Stop Using Black Children as an Excuse to Open Your Schools

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. The Corona Virus has forced me to address so many things virtually, that the last thing I’ve had the energy for was sitting down in front of the computer for yet another thing. I didn’t even want to think about an Op-Ed. However, the current chatter about returning to schools has me thinking about how Black children are once again being used to serve the needs of Whites. This is not a new slight-of- hand—claim something serves the needs of “the least of these” but in reality, the rich continue to get richer.

The current conversation regarding re-opening school is all about how closed schools are hurting the most vulnerable students—Black students, Latinx students, English Language Learners, poor students, and students with disabilities. But, in truth the parents clamoring the most about opening schools are the parents of the most privileged children. They are concerned that their children’s resumes are being tarnished by missing all of this school. They are comparing their children’s progress with that of their private school peers who they perceive to be moving ahead of them. They are concerned that their kids’ inability to participate in varsity sports and athletics may be hurting their scholarship chances. They are recognizing that having their kids at home and having to plan for each and every hour of their school day or perhaps having to sit beside them and assist with their virtual learning does not help one climb the corporate ladder. Actually, none of these reasons for wanting schools to be opened is a bad one. Just say that’s why you want schools to open!

Don’t pretend you have some deep conviction to the education of Black children. If that’s your motivation, where was it last year when school was in session? Weren’t Black children struggling then? Weren’t they over identified for special education placement? Weren’t they more likely to be suspended and expelled? Weren’t they least likely to be placed in honors or Advanced Placement courses? Weren’t their high school graduation rates lower than other students? The rush to open schools “for Black children” is disingenuous and merely a way to cover up the desires of the more privileged students.

I decided to write this blog because I was contacted by 2 different reporters who said they heard that Black parents were leery of sending their children back to school and they wanted to understand their rationale. The first reason Black parents are reluctant to have their children return to school is health and safety. More Black children are likely to live in multi-generational homes. This means that even though children are less likely to manifest COVID-19 symptoms, they can still contract and shed the virus and infect a grandparent or parent with underlying conditions. Given the high rate of COVID infections and death in the Black and Brown communities, Black families are not willing to take the risk of transmission. Also, many of the schools our children attend are in buildings that have problems with their HVAC systems. What evidence do Black families have that their children’s schools have been retrofitted with upgraded filters and proper air circulation systems? What is the evidence of improved cleaning and disinfecting in the buildings? Who is monitoring PPE in the schools?

Second, Black families are keenly aware that school was not the haven of comfort and safety that some professionals try to pretend they are. Yes, some children live in unsafe and unstable homes, but rather than solve their problems, some students find that school exacerbates their problems. School is the place some students are stigmatized by standing in the “free lunch” line or being pulled out of class for special services. School is the place where their academic struggles are magnified and what they don’t have (i.e., two parents at home. new clothes, fancy school supplies) is on constant display. School is a place where adults yell at them for not knowing an answer or not completing an assignment or project. No, school can be a place of a special kind of violence.

I understand the American Academy of Pediatrics encourages students to return to school to address their social emotional needs. However, what has your local school said or done that suggests students’ social emotional needs will be a priority? How have Black students’ teachers conveyed that to them? Indeed, I have heard from a number of Black parents that their children are less stressed and less anxious in virtual school. Some Black parents indicate that the school has reached out to them more during the pandemic than they ever did when students attended face-to-face school. Many Black parents are finally having a school year that does not involve constantly running up to the school to deal with school personnel.

The decision to return to in-person school is deeply personal. We all have our own reasons for why we think it’s a good idea (or not). Just don’t pretend you want schools opened for those “poor Black kids” when what you want is school opened for your own kids!

Stay Black and Smart!

26 thoughts on “Stop Using Black Children as an Excuse to Open Your Schools

  1. I disagree with the general sentiment of this blog post. I’m a Black man and parent of three Black children. Virtual Schooling may be better for a small percentage of children, but it can never replace in-person learning. Even at the adult level, adults detest virtual learning. It appears the author is arguing that since White people want to return to school, it must be bad for Black people.

    The world is competitive. In case we haven’t realized it, the most successful at any endeavor including academics generally tend to be the most successful at life. School is not a pastime. It requires a high level of dedication and seriousness to attain excellence.

