The LA Unified School District’s 600,000 students headed back to campus this week after more than a year of the pandemic. Some kids were excited to leave Zoom school, but a number of parents were wary about the resumption of in-person learning, despite its advantages.
Forty-three percent of Black parents said they were keeping their children at home because of concerns around bullying, racism, and low academic standards for Black students at school. That’s according to a survey from the local advocacy group Speak Up.
Brittania Hurst says her son Aden, a fourth grader at Cowan Elementary School in Playa Vista, learned more at home.
“It definitely opened up a comfort level for him in allowing him to ask the questions. … I feel the Black boy experience in LAUSD sometimes can be a bit of a challenge — just being bullied [by] asking for help.”
Bullying was widespread among kids of all races even before the pandemic, but it was the highest among Black students. Forty percent of Black parents reported their child was bullied in the classroom, according to the survey.
Hurst says one of the most traumatic experiences for Aden was from his teacher. When he was in the second grade right before the pandemic, Hurst witnessed a girl of another race get hit in class. The parent claims the teacher falsely accused Aden of hurting the child despite other students calling out the incident.
“I'll never forget, because when something happens between a Black boy and a female of another race, the aggressor is automatically assumed to be the Black boy. That made me feel weary as a parent like, ‘Is my son going to be okay and safe in this environment?’”
Despite the trauma Aden endured, Hurst recently made a hard decision to send her son back to in-person learning when LAUSD resumed it.
“I would have preferred Aden to continue with distance learning. He has excelled in his studies. His focus has improved. He's participating in class and showing effort. However, school does play a helping hand in social skills.”
Hurst says she believes this year, LAUSD is showing parents it’s better prepared to prioritize children’s mental and emotional concerns.
“I'm trusting that that option is true. If it's not, I can always revert back to remote learning. I just want to at least try to see what's happening,” Hurst explains.
What would be the breaking point for the parent to pull her son back? Another racially motivated experience.
“The focus is to get these students prepared. Racial bias shouldn’t be a concern of a fourth grader or any child of that nature.”