Saturday, January 16, 2016

An Open Letter Regarding The Flint Water Crisis and the Children Affected

To Whom It May Concern:

I am deeply disturbed by the news regarding the Flint, Michigan water crisis. I have been reading about this a great deal. Articles abound regarding the high levels of lead in the tap water and some sources are alleging that a variety of officials were aware of this and took no action. The pictures of the water alone will move you. Google "Flint Water Crisis" and read from reliable sources. Article after article appears with pictures of the water and of those affected. A few of those links are listed here:
1. From CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/13/health/flint-michigan-water-crisis/
2. From NBC:http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/michigan-prosecutor-opens-probe-flint-water-crisis-n497286
3. From the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/16/us/flint-water-michigan-attorney-general.html?_r=0

Exposure to high levels of lead can have a variety of effects on people, none of which happen to be good. Researchers at Virginia Tech conducted a study on the water crisis in Flint. Dr. Marc Edwards is the primary author of the following article that describes the timeline and inquiries that lead to the present state of affairs. Researchers began making their inquiries regarding lead levels far before now.
At some point, I look forward to the whole truth of this crisis coming out, but this article by Dr. Edwards is interesting to say the least: http://flintwaterstudy.org/2015/12/michigan-health-department-hid-evidence-of-health-harm-due-to-lead-contaminated-water-allowed-false-public-assurances-by-mdeq-and-stonewalled-outside-researchers/ Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital has a great article that details how lead poisoning can impact children titled, Neuropsychological Effects of Lead Poisoning on Child Development. You can read it by clicking on this link: http://www.mwph.org/programs/lead-treatment/effects

The following is an excerpt from the article on their site:

Checklist of Possible Neuropsychological Problems Associated with Lead
  • Delayed language or motor milestones (infant, toddler)
  • Poor speech articulation
  • Poor language understanding or usage
  • Problems maintaining attention in school or home
  • High activity level (hyperactivity)
  • Problems with learning and remembering new information
  • Rigid, inflexible problem-solving abilities
  • Delayed general intellectual abilities
  • Learning problems in school (reading, language, math, writing)
  • Problems controlling behavior (e.g., aggressive, impulsive)
  • Problems with fine or gross motor coordination
Real-World Outcomes of Lead Poisoning in Children
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Problems Paying Attention
  • Disorganized Approach to Learning
  • Poor Work Completion
  • Increased Risk to Drop Out
  • Communication Deficits
  • Impulsive, Hyperactive Behavior
  • Problems Sharing and Taking Turns
  • Increased Aggression
  • Increased Need for Adult Supervision
What Can Be Done?
  • Lead-safe housing
  • Education of public, medical and educational communities
  • Universal early identification
  • Lead-safe housing
  • Aggressive early medical treatment
  • Aggressive early behavioral treatment
  • Rehabilitation and special education services
  • Adequate nutrition

It is the law of our land that all are innocent until proven guilty, however I cannot help but think about this from the educator's perspective. Is this an isolated event? Could this be happening elsewhere? And if it is, do the victims even know it?

As I think about those affected by this, my heart breaks at the thought of the children in Flint who may have been exposed to or have high levels of lead in their bodies. They will all enter the classrooms of teachers who will be held accountable for their learning or lack there of, for their test scores, for their growth from the start to the end of a school year, etc. If the children have difficulty learning, they will be expected to find and use a multitude of academic interventions to change their learning trajectory. If they have difficulty behaving, they will be on the never ending search for a different set of rules, a different reward system, a more engaging strategy or methodology to increase their compliance so that they might learn at the rate required by district, state, and federal expectations. As teachers sit across the table from their principals to discuss their student learning outcomes, they will rack their brains thinking of what else they could have done, should have done, or need to do to improve test scores and increase student achievement. Their principals will do the same as they are held accountable for student achievement of students within their schools for all students. They will scratch their heads, attend conferences, read more, research more, and learn more so that next year's results will be improved and their jobs won't be jeopardized. While I don't presume to know the outcome of the future for the children of Flint, my heart goes out to those who will have the distinct opportunity to teach them. The children's struggle will become that of their teachers, as it happens for educators all over the land.

When we talk about holding educators accountable for student learning,we treat accountability as if it is a singular responsibility, especially if students don't learn at the rate and levels that we expect them too. I've yet to see an EPA official or health department official sitting at the table discussing test scores and explaining why student outcomes in learning are what they are or are not. The accountability table is a lonely one that only teachers and administrators seem to be invited to sit and chat. If the children of Flint have neuropsychological effects of lead poisoning that impact their learning, who will be held accountable? That is an important question that I, and others I am sure, anxiously await to be answered.

With love for the children, parents, and educators of the children of Flint,

Latoya
@latoyadixon5




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