Covd-19 has exacerbated the inequities in the education system in the United States. While interruptions in school have had deep impacts on all students, due to lack of social connection with friends and extracurricular activities, as well as, gaps in growth of skill and knowledge, these challenges are more impactful in communities and families who live with the extra challenges of poverty. These challenges are faced across our country in rural, suburban and urban communities.
Students who live in poverty often depend on their school community for many things that other students don’t. Students are provided with two meals a day at school, and in some communities, they also have dinner before they go home. School districts have pivoted to once a day meal delivery by bus, but these efforts are not enough to fill the gap. Mental health services are provided by schools to students from a variety of economic backgrounds, but many students living in poverty do not have access to mental health care outside of school. School districts have responded to the challenge by utilizing online platforms, like Zoom, and Google Meets to reach their students, but privacy is often a concern, as is lack of access to technology or necessary internet bandwidth. The efforts are great, the connections are often made, but some students living in poverty are being missed.
Ultimately, schools are places where students grow in knowledge and skill to become the best version of themselves and to contribute to our world. Unfortunately, students from high-poverty school districts are less likely to be offered the hybrid learning option for in-person learning that wealthier districts. In addition, students living in poverty are often living in multi-generational housing with family members struggling with comorbidities. Fear of exposing older family members to COVID-19, often prevents students from going to school in person. In addition, despite the efforts of school districts to provide computers and internet access to all students, this has not been fully successful. Many districts simply do not have the computers to hand out, could not get them due to supply chain issues, or could only supply one per family. The learning experiences of a child who has to wait on their turn for the computer, has no ability to print, and does not have wifi or a wifi speed strong enough to keep up with the demands of distance learning, will not have the same opportunities to grow as those students who do.
As we move further into the 2020-21 school year, we are approaching standardized testing season. In order to relieve federal funds, NY State is obligated to design and implement a 3-8 math and ELA assessment as well as a graduation readiness measurement which takes the form of the Regents Exams in NY. The NYS Department of Education plans to seek a waiver for these assessments due to the health concerns and equity impacts of COVID-19. It is unclear if these waivers will be granted as they were last year. Clearly a student who has experienced trauma, impediments to learning, and battles hunger daily, is not in a position to be measured by a data collection implement built in a different time, with different priorities and to measure curricula to which they have not been given full access.
As we look at what can be done, we must focus on continuing to meet the needs of all students, reflect upon how we can do better, and work as a community to fill resulting gaps. But it is negligent to focus exclusively on what we don’t have and what we have lost. As a former NYS superintendent Teresa Thayer Snyder wrote of students, “their brains may not have been focused on traditional school material, but they did not stop either. Their brains may have been focused on where their next meal is coming from, or how to care for a younger sibling, or how to deal with a missing grandma, or how it feels to have to surrender a beloved pet, or how to deal with death. Our job is to welcome them back and help them write that history….” Moving forward, we need to meet every child where they are, and we need the will, the freedom and the resources to do so.
The school to prison pipeline..This phrase refers to policies and practices that are directly pushing students of color out of school and onto a pathway to prison.—including but not limited to: harsh school discipline policies, overuse of suspension and expulsion, increased policing and surveillance that create prison-like environments in schools, overreliance on referrals to law enforcement and juvenile justice system and an alienating and punitive high stakes testing system. This definition is provided by NEA, National Education Association. …by no means a radical group.
Fueled by zero tolerance policies, presence of police officers in schools, school funding cuts, over burdened counsellors, high stakes tests, stressed teachers and administrators…the results are suspension, expulsion and arrest of tens of millions of students: not a good thing for schools children or families. Rates of suspension doubled between 1970 and 2010. Behavior that used to merit after school detention has morphed into suspension, expulsion or a misdemeanor.
Suspension is the #1 predictor, more than poverty, of whether a child will drop out . Dropping out leads to a greater likelihood of unemployment, reliance on social welfare programs and imprisonment.
The U.S. Justice Department has ordered school districts to respond to student misbehavior in “ fair, non-discriminatory and effective” ways. Black Students are expelled at 3x greater rate than white students. Black and Latino students make up 70% of student police referrals. One fairly ridiculous but accurate statistic…black students representb18% of preschool students, but 48% of pre-school suspensions. Yes, 4 year olds.
Inequality of education by zip code refers to where a child lives often has a determining impact on the education they receive. Because education in the United States is state and locally funded, rural poverty, reservation life, inner city poverty, middle or upper class neighborhood, to list a few distinctions, hugely impact, if not determine, the quality of education a child receives. Buildings, size of classes, books, materials, technology, libraries all cost money. If, as in New York, the local district is the source of most of the funding; that funding varies greatly by the wealth of the population of the school district. Wealthier areas have more resources for education than poorer districts.
