AP: Black Parents Say Remote Learning ‘Shields Children from Racism’ in Classrooms

boy using laptop and waving during video call while homeschooling
Getty images/Drazen Zigic

Some black parents are expressing a preference for remote learning as a means to better “shield their children from racism in classrooms,” an Associated Press (AP) report published Tuesday stated.

One parent, Ayaana Johnson, said racism has been a significant problem in her mostly white town in Georgia, according to the report.

Johnson reportedly said some of the white children in her daughters’ school engage in racial slurs, and there have been Ku Klux Klan flyers found in mailboxes.

She reportedly added the teachers in her daughter’s school are quick to punish or reprimand black children.

“I knew from pregnancy on that this would be something we’d have to deal with,” Johnson told AP. “This is the kind of area we live in, so you can imagine that you’re always going to feel protective of your children.”

“Now that they’re home, we feel safer,” Johnson added, referring to her decision to opt for remote learning for her daughters, rather than in-classroom instruction.

The report goes on to suggest many black families have not embraced a return to in-person learning, due to “concerns about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus on communities of color, a lack of trust that their schools are equipped to keep children safe, and the large numbers of students of color in urban districts that have been slower to reopen classrooms.”

While remote learning attached to a traditional school curriculum is not the equivalent of homeschooling, the AP story quoted Khadijah Ali-Coleman, co-director of Black Family Homeschool Educators and Scholars, who said, “Racism in schools plays a huge, huge role in a family’s choice to do homeschooling.”

Ali-Coleman added:

That racism can manifest in a lot of different ways, from a teacher who criminalizes every behavior to not recognizing how curriculums exclude the experiences of Black people to not presenting Black children with the same opportunities such as accelerated classes as white children.

“I think this has been eye-opening to a lot of parents,” she continued. “They’re finally getting to see what goes on in classrooms for Black and brown students, and I think many are dismayed.”

A report at the Washington Post in December observed, however, a significant concern for greater academic failure among many low-income students due to a reliance on remote learning linked to public school curricula.

In Montgomery County, Maryland, for example, failure rates in English and math jumped as much as six-fold after the state’s largest public school system switched to remote learning during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the Post, about 45 percent of English language-learners failed ninth-grade math during the first marking period, compared to eight percent of the same students last year during the same period.

Montgomery County Public Schools canceled all in-person learning since the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March. Administrators then lowered criteria for grade achievement in the spring due to the switch from in-person to online classes.

The pandemic has created an opening, however, for pastors in the black church to focus on academic achievement and character development in children from their communities.

As Breitbart News reported in April, more pastors leading black churches are confirming the surge in the number of black families specifically choosing private, small schools, and homeschooling for their children, away from public schools, because of a desire for greater academic achievement for their children.

The pastors are welcoming the opportunity for more involvement in K-12 education by black churches.

Pastor Cecil Blye of More Grace Ministries Church in Louisville, Kentucky, told Breitbart News he and his fellow pastors have seen a surge in homeschooling “among families in black churches in Louisville, as well as a push to start private schools and charter schools by black pastors.”

Blye confirmed a recent report by the U.S. Census Bureau that showed homeschooling rates are rising among black families, in which the proportion of homeschooling in the black community increased from 3.3 percent in spring 2020 to 16.1 percent in fall 2020.

He noted black pastors in Louisville organized as Kentucky Pastors in Action Coalition (KPAC) and spearheaded passage of school choice legislation in the state.

As Fox19 reported in early April, a supermajority of Kentucky lawmakers overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto of a school choice bill that will allow students to attend private schools or attend other schools outside of their home districts.

“Yes, I am seeing more black families interested in homeschooling and joining co-ops or small schools, as polls suggest,” Blye told Breitbart News, emphasizing the trend “is allowing for more involvement in K-12 education by black churches.”

“The effect is that black students are skipping grade levels, becoming more proficient and flourishing in these more structured traditional environments,” he said.

In August, the KPAC pastors announced their endorsement of the federal School Choice Now Act, as the Bluegrass Institute reported.

