School Opening Variances Are a Civil Rights Issue

by James C. Sherlock

I want to offer my thanks to those that have written here that they don’t want any Virginia schools to open this fall. (The terms open and closed in this essay will refer to in-person instruction.)

That provides clarity.

All will agree that in-person instruction is superior to remote instruction for primary and secondary students  I know of no study that contends otherwise.

Now comes the debate.

I am joined by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in contending it is unwise and unfair that some schools will remain closed.

Others contend that it is unwise and unfair that some of them will open. They cite statistics that they apparently think the AAP missed.

A very polarized disagreement.

My opponents’ recommendation in this debate to keep schools closed can be pitched as a health issue and a civil rights issue. So can my position and that of the AAP to open them.

Let’s leave the children’s health- – the total picture of children’s health — to the pediatricians for a moment and move to the civil rights issue.

Separate and unequal schools have been banned by the federal government since 1954. There is no question that public school children will be getting an unequal education among school districts with different standards for opening.

I am sure that all agree that it is unfair and certainly unequal that some public schools remain closed while private schools and other public schools in the state open.

It appears that it is Virginia’s urban districts that are more likely to remain closed while suburban and rural districts open. Ouch.

The critical theorists in VDOE and some of the ed schools can reasonably jump in on either side of the argument, though from their written “scholarship” the needs of students appear not to have crossed their minds in a generation.

Opponents of in-person instruction, however, will have to thread an eyeless needle to make the case that poor students are better off with the schools closed.

Even the Southern Poverty Law Center will oppose that premise. It promotes the teaching of antiracism and and social justice in the schools “through the four domains of identity, diversity, justice and action”.

Hard to do that when students are isolated at home and there is nobody to whom kindergarteners can confess their sins and those of their parents.

Open the schools anyway.