Poverty then intersects with a number of other needs and factors: inadequate, unstable income, inadequate and/ or unstable housing, poor nutrition, food insecurity, inadequate, not readily available healthcare. All of these factors impact a child’s opportunity and ability to learn. In the United States, many of these factors are related to where you live: your zip code.
Systemic racism adds another harmful layer for children of color. Redlining bank mortgage policies prevents families from creating housing stability and building generational wealth. Housing segregation limits opportunities for families.
School Shootings in 2020: How Many and Where (edweek.org):
Education Week’s 2020 School Shooting Tracker
January 13, 2020 | Updated: January 26, 2021
School shootings—terrifying to students, educators, parents, and communities—always reignite polarizing debates about gun rights and school safety. To bring context to these debates, Education Week journalists began tracking shootings on K-12 school property that resulted in firearm-related injuries or deaths. In 2018 and 2019 there were 49 such incidents. (Visit our data from 2018 and 2019 to see where these shootings took place and key information about them.) In 2020, this heartbreaking but important work continues.
List of school shootings in the United States – Wikipedia
Past 3 years: 58 incidents, 67 deaths
The Effect of High School Shootings on Schools and Student Performance – Louis-Philippe Beland, Dongwoo Kim, 2016 (sagepub.com):
Multiple empirical studies show that exposure to violent crimes causes students to have PTSD.
Studies also find that adolescent violence exposure is associated with poor mental health outcomes later in life.
n addition to PTSD and mental health issues, students may have an impaired ability to concentrate in class because of violent incidents (Glew, Fan, Katon, Rivara, & Kernic, 2005). Students may also show reduced engagement in group learning activities that could hinder learning (Buhs, Ladd, & Herald, 2006; Ladd, 2003). Finally, violence may result in absenteeism, which could lower enrollment and diminish student achievement
16 Facts About Gun Violence And School Shootings — Sandy Hook Promise
1. EACH DAY 8 children die from gun violence in America. Another 32 are shot and injured.1
2. Firearms are the second leading cause of death among American children and adolescents, after car crashes.2
3. Firearm deaths occur at a rate more than 3 times higher than drownings.3
4. The U.S. has had 1,316 school shootings since 1970 and these numbers are increasing. 18% of school shootings have taken place since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.3
5. In a comprehensive study of school shootings from 1974 to 2000 conducted by the Secret Service and Department of Education 93% of school shooters planned the attack in advance.4
6. In 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it.4
7. Guns used in about 68% of gun-related incidents at schools were taken from the home, a friend or a relative.4
8. A study found that 77% of active shooters spent a week or longer planning their attack.6
9. Nearly all mass attackers in 2018 made threatening or concerning communications and more than 75% elicited concern from others prior to carrying out their attacks.5
10. In almost every documented case of active shooters, warning signs were given off.6
11. 2018 had the most school shootings on record, but U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security research shows that if we “know the signs” of gun violence, we can prevent it and reverse the trend.5
12. The majority of individuals with diagnosed mental illness do not engage in violence against others.7
13. 70% of people who die by suicide tell someone their plans or give some other type of warning signs.8
14. 39% of parents wrongly believe children don’t know where a gun is stored.9
15. An estimated 4.6 million American children live in a home where at least one gun is kept loaded and unlocked.10
16. 17 states have enacted Extreme Risk Laws, the majority being implemented following the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018.11
Gun violence prevention in schools: Strategies and effects – The Journalist’s Resource
Parents seem to have a limited grasp of potentially effective interventions to reduce firearm violence.
There is a large amount of support for school resource officers from both law enforcement executives and principals. However, in general, both groups of respondents do not believe armed administrators or armed teachers to be an effective school safety strategy.
A significant portion of principals are at a loss as to what to implement because of a lack of empirical evidence on what is effective. More research is needed to find the most effective school interventions for reducing firearm violence.
Gun control: Research shows how policies can reduce gun deaths (businessinsider.com)
Studies have linked stricter background checks, rules prohibiting domestic abusers from owning weapons, and secure locks on firearms in the home with decreased rates of gun-related deaths.
The authors of the study, which published in the journal Preventative Medicine, found that individuals who had access to guns were over 18 times more likely to have threatened someone with a gun compared to people without such gun access.
When people in the US were allowed to start buying military-style firearms with high-capacity magazines (which enable shooters to discharge many rounds of ammunition in a short amount of time), the number of people killed in gun massacres — defined as shootings in which at least six people die — shot up 239%.
