Addressing Recent Questions about National PTA Positions

Hello again National PTA Blog readers! It’s always a pleasure to take some time and write about the association and its happenings…

There’ve been some very interesting conversations on National PTA’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/parentteacherassociation) about recent events and I’m writing this post to address some of those topics.

The first topic includes President Obama’s back to school speech a couple of weeks ago. National PTA proudly commended the President for addressing America’s youth as they launched a new school year.

As we mentioned in our statement (onevoice.pta.org) the day of the speech, the association believes it is positive any time a U.S. President, regardless of political affiliation, speaks directly to students about the responsibility they have for their education and to their families, their country, and themselves.

As an association that includes more than 60,000 students among its membership ranks, PTA maintains that it is relevant and encouraging for America’s students to hear examples of how other children, like them—and even the President himself, overcame the odds to pursue higher education. We also support the President’s remarks regarding the strong role that parents and families can play in the success of their children’s education.

The message of the speech was simple: work hard and stay in school. This speech was not meant to indoctrinate our schoolchildren to any agenda.

Let’s remember that Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush all addressed the same general theme during addresses to schoolchildren during their administration. I think all Presidents should take the time to address our students, every year.

There have also been some assertions that the President’s speech was a violation of parents’ civil rights. I completely disagree. The President’s speech should be looked upon as an opportunity—an opportunity for parents to have a candid conversation with their children about setting goals, staying in school, and completing their education. That’s what I did with my kids following the speech, and I expect most parents did the same.

Now, the second topic I’d like to discuss is the question of vaccine safety… it’s a complicated one. There are so many different opinions about vaccine safety and I champion the rights of Americans to express their opinion.

National PTA has a great campaign to vaccinate children, called Let’s Fight Flu Together. It is set up to make it easy, convenient and accessible for PTA’s to host vaccination clinics.

But, let me be clear: National PTA is not an association of clinical research scientists. We rely on the facts available and the expertise of other national advocacy groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Medical Association, to guide our policies.

It is my understanding that no causal link between vaccine additives and autism has been established up to this point. The increased incidence in autism to which some may refer is actually an increase in diagnoses of autism and not necessarily an increase in prevalence of autism, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics among other groups. Some increase in autism diagnosis should be expected, as the medical profession furthers its understanding of the collection of disorders that we refer to as autism. The predominant view of the science and medical community is that the number of disorders in this group has grown over time, as has the awareness in the medical community, which could lead to a dramatic increase in diagnoses. As the parent of a special needs child, I see this first hand.

While vaccine additives like thimerosal that are used as preservatives in vaccines are still used in some vaccines, including some flu vaccines, it is my understanding that both the number of vaccines in which they are used and the amount that is used in individual vaccines have decreased sharply.

Again, National PTA does not have expertise in immunization formulation, vaccine safety, or the disorders. However, those who do have expertise should continue to test and monitor the results of immunizations in order to ensure that we are keeping our nation’s children safe. These procedures are ongoing, and National PTA believes they should continue.

The association continues to take great care in aligning its initiatives to our mission and will continue to do so…

Until next time everyone!
Chuck Saylors- president, National PTA

Let's Fight Flu Together!

Let’s Fight Flu Together

Last month I had the opportunity to represent PTA at a meeting with the US Department of Education briefing the educational community on a collective plan to face the upcoming flu season, more specifically the H1N1 virus or Swine Flu. The briefing was hosted by Education Secretary Duncan and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I was impressed, not because we were in the room; but because I cannot recall when five federal agencies have worked on one common health concern with an “all hands on deck” point of view. Involved in the development of this plan are the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All involved are to be commended.

What we as a nation face is a serious issue. This virus struck our communities this past spring at a time when schools were dismissing and, even though the virus is still active, we dodged a bullet. Some communities have faced out-breaks over the summer but the real concerns are this fall as our students return to school and college. The plans to date are a positive step forward. Today’s message, get vaccinated. H1N1 vaccines will be available in early October. Take the time to plan a community clinic at your school, church, community center or place of work.

Please go to the CDC website for the most recent information. In addition, go to www.pta.org and check out the Let’s Fight Flu Together link. There you will find ways to plan a flu prevention clinic at your school or in your community. Working with Novartis Vaccines and Flu Busters, PTA has taken an aggressive approach in offering schools, communities and families ways to offer everyone an opportunity to get a flu shot. As an adult, I cannot recall a time when I received a flu shot; I took my chances. This year, I’m getting a shot.

This is simple, prevention. When students, teachers and families get ill a child’s learning suffers. Join me in addressing the problem before it becomes one, get a flu shot. Organize a clinic and help bring the much needed vaccine to your community and let’s stop this before it becomes a wider problem.

Until next time!