Heidi Gates’ 11-year-old daughter recently told her that a boy in the lunchroom had wanted to scare kids who wear masks, announcing that he had COVID-19 and was going to spread it. Horrified, Gates asked her daughter what she did in response.
“She said, ‘Mom, I know how to handle this,’” she says. “She knows how to stay away, not provoke, and not engage.”
These skills have become critical for students in their town of Brighton, Michigan, one of countless communities across the country that has grown deeply divided in the wake of the pandemic. Opposing views on masks, vaccines, testing, and quarantines have taken center stage as schools have reopened this year. And though confrontational parents at school board meetings are usually what makes the news, experts are concerned about how the divisiveness in schools is affecting the children who these debates are supposed to help.