By contrast, after the 1994 ban on assault weapons went into effect, the number of gun massacre deaths decreased by 43%, as researcher Louis Klarevas reported in his book “Rampage Nation.”
Most of the deadliest mass shootings in recent US history involved a military-style weapon with a high-capacity magazine.
The economic impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in children dropping out of school worldwide, with Save the Children estimating that 9.7 million children may drop out of school forever.
According to the UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 11 million girls will not return to school this year alone due to the pandemic.Girls in marginalized communities are more at risk of dropping out of school than boys following COVID-related school closures. According to a report compiled by the Malala Fund, an estimated 20 million secondary school-age girls in poorer communities could be out of school after the pandemic has ended. Child marriage and adolescent pregnancies are expected to rise, resulting in roughly 1 million girls dropping out of school.
With girls’ education being an important investment for countries and the world, if they are unable to return to school the effects will be evident and widespread.
Educating girls is an investment that can improve a country’s economy, lead us towards achieving global equality, and can even help nations be better prepared for the effects of climate change.
A lack of internet access and access to computers on the part of schools and students meant that there were many children who missed out entirely on being educated last year. This means that many were set behind their global peers, as the option to attend school physically was simply not possible.
A survey conducted by Save the Children last year, found that less than 1% of children from poorer households had access to remote learning.
–From: 4 Facts You Should Know About Global Education Amid COVID-19 (globalcitizen.org)
Impacts of COVID-19:
Inequality by Zip Code:
2020 Home Page – NEA EdJustice
How Much Has Your ZIP Code Determined Your Opportunities? – The New York Times (nytimes.com)
How ZIP codes determine the quality of a child’s education (apnews.com)
For Black Students, Your Zip-code Determines The Quality of Education and Income You Receive – EdLANTA
ZIP Code May Not Be Destiny, But It’s as Hard to Fight as Gravity (educationpost.org)
Book: The Third Reconstruction-how a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove
Internet search topics:
– NEA School to prison Pipeline
– Racial Justice in Education
2020 Home Page – NEA EdJustice
Understanding Implicit Bias | Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity (osu.edu)
Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Local Positive Resource: Ulster County Restorative Justice Project:
– County Executive Ryan and District Attorney Clegg Announce New Restorative Justice Program for Young Adults – Ulster County COVID-19 Information (ulstercountyny.gov)
– Criminal Justice Diversion- Ages 7-17 | Family of Woodstock (familyofwoodstockinc.org)
– What is happening with the Restorative Justice and Community Empowerment Center and a conversation with the Kingston Daily Freeman editor – Radio Kingston, | Radio Kingston | Radio Kingston
Visionary Geoffrey Canada | Harlem Children’s Zone (hcz.org)
Kingston group wants police officers removed from schools in district | Local News | dailyfreeman.com
Stop the School-to-Prison Pipeline – Rethinking Schools
Video: (137) The school-to-prison pipeline, explained – YouTube
Biden calls for stricter gun laws on third anniversary of Parkland school shooting – NBC2 News (nbc-2.com)
Even with COVID-19 restrictions, local school PTAs continue to find ways to support our children. Visit you school district websites to find out what is going on in your area and how you might participate.
For New Paltz, see: PTA / School PTA Links (newpaltz.k12.ny.us)
Research what plans, resources, and facilities your child’s school district has put in place to address the possibility of an active shooter. Contact your Board of Education with any concerns you may find.
For New Paltz, visit the Central School District website: New Paltz Central School District / NPCSD Homepage
Become a volunteer online researcher and help improve education resources:
9 Places to Volunteer Online (And Make a Real Impact) | DoSomething.org
Pray… for insight, to see the bigger picture… to hold each and every child as precious… created in the image of God… of such is the kingdom of heaven
Pray… for deeper understanding and insight into our own thinking… to be open to expanding our understanding and thinking… then lead us, Lord, in what we can do
Learn more about the problems, how they have become an intricate and sometime subtle part of our education systems
Support efforts to help:
Habitat for Humanity: How housing affects child development | Habitat for Humanity
Visionary Geoffrey Canada | Harlem Children’s Zone (hcz.org)
International: Supporting Education for All Children | The United Methodist Church (umc.org)
Research N.Y. State alternatives to increase more equitable funding of education. There are several proposals.
Special thanks to Stephanie Laffin and Kathy Weiss for researching this social justice issue
Each station was researched by one or more members of our church community to help provide the detailed information that has been presented. Are you interested in this social justice issue? Do you have additional information or action items that you would like to share? If so, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. These web pages are a dynamic, active work in progress, just like the people of our community!