    On the multi-generational household argument, anecdotal information suggests that someone in that household is already working outside the home. Is the incremental risk of returning to school that impactful? If the risk is too high, then by all means please stay-home. To suggest that Black families take the opposite position to White families simply because White families want to return to school will lead to further widening of the achievement gap.

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    • I can only speak for myself, and I know a lot of white teachers who don’t want to go back. Most white kids and parents I know don’t want to go back into the buildings.Maybe it’s just the people I know, but I don’t see this huge demand from white people to return that I keep hearing about.

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      • Soreee I will attest that there are a significant number of white families that feel very insecure about having their children possibly bringing Covid into their homes as well. My children do not want my wife and I to contract Covid. They are highly cautious and would agree with your sentiment.

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    • Wow! I think you missed the entire point! The compulsion that drives many white parents is economic gain over human life, even their own children’s lives. You purposely distort the article’s salient message and belittle the writer’s assertion: it won’t matter how competitive a Black child is in comparison to her white counterpart if she and her Black classmates don’t live to enjoy the fruits of their efforts because they contract the disease while being forced back into their COVID-infested buildings. Please stop the distortion.and, in the process, the trivialization of Black lives.

      Liked by 1 person

    • But we also have to consider, many of the afflunet, white families in certain wards own their homes that are in walking distance to the schools. The Blacks and Latinos rely on Metro to get them to school and that’s not safe! Especially, like how the article mentioned, many students live in multi-generational homes.

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  2. Very well put but I’d like to add that regardless of Covid the black schools are to dangerous for kids to attend now, at least until the crime wave is under some sort of control. With carjackings and 10 year olds walking around with machine guns it’s just not safe for kids (who are these gangs main target) to be standing on corners waiting on a school bus or worse walking to school. Clean it up.

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  3. Thank you thank you thank you!!!!!! You have said all I have been thinking and feeling for months. I work for a school system in an area perceived by many as “progressive” snd “liberal”. Except it’s full of “Nice White Parents” (find the podcast) who are so very concerned all of a sudden about the Black and Brown children who have been here all along. Oh my gravy. I could go on, but you’ve already said it all and said it well. Thank you!bro

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nope. Lots of unfair projections here. While I want schools to open because many have done so safely and I think it is in the best interest of students, it has zero to do with needing childcare or wanting to pad my child’s resume or being more convenient for me personally.

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  5. As a special education teacher at a Title 1 school, I can agree with most of what have been expressed. Concerning returning f2f have left me with a feeling of uncertainty. Primarily because the rates of positive COVID 19 cases have increased significantly and it’s been predicted to rise after the holidays. What is my school doing to prevent the spread of the virus upon reopening? Requiring masks, staggered schedules, washing hands, spacing between desks… that’s it. We eat lunch with our students inside the classroom and the teachers are the ones who will be changing classes, not the students. We were encouraged to contact our parents to ensure how our students will be getting home. That’s our protocol. We are not checking temps and just because a student has a temp doesn’t mean they have the virus.
    I understand the need to reopen schools, but not at the cost of attending another graveside funeral.

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  6. Nearly 80% of poor black children are being raised in single parent, mostly fatherless homes. Black, ghetto culture is by all measures antithetical to school success. Isn’t it time for black leaders to address this inconvenient truth?
    #BlackFamiliesMatter

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  7. have you ever worked in a school? While I agree with a lot of this, as an educator I have to say that it’s unfair to paint teachers as yelling at students for missing assignments or the answer to a question. That’s not the type of schooling I’ve ever seen in any place I’ve worked in education. Also, you’re questioning that schools won’t prioritize students emotional needs. SEL, or “social emotional learning” is one of the single most commonly used phrases in education right now. At least where I am (New England). It’s a very hot topic and a huge concern. Our teacher evaluations are based off of improving student SEL this year, not academics. So yes, blame the parents and the government pulling the strings for schools to return, but please don’t blame the schools for the teachers. We are doing the best we can and we are not the problem. Most of us don’t want to be there either, because it’s not safe. Although I recognize some of my students desperately need the face-to-face.

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    • Jenna, it’s “unfair”?

