I have been having conversations with so many parents who are nervous and downright scared about the start of the academic school year. So many parents of children under the age of 12 are worried that their unvaccinated kids will be in environments that are unsafe for them and these circumstances will increase their chances of contracting COVID-19. Others are seriously contemplating homeschooling their children if they can, not only for their safety, but for additional reasons such as their mental well-being. By not exposing their children to some of the daily instances of racism and abuse, homeschooling seems to be an attractive option for a growing number of Black parents if their schedules and finances allow.
I recently discovered the work of University of Kansas School of Law Associate Professor Najarian Peters. Peters’ research explores the growing Black population of homeschoolers. Peters argues, “While white parents have been calling for their school-age children to return to schools and for teachers to return to the classroom, many Black families have decided to continue to home-educate their children.” The nuanced discussion of who wants to return to the classroom (and why) is filled with detailed racial implications and concerns.
In my discussion with Peters, she stated, “During the pandemic, U.S. Household Homeschooling rates quadrupled from 3.3% to 16.1% for Black/African-American families… Both pre-pandemic and now in the midst of the pandemic, Black families home-educate their children for different reasons when compared to white families.” Once we finally and hopefully emerge from the grips of this mysterious virus, I cannot wait to read a detailed and longitudinal report of Professor Peters’ findings.
Peters states that, “Motivations for Black families include 1) documented distrust in schools to protect Black children from COVID-19, 2) over-representation of disciplinary actions amongst Black school-age children, 3) under-representation of Black school-age children in gifted and talented programs, and 4) the resulting adultification and criminalization of Black children that begins in formal school settings. This is exacerbated by the presence of police officers who are employed as resource officers in predominantly Black and Latinx schools.”
All of these issues continue to make it more difficult for Black children to survive and thrive in our current educational climate. “Many of these concerns reflect another overarching issue about how education records are created by school officials including police officer/resource officers, teachers, administrators, etc., to codify and calcify negative distortions about Black school age children in digital record keeping systems,” says Peters. No truer words have been spoken.
It is my sincere hope that parents will be given the tools and resources to make the best decisions for their children during this uncertain time. I am so glad the research of Professor Najarian Peters is available to serve as a guide during these difficult times.
Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream,” and the co-host of the podcast FAQ-NYC and also the What’s in It for Us podcast.