Pastor Jerry Stephenson, KPAC spokesperson, said:

Better education is the key to helping our African-American children escape generational poverty. But our Black communities suffer with few educational options beyond being trapped in failing schools. With growing achievement gaps, it’s time for school choice opponents to take a backseat and allow for reforms that help all students, including those from minority and low-income homes, to have the same opportunities as their wealthier peers.

Dr. Derek Wilson, pastor of Spirit of Love Worship Center in Louisville, heads up the private Christian school known as Destiny Academy, whose website states its mission is “to enrich every child with the ability to reach their highest goals spiritually, educationally, socially and morally.”

​Wilson told Breitbart News he “wholeheartedly” agrees with opportunities for pastors to become involved again in K-12 education in black communities.

He explained that several years ago his church’s tutorial program discovered two brothers had serious reading difficulties. One boy, who was going into the fourth grade could barely read on a first-grade level, and his brother could not recognize simple words.

“And it was such a tragedy to me because I knew that the criminal justice system had always stated any children in the third grade who could not read or write, they would be a part of that system,” Wilson said. “And so, we made it up in our heart, that the Lord had put it upon us not to wait, because every moment that we wait, would mean” more boys “caught up in the criminal justice system.”

Wilson explained that, despite the billions of dollars local Jefferson County Public Schools received in funding, many black children have remained uneducated and unskilled.

“We’ve seen with the young men that all of a sudden, they end up going out and becoming promiscuous and they have children,” he continued, specifically pointing out the negative effects of the welfare system on the black family in general.

“When Lyndon B. Johnson passed the welfare system, he basically told the African-American woman that we will support you as long as you don’t have a black man in the home,” Wilson asserted.

“Even though they may not have meant it to be, they perpetuated a form of racism, because now it put the African-American woman in the position where she now had to be the head of the house,” the pastor said. “And then if there was a man there, they could not get married because all of a sudden, there would be no financial amenities that would be awarded that family.”

Wilson said many of the young black men who end up in jail are unable to obtain jobs when they are released.

“This sends them back to be parasitic in their own communities, to start selling drugs, and getting involved again in different things that destroy the nuclear fabric of the African-American community,” he explained.

“So, we decided we were going to bring the change,” he said of the decision to have the black church become directly involved in K-12 education.

“What we did when we started Destiny Academy’s accelerated Christian education program is take young children like that, who may have learning gaps,” Wilson said. “And we know what those gaps are and begin to bring the children back to their academic levels. And so, we have really seen exponential growth in the children, now going into our fifth year.”

In February, the Boston Globe reported community cooperative “learning pods” had taken root in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite stories that such education options were available only to families of higher income levels.

The Globe observed that “Amaya,” a low-income mother from South Boston whose sons were struggling academically, signed them up for a “learning pod for low-income families.”

“Almost immediately things improved,” the report noted, adding:

The boys’ learning pod, in the gleaming basement of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in the South End, is one of more than a dozen free pods opened in the fall by Community Learning Collaborative, a fusion of four organizations run by Black and Latino nonprofit leaders serving primarily low-income Black and Latino children.

The Globe piece observed the role of churches in the learning pods for these lower-income families.

“[I]n the last six months they have increasingly popped up in churches, libraries, and recreational facilities to provide safe spaces for students to do their remote learning,” the report stated. “Usually they are funded through a combination of nonprofits, private donations, and discounted family tuition.”

The Rev. David Wright, executive director of BMA Ten Point Coalition, an organization of 30 predominantly black churches in the Boston area, described how his coalition reworked its afterschool program to form full-day learning pods at two of its churches, in Roxbury and Dorchester.

About two dozen K-6th grade students attend the small schools, with families paying a little more than $200 weekly for staffing and other costs.

“That’s what some low-income families receive as a weekly state subsidy for education or afterschool care for school-age children,” the Globe reported. “Church officials have raised funds to help families who don’t have a subsidy and can’t afford the fee.”


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