      That was my experience and the experience of other students, so… it’s more fair than you’re giving credit for. Not to mention the intent is not necessarily to demonize teachers. In our bid to defend society from the politics of austerity and boundless greed, it’s important to protect the teachers in our midst, yes.

      But we’re not doing so but so openly ignoring that for many students and families, there are bad experiences, hurtful and counterproductive teaching methods or styles, and the legacy of so many oppressions etched into every fabric in our society, including every facet of education.

      Liked by 1 person

    • The author of this piece is a preeminent scholar in education, specifically the educational experiences of black and brown students. I think it’s fair to assume they know what they are talking about

      Liked by 2 people

  8. This is exactly the conversation my peers and I have been having. We see tis happening–admin jumoing through hoops to open for the White families. It’s pathetic, because to make a few families happy, we risk the health and safety of the others.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is exactly the conversation my peers and I have been having. We see this happening–admin jumping through hoops to open for the White families. It’s pathetic, because to make a few families happy, we risk the health and safety of all the others.

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  10. I wish I was infuriated by the false caricatures and straw men in this post but instead I just find them depressing. I am a white liberal parent of two undeniably privileged elementary school students. I am neither striving to climb some “corporate ladder” nor do I care about “padding my young children’s resumes.” My children have actually done fine with virtual learning, in large part because I am not concerned about climbing any ladder and have deprioritized work to assist with school as much as possible. Our kids attend a mixed income, mixed race school and I can see disparities in the level of at home support for first graders on the computer screen is every single day, but I don’t think it’s necessary or appropriate to cite students of color or low income as a justification to open schools. It’s incredibly insulting to suggest that I might use black children as some sort of excuse for my own desire to see my kids return to school.

    What I know is that kids of all backgrounds are isolated, frustrated, and longing for the social and emotional benefits of school. I also see mounting proof that the risks of in person school for small children are very low. Dishonest posts like this bypass that evidence and for some baffling reason choose to demonize people who are allies of teachers and public education. This serves no purpose other than making yourself feel superior.

    I support the WTU and am disappointed they’d share this hackneyed nonsense.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I didn’t see the author specifically accuse you of using black and brown children as reasons to open schools. But the author is correct that a lot of white, privileged parents are citing the needs of such children as an excuse to open school buildings, and they sound pretty disingenuous if they haven’t been working toward serving the needs of them before it aligned with their own goals.

      And saying we should open schools because the children will be safe, while ignoring the vulnerability of the adults in the school, is part of what is terrifying to educators.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I thought this article was spot on. I have been having this conversation with friends for the last few weeks. I have seen our school board use BIPOC and Special Ed kids as the reason to go back to in person without asking families who many don’t for the reasons in this article. The people I know pushing to go back are white affluent families. And the presumption of safety for Black students is super spot on as many I know are doing better without the daily racial battle fatigue that they encounter every day in school from their peers and teachers and the gaslighting that happens when they speak out about it. Thank you for writing this piece.

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    • You’re a liberal white woman, to me, that says it all.

      You DO care about how your children will fare in terms of academic achievement and future success. You’re as much invested in white supremacy and patriarchy as the white people on the other side of the political aisle. Some self-reflection goes a long way.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Very well written! Thank you so much for this post in these difficult times. As an educator, I have been very frustrated seeing people become so uncaring & selfish about their own needs, especially in relation to opening schools! You hit the nail on the head with this one, as I live in an area of white privilege and I see this daily on the street in our neighbourhood. Thank you for sharing. I did share this on my personal Facebook page and it is also shared in a safe schools group that I belong to here in Orange County, California. Keep fighting the good fight! Happy New Year!❤🤗

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  12. Thank you for this blog post. My 2nd grade privileged son started school online and I watched all 19 students thrive (mixed income and race). The class has successfully returned to school (2 1/2 hours, 4 days per week), and my son is thrilled to have less work than when everyone was fully online. I don’t think the kids are learning as much in person, but that doesn’t concern me. I have noticed that some of his Latino classmates have missed a lot of school since the return to the classroom due to potential Covid exposure. I agree with the author of this blog post that returning to the classroom is a mixed bag, and it is suspicious when white privileged people cite concerns over the learning of less privileged students as reason to return to the classroom.

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  13. Pingback: Fixating on Pandemic “Learning Loss” Undermines the Need to Transform Education – notmainstreamnews.us

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