The Republican illusion of family values continues to harm American youth


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Ryder Noah From

Kentucky House Bill 51 recently passed in the House Education Committee, which would prohibit any mask mandate for public schools, colleges and child care centers in Kentucky. This bill is another example of Republicans in America exercising their extreme political control to cast a wide net of restrictions. Even though Gov. Andy Beshear might not sign the bill into law, the Republican supermajority could override it. 

State Rep. Lynn Bechler introduced the bill, stating that masks cause issues in children such as delays in speech, suicide and health problems. However, none of these examples are based in science. 

Pediatric pulmonologist Theresa Guilbert and Yale professor of child psychiatry Walter Gilliam summarized key studies in an article from National Geographic about how masks don’t significantly reduce children’s social development, mental health or ability to breathe. Instead, Gilliam suggests that the trauma of living through a pandemic is the cause of any decline in mental health. 

Since the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be less effective in maintaining immunity for children ages 5-11 as a result of the ever-evolving virus, even though it still protects against severe hospitalization, masks are the next best thing we have to prevent transmission among this population. If it’s the case that a possible increase in youth suicide is a result of online learning and sudden changes in academic settings, then masks are a key way of preventing this from happening, since they deter transmission of the virus – a fact proven over and over again. State Rep. Kilian Timoney, a Republican, voted against this bill, citing the same concern over keeping kids in schools and how masks allow that to happen. 

This level of political extremism has run rampant across America since President Joe Biden won the most recent election. However, Republicans have been hiding behind a mask of child safety – something the party has done for decades as it portrays itself as the party of traditional family values, even though they are taking freedoms away. 

A very specific kind of Republican child protection has sprouted at the school level, and it doesn’t stop at mask mandates. Florida has come under fire from LGBTQ advocates for the Parental Rights in Education bill, now referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which recently passed the Florida legislature and now moves to Gov. Ron Desantis. 

This bill would prohibit the discussion of LGBTQ topics deemed too inappropriate for elementary school students, which exacerbates the stereotype that being gay is inherently sexual or deviant. Furthermore, data from The Trevor Project shows that LGBTQ students who learn about LGBTQ topics have a 23% lower chance of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. 

The “Don’t Say Gay” bill originally had a component that would require school principals to out children to their parents if they find out the child identifies as anything other than straight. For the party that paints itself as the purveyor of freedom and liberty, this aspect of the bill, now removed, highlights an intense level of hypocrisy, as it removes the freedom of the child to disclose their sexual identity when, where and to whom. 

Texas has also drawn fire for a recent order by Gov. Gregg Abott for licensed professionals and anyone in the public to report cases of transgender kids receiving gender-affirming medical intervention as child abuse. This came after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton released an opinion stating that medical treatment such as puberty blockers and hormone treatment is child abuse. Both political figures were fighting for their election bids at the time, with Abott’s order coming seven days before the GOP primary election. 

Even though the legality of the order is questionable, the largest pediatric hospital in Texas recently announced it would no longer offer hormone therapy for transgender youth in order to prevent legal backlash for their staff and patient families. In addition, The Texas Tribune confirmed that Child Protective Services began investigations into at least five families relating to gender affirming medical care for youth, including one family who hosted Paxton for dinner at their home back in 2016 during the controversial era of transgender bathroom laws.

This all constitutes a gross exaggeration of desperate political power, which is the actual abuse in this case, so much so that five district attorneys in Texas called the order un-American. 

All of this focus on transgender children comes shortly after a storm of Republican complaints about the alleged teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools, a topic that helped Glenn Youngkin win his place as governor of Virginia. Once again, Texas came under fire when an audio recording exposed Gina Peddy, an executive director of curriculum and instruction for a Texas school district. Peddy stated that the Holocaust is an example of a historical event that needs to be presented from both sides. This came after Texas law HB3979, which seeks to restrict conversations about race in schools so as to not further racial divides and orders diverse viewpoints to be presented about any controversial issue.

What do all of these egregious laws and bills have in common? They exclude children even though they are illustrated as being inclusive and helpful for them. The laws about mask mandates, gender, sexuality and race all exclude students who are immunocompromised, queer and/or a racial minority. This all shows that Republicans are no longer the party of conservatives; they have become regressionists with the aim of pulling back the strides America has made in terms of racial and sexual equality. 

Even now, Kentucky cases and hospital rates are higher than other parts of the country. Having the option of a mask mandate is vital for keeping cases lower and hospital loads more manageable. The removal of any of these effective tools is nothing more than a baseless political power grab. 

While COVID cases have drastically fallen as Omicron seems to fade away, an important lesson we’ve learned from this pandemic is that another variant can be right around the corner. We need to maintain all the tools we have to fight any new variants that might arise in order to protect everyone.