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First Lady Casey DeSantis makes case for in-person learning

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Six out of ten Florida students have returned to either part- or full-time in-person learning, and there is a chance the Department of Education will push to return to a normal school year after winter break.

Florida’s First Lady Casey DeSantis used this week’s Children and Youth Cabinet to lay out the case for a full return to classroom learning. DeSantis says the science supports the move to bring students back to school.

“The CDC released data showing that children ages 19 and younger have a 99.997 percent survivability rate,” DeSantis said.

When kids are out of the classroom some go hungry, experience mental health issues and lose out on critical socialization. Others lose a safe haven from child abuse.

When schools were closed in April, Florida’s Child Abuse Hotline saw a 38-percent decline in calls.

Since students have returned to the classroom, calls are back up to normal levels, indicating that abuse that was going unseen is now being detected.

Child abuse survivor Phillip Adams is now an adult, but his experiences have led him to this conclusion on the school reopening debate.

“If I had a choice to be a kid today, I’d rather be at school with a mask than at home with my abuser,” Adams said.

Adams said the only thing that got him through his abuse was the relationship he formed with a teacher.

“She took me home and met my mom and saw the situation," Adams said. “She then began giving me coping mechanisms, not to kind of dive into myself, but to use the situation to become stronger.”

And DeSantis hopes to find ways to create similar relationships for children experiencing abuse today.

“And that’s been a priority of the cabinet, is mentorship," she said. “How do we get adults into the lives of children to be able to give them direction and hope for the future.”

Adams' six children are currently not attending school in-person, but he said they will be returning soon.

When it comes to at-risk children, he said there’s no question being at school beats being at home.