Slate Plus members get more Care and Feeding from Jamilah Lemieux every week.
Dear Care and Feeding,
My daughter “Brynn” is 2½ years old and has been able to stay in day care throughout the pandemic. Our area has had relatively few COVID-19 cases, and the day care facility has been great about cleaning, keeping classes separate, etc., but now there’s a surge in new infections. On top of that, Brynn’s class at day care just got a new teacher. I scoped out her Facebook profile and learned that she is pretty young (20), very involved with her church (a conservative Christian branch that doesn’t allow women to wear pants or cut their hair), and her previous child care experience is teaching Sunday school. My husband and I were both raised Catholic but are now atheists and do not plan to raise Brynn with any religion. The teacher’s church has been holding services in person and only started requiring masks in mid-December, seemingly after someone in the congregation had COVID.
I’m seriously worried about both the added risk from this person’s activities outside of work and about having someone with such strict, conservative religious beliefs (especially about women/girls) teaching Brynn. Are either of these concerns we can bring up with the teacher or day care director? If so, how? What can we do other than pull Brynn from day care?
—My Toddler Wears Pants and Masks
This is a bit sticky! Your child’s teacher has every right to go to church and worship as she sees fit, and so long as you haven’t seen any evidence that she is attempting to proselytize her pupils, then I don’t think it would be appropriate for you to complain to her employer that her religious values aren’t in alignment with your own.
You can ask about what sort of social distancing rules teachers have been expected to follow when they are off campus, and you can chat this young woman up to see what her feelings are. Most people who don’t take COVID seriously will reveal that to you, either proudly or unintentionally. Considering the ways that misinformation about the pandemic has spread among some of the country’s religious conservatives, and that this teacher has been attending a church in person that just started wearing masks, I don’t think it’s unfair to assume that she probably isn’t taking the same measures to stay safe that you are. Of course, that could be the case for other adults in the building, and/or the parents of some of your child’s classmates, as well. But if this person makes you feel like your child is unsafe, I think the best way to mitigate that would be to find other day care centers, speak to their leadership about what is expected of teachers and how they intend to minimize the COVID risk as much as possible, and enroll your kid elsewhere. Best of luck to you!