School district cancels school over safety fears of a solar eclipse


I come from a family of educators. My dad was a psychology professor, and my mom was a college administrator. My brother and I even got the same graduate degree as our mom, and we both worked in higher education for a time.

I value learning and believe education leads to a satisfying life and an informed populace. It’s a cornerstone of our democracy.

So it pains me when I see educators making uneducated, ill-informed decisions.

Dumb decisions.

Because they are some of the people we count on not to make dumb decisions: educators, doctors, airline pilots and the people in charge of nuclear bombs.

But sometimes they do, and it does not go well.

Like the time an elementary school principal suspended a first grader for having a knife in his backpack at school. A knife he had gotten from the school cafeteria earlier that day.

Or the time I was in high school and the administration wouldn’t allow girls to wear shorts during a particularly hot spring.

I know, I know. Teachers have had a hard time for the last 21 years, thanks to No Child Left Behind. And the continued Republican slashing of education budgets and teacher salaries. And the societal glorification of ignorance.

But is it unreasonable to expect them to show a basic understanding of important matters like science? Since they’re teaching children about it, shouldn’t they actually demonstrate this knowledge themselves?

Case in point, school administrators in Cobb County, Georgia plan on releasing students early on April 8, 2024, because of a total solar eclipse that will happen across North America.

That’s not so bad, is it? They’re giving kids time to reflect and ponder their place in the universe, right? Parents and children can study the science of eclipses better and learn more about space, right?

It’s cute that you think that.

No, the Cobb County School District (CCSD) administrators are planning to send kids home early because they have “concerns over student safety.”

Like people dying from eclipse sickness? Students spontaneously combusting? Mass panic and riots because the sun disappeared?

There’s a story that, in 1504, on the island of Jamaica, Christopher Columbus used his knowledge of an impending eclipse to frighten the native Arawak Indians into giving him and his men food.

Is this what they’re worried about in Cobb County 520 years later?

Probably not, because the CCSD said in a statement that their “after-school programs will occur as they normally do, with students kept inside the building.”

So, the eclipse is dangerous, but only to kids not involved in after-school programs? Remember, kids, extracurricular activities not only look good on a college application, they’ll save your life.

Actually, the administrators are worried their kids are not smart enough not to look directly into the sun during an eclipse.

We live in a society where the response to school shootings is to give guns to teachers and bulletproof backpacks to children. But if they might stare at an eclipse? Won’t somebody think of the children?!

This is no small school district either. According to their website, the CCSD is the second-largest school system in Georgia and the 23rd-largest in the country, with 112 schools serving 106,000 students. That means they think 106,000 students are this dumb.

We’ve been told repeatedly: Don’t stare at an eclipse. Don’t stare at the sun. Don’t stare at an arc welder. It’s been drummed into our heads since childhood. It’s right up there with “stop, drop, and roll” and “say no to drugs.” But apparently, CCSD hasn’t passed this little nugget of wisdom on to their students. It makes me wonder what else they’re missing out on.

A CCSD spokesperson said that they are focused on “… providing Cobb families as much time, information, and flexibility as possible so they can make the best health decisions for their children.” Because they do understand that “… looking directly at an eclipse can seriously damage a student’s eyes.”

I guess they do recognize the problem. And they want the parents’ help in making sure their parents can make the best health decisions for their kids.

Hmm, if only there were some sort of place where children could be told important information that they need to know to become responsible adults. If only this place taught important things, like reading, science and understanding useful life hacks like “don’t stare at an eclipse.”

If only.

But it gets worse. Because the CCSD is not only misguided, they’re overreacting.

Because NASA says the eclipse will not pass directly over Georgia. Instead, it will follow a path that covers Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Buffalo. Georgia will only see the day get slightly dimmer.

Oh, I can think of something even dimmer than the Georgia afternoon sky.

CCSD, take advantage of this important learning opportunity. Don’t bail on the one chance you have to teach kids something important that they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Like how you should learn all your facts before you make an important decision so you don’t look dumb.

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