See Sue. See Sam. See Sue and Sam return to school. See what a mask won’t protect them from.

Dominic Cappello
4 min readMar 17, 2021

Across the nation many students are returning to school after a year of web-based instruction in the home. Prudent state pandemic prevention policy became school policy with the goal of minimizing the risk of infection, illness and death. Good decisions were made by many state governments and school boards. Many lives were saved.

As our students return to school wearing masks it is vital that we understand what a mask and school-based virus prevention protocols can and can’t do.


Minimize risk of infection from Covid-19


  • Prevent students enduring abuse, neglect and trauma
  • Prevent student involvement with child protective services
  • Prevent students enduring alcohol-related illness, injury and fatalities
  • Prevent students feeling sad and hopeless
  • Prevent drug-related suicide among students and their parents
  • Prevent students experiencing hunger and food insecurity
  • Prevent students from becoming parents without resources to raise a child
  • Prevent students enduring homelessness and housing insecurity
  • Prevent unemployment among parents and caregivers
  • Prevent students living in poverty and enduring health disparities
  • Prevent a host of challenges that diminish a student’s capacity to learn

Is this really the right time to bring this up?

Timing is everything in politics and policy-making. One might say that we need to focus on the challenge at hand (pandemic), with an understanding that other problems (the abuse, neglect, trauma and social adversity our students endure) can be addressed in a calmer future.

It is here I quote someone I never thought I would in this context, the conservative US economist Milton Friedman.

“Only a crisis — actual or perceived — produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.”

We have a media spotlight on students returning to school in a pandemic and the question on everyone’s mind being, “Are our students safe?” To answer that question we need only gather public health data sitting on our mobile devices.

One amazing idea lying around

Yes to prudent Covid-19 prevention policies. Absolutely. And then immediately onto the unfinished business of ensuring safe, healthy and empowered students. The prevention of the long list of health challenges facing our students and families can be found in implementing what is called the Community Schools model. This is a way of turning our schools into fully-resourced learning environments with school-based health care, food banks, clothing banks and extra tutors, mentors and parent support programs, including navigators guiding parents to all the local vital services for surviving and thriving. The model has decades of research behind it, worthy of every school board, school superintendent’s office and child advocate organization reviewing. To explore the Community Schools model, click here.

Let us get to work so Sue and Sam can be assured healthy, safe and trauma-free school years in order to work toward a future filled with promise.

Mobilize! Survive! Thrive!

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. All cartoon characters are pure fiction and any resemblance to real humans, puppies or three-headed hydras is total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Questions? Push to front of reading list: 100% Community: Ensuring 10 vital services for surviving and thriving and Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras: Confronting Apathy, Envy and Fear on the road to saving humans and the future. Better yet, let‘s meet at the EYE bookcafe to share a latte and some bold ideas.



Dominic Cappello

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of The 100% Community Model and Anna, Age Eight.