Why Black and Latinx Students Can't Win With Covid-19: Gaps in Education Expand
While K-12 and college students prepare to return to their classrooms either virtually or in-person, a certain set of pupils face a particular set of challenges. Black and Latinx children are more likely to be left behind in virtual classes and more likely to contract a severe case of coronavirus. When you factor that in with low-income schools that cannot provide all of their students with the proper equipment to tackle this school year, it becomes clear that Black and Latinx students are likely entering a lose-lose situation. Policymakers and school administration alike must turn their attention toward students most at risk this school year to ensure no child is left behind.
Black and Latinx Students Lack the Resources Necessary for Virtual School
Since the transition of school from in-person classes to virtual since March, new concerning data has been released on the viability of virtual learning for certain students. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) reported that weekly participation rates for Asian middle school students peaked at 89 percent, then 88 percent for white students, and 67% for both Black and Latinx students. This trend is not isolated to Los Angeles as rates for both high school and middle school students are consistent throughout the nation with minor variations. While the LAUSD did not report suspected reasons for decreased participation, other studies have identified factors that may contribute to the issue. Factors such as a lack of high-speed internet access, technology for each student, quality remote learning curriculum, parental supervision, and a distraction-free environment could greatly impact one’s learning experience. Despite schools trying their best to provide adequate technology and internet hotspots to low-income students, due to a lack of federal funding, it is not possible for all districts. Beyond the lack of access technology, considering that Black and Latinx parents are more likely to be frontline workers means that there is not always adequate academic support in the house during the school day. Finding child care right now is more difficult than ever due to the pandemic: leaving vulnerable students to fend for themselves academically. Overall the data is troubling because having virtual school for months at a time could likely result in black and latinx students falling “behind by 10.3 months, Hispanic students by 9.2 months, and low-income students by more than a year.” Thus resulting in increased dropout rates for all aforementioned groups. Virtual schooling could very well inflate the already existing educational gap between low-income Latinx/Black students and White/Asian students.
Black and Latinx Children Are at a Higher Risk for Coronavirus
While virtual schooling is certainly a challenge for Black and Latinx students, they also face a higher risk when attending in-person school. Despite false rumors leading many to believe that children are not susceptible to coronavirus, this could not be further from the truth. Recently there has been an increase in the number of child hospitalizations related to COVID-19, and some of these cases have been so severe that they resemble Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki disease is a very rare disease most common in infants and children that causes inflammation in the walls of some blood vessels in the body. The disease can be severe if not treated early and could result in inflammation of the heart or an aneurysm. A study conducted in Paris showed that of children experiencing Kawasaki disease like symptoms due to the coronavirus, 57% had African ancestry and almost all children required intensive care after being admitted to the hospital. Furthermore, the CDC reported that in the U.S more than 40% of children who had the same complications were Hispanic and 33% were Black while only 13% were Caucasian. In terms of simply contracting coronavirus in Washington D.C, Hispanic children were 6 times more likely than white children to test positive and Black children were more than 4 times as likely. Even more disturbing, Hispanic children were roughly 8 times as likely to be hospitalized once contracting COVID-19 than white children and Black children were 5 times as likely to be hospitalized. The bottom line is that Black and Latinx are at a much higher risk of contracting coronavirus, being hospitalized for it, and experiencing severe inflammation making physically returning to school more dangerous.
To conclude, Black and Latinx students are in between a rock and a hard place when it comes to schooling. These students along with low-income pupils (the two often overlap) are at risk of drastically falling behind Asian, Caucasian, and high-income students when doing virtual schooling due to a lack of resources. But, Black and Latinx students are also at the highest risk for contracting coronavirus and having a severe or possibly fatal case if they return to school in person. Policymakers, public health officials, and school administration absolutely must find a compromise between the two types of schooling to ensure the intellectual growth of Black and Latinx students while also protecting at-risk students from COVID-19.