116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Like many people, I decorate my workspaces with photos of my family, friends and other individuals who are important to me. Two of the pictures depict a boy I never met.
Visitors frequently asked about him. Is he a nephew, a family friend?
After a few years, I added some text to the photos: “Timothy Boss; 6/30/1989 to 2/23/2000; remains found 2002.”
Timothy was 10 years old when he was beaten to death and buried in the basement of his Remsen home. His parents, Donald and Joyce Boss, were convicted of his murder.
The Bosses adopted Timothy and three other children, all of whom had varied disabilities and behavior issues. The children endured horrible punishments, such as being locked in dog kennels. Their parents concealed the abuse by moving the children from Michigan to Iowa, through manipulation of home schooling guidelines and more.
Timothy died after his parents strapped him to a chair and beat him until he was unconscious. Two years later, Donald Boss told authorities the boy’s body was buried in the basement of the home.
If not for questions from friends and a persistent relative, his disappearance possibly would have gone unnoticed. Even still, it took two years of probing questions from outsiders.
Unfortunately, Timothy’s story is one of many that show what can happen to a child when we mind our own business. Further, parents don’t necessarily have the tacit, all-encompassing freedom to do whatever we want to our children.
I think of Timothy when I hear someone say “yes, but” to an opportunity to help and protect children. I think of the courage of the people who kept asking about him. I think of neighbors, relatives and friends who teach, discipline and love the children around them even after they’re told to let others parent in peace.
I also think of the community’s responsibility to ensure all children are treated with care and respect, especially in the face of the delta variant of the coronavirus.
In an April 14 news conference, Gov. Kim Reynolds affirmed her decision to get vaccinated and said, “Vaccination is the best defense against the (coronavirus), and as you've heard, the reward far outweighs the risk.”
Nearly 50 percent of Iowans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The majority of vaccinated individuals are much older than the minimum age of 12.
When it comes to required inoculations, Iowa Code 139A.8 indicates a parent or legal guardian must provide proof a minor child is “adequately immunized … according to the recommendations provided by the (Iowa Department of Public Health).” Other requirements can be added during health emergencies.
Waivers are granted if immunizations conflict with the tenets or beliefs of a “recognized religious denomination” to which the child belongs or adheres. Parents and guardians also can have an approved health care practitioner attest that immunizing the child would cause injury to the child or the child’s family.
Iowa will make COVID-19 vaccinations optional for employees and eligible students in public schools and universities but maintain previous requirements for standard inoculations.
Calls to require COVID-19 vaccines for all eligible students elicit the “yes, but.” We also hear “yes, but” when health officials suggest schools and universities reinstate mandates for face coverings.
What follows the “but” is based on personal beliefs, preferences and politics — not science and what’s best for communities. A personal choice to opt out of the COVID-19 vaccine should not impact others. When a parent makes that choice for a child, the decision should be scrutinized the same as other vaccination waiver requests.
Karris Golden is a Gazette editorial fellow. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org