I have a serious question for educators. It seems like every week on social media there is a story about a teacher somewhere disrespecting, humiliating, or mistreating a child. My question is simple. I want to know if you were at the school and something like this happened, what would you do? It is amazing how society and media outlets will paint the picture that Black children are the problem in schools. They talk about the achievement gap between Black children and all other student groups. The perceived lack of Black parental involvement is highlighted and the crime that riddles the Black neighborhoods where these children live. Where is the conversation about the continued mistreatment of Black children in schools at the hands of these people? I can’t even call them teachers or educators because that would be a slap in the face of true teachers and educators.
What would you do if you were a teacher or educator in the school in Arkansas when you heard about the teacher who allegedly made a five-year-old clean a toilet? You can be angry. We need fewer emotions and more actions. I want to know what action you would take. Would you confront that person? Would you have come to the rescue of that Black child? I am asking because I see a lot of statuses about how wrong it was, but it was criminal. She should have been arrested and fired. I want to know who is reaching out to the Black child and his family to offer support. Who provides counseling because that five-year-old does not know it yet, but he has experienced a traumatic event?
What would you do if you were at the school where the adult male made the Black boy get on his knees and apologize? If you were walking past the office or were in the hallway and saw a Black boy on his knees apologizing, would you have intervened? Would you have stepped in to tell the young man to get up off the ground? This individual thought it would be appropriate for the child to get on his knees to apologize. The dynamics of it being a White man and Black boy makes the situation even more disturbing.
What would you do if you were an educator at the school in Palmdale, California, where a teacher was recorded by a parent on Zoom in a racist tirade towards a sixth-grade student and his mother? The teacher, who was white, was complaining about how she felt the student, who was Black, makes excuses. The teacher did this on Zoom after office hours which she thought had ended. The teacher resigned in this case. Surely, this is not the first time this teacher has shared these remarks or feelings. The problem is teachers like this do not wake up and feel this way. She probably has spoken this type of racist hate language before her students and students’ parents, especially the Black students and parents. I am sure in the teacher’s lounge, classroom, or hallway, she has shared these feelings in front of a colleague. What did those colleagues do?
The only way we end this type of behavior in schools is to make it highly uncomfortable for them to be in front of our children. The first sign of someone displaying this type of behavior, other educators need to call it out. Behaviors like the ones I described above, and countless others, are a manifestation of smaller incidents. When you turn a blind eye to the small ones, you get run over by the larger ones. Schools should be safe places for all children, not just physically safe, but emotionally safe.