughter, wearing purple footie pajamas, was tugging at her mother’s limp arm, trying to wake her up. The girl was wailing. The mother looked lifeless.
A store employee recorded the scene while waiting for medics. When they arrived, they revived the mother and took her and her daughter to a hospital. The video, which became public two days later, spread across the internet.
Sadly, the police said, the opioid epidemic in New England and elsewhere has reached such proportions that it is no longer a shock to see drug users collapse in public. In Massachusetts, more than four people a day die from drug overdoses.
What is new, they said, is that addicts are increasingly buying drugs, getting high and passing out with their children in tow.
The article goes on to report that Lawrence police estimate that children are present in 10% of the cases involving heroin busts and that it was a risk factor in 7.6% of the child abuse referrals in New Hampshire, up from 4.8% in previous years.
The article doesn’t describe how this plays out in schools… but the adverse affect on the children who are placed in foster care, taken in by friends and relatives of the addicted parent, or who witness their parents nodding off in a drugged stupor are obvious. A child who is taken from his home, no matter how bad the home, is not likely to be as focussed on his or her schoolwork as a child who returns home to an intact family where meals are served at predictable hours and parents are caring and nurturing. And when that child goes to school, the staff at that school will not necessarily know or understand the child’s background and, as a result, may not be able to provide the kinds of physical and emotional support that child needs.
And here’s what I find especially sad: in the face of the drug epidemic schools are measured by test scores and not their efforts to provide help and support to children who suffer the ravages of the opiod crisis or their efforts to provide help and support to children who suffer the ravages of poverty or their efforts to provide help and support to children who suffer the ravages of abuse and neglect by parents. Often the opposite is true. If a child is troubled and attending a charter school they can be removed and increasingly schools using “no excuses” policies expect children to bear the problems inflicted on them in the name of developing “resilience”. Schools need a better understanding of the nature of the problems children bring with them to class, more services to deal with those problems, and a chance to be valued for the help they provide to all children who struggle. Getting higher test scores should be the least of their problems.