NYU Professor: ‘If You’re Black, You’re Not Safe In U.S. Schools’

A professor at New York University said that black students are not safe in American schools. 

As the one-year anniversary of school closures approaches, New York University (NYU) professor David Kirkland sent out a tweet saying that he was fearful of the nationwide push to reopen schools for in-person learning. 

“I’m reading today’s education headlines, which makes it all but clear that the country is trending toward in-person school reopenings,” Kirkland said. “My biggest fear is that, as we rush to reopen, nothing will change. Those who are vulnerable will remain vulnerable. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.” 

In a separate tweet, Kirkland said that being black in school — regardless of vaccination efforts or the coronavirus — is unsafe. 

“It’s not about vaccines or COVID. If you’re Black, you’re not safe in U.S. schools,” Kirkland said. 

via @davidekirkland/Twitter

When asked to clarify what made American schools unsafe for black children, Kirkland did not respond to requests for comment. 

Kirkland is the Dean of Equity, Belonging, and Community Action at NYU as well as an associate professor of English and Urban Education. 

Multiple studies have uncovered that school closures have had a disproportionately negative impact on black and Hispanic students. According to a study by the academic non-profit NWEA, a review of fall semester test scores found that minority students were underperforming in reading, while their peers scored in pre-pandemic reading levels. 

Megan Kuhfeld, the author of the NWEA study, told a local Houston publication that a greater number of minority students may be falling behind than the study can show. Kuhfeld claims that students who didn’t take the assessment were from marginalized backgrounds. 

Another study from Yale University discovered that pandemic-related school closures are exacerbating educational inequality by impacting the academic progress of children from low-income neighborhoods. Meanwhile, the closures have had minimal impact on students from the country’s richest communities. 

The Yale study observed ninth-grade students living in the nation’s poorest neighborhoods, a majority of whom are racial minorities, and discovered that children who earned straight Bs “pre-pandemic” now would get Cs in most of their subjects. 

The Yale research concluded that students will recover some of these learning deficits by the end of high school, but approximately half of the education gap accrued during the pandemic will persist long-term. 

Despite the mounting evidence that school closures hurt minority students, education leaders and teacher unions across the nation have advocated for schools to remain closed. Some have gone so far as to call school reopenings a form of racism. 

The United Teachers of Los Angeles, California’s largest teachers union, said that reopening plans were “propagating structural racism.” The Chicago Teacher Union said that reopening schools is a form of “sexism, racism, and misogyny.” The Washington Teacher Union president echoed both of these sentiments and said that returning to in-person instruction was a form of “white privilege.”

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