It’s another dumb decision from the leader of Georgia. Governor Brian Kemp has recently ruled that masks will not be mandated for Georgia schools. Unfortunately, Black families will see the greatest impact in illnesses as the Black community is disproportionately being impacted by COVID-19. It should be important for us all to follow safety precautions.
I say this is another poor decision because back in May Gov. Kemp made the decision to reopen Georgia too soon. I wrote an open letter to the Governor in May warning against this decision and the impact it would have on reopening schools. However, children’s safety doesn’t seem to be a priority for our Governor.
“We’ve given the responsibility to the schools, to the local superintendents,” Kemp said.
The Governor’s statement reflects how he’s now trying to avoid his role in the increasing COVID-19 numbers. In fact, any problems schools are having, Kemp is blaming on the schools. Not only did he pass off the responsibilities of determining safety guidelines for reopening schools to superintendents, he did so without ensuring school districts had the money they needed to implement their plans. This isn’t a time for our state leader to point fingers at others especially when he does not have the courage to take a stance in the best interest of citizens of Georgia.
Gov. Kemp not only made a poor decision to reopen the state too soon, but he also cut the education budget during the pandemic as well. His goal for our state should be to lower exposure and flatten the curve. Instead, he made it harder to protect children and teachers in schools by cutting funds for Georgia schools.
The governor has said, “Mask mandates are unnecessary and unenforceable!”
In attempts to be politically incorrect with mayors within the State of Georgia, Gov. Kemp made this statement regarding Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms efforts to keep Atlanta citizens safe and reduce numbers. Bottoms was one of four other mayors who made this decision. Bottoms’ decision mirrors that of the Atlanta Public School system who has a new superintendent focusing on equity. The call to continue virtual learning was a must.
As a teacher, I believe that our focus should be on keeping our students and families safe. This means investing in the safety protocols that need to be implemented for face to face instructions, reducing classroom sizes, expanding the workforce and ensuring student support staff such as counselors, nurses, and social workers are fully staffed for each school.
But this isn’t happening in Georgia. In fact, recently with districts such as Cherokee and Paulding counties, photos of parents dropping off kids to school with no masks on to hallways and classrooms filled with students hit social media.
Protect Georgia students by:
- Requiring masks in public schools during in person learning sessions
- Improving school safety measures by adding hand sanitizer dispensers in schools by all school entrances and exits of the building and restrooms
- Providing a full time nurse for each school (schools with large populations should have a full time and part time nurse)
- Amending school attendance policies to allow children with illnesses to work remotely from home until well
- Ensuring that all families have the basic essentials needed during the pandemic
Kemp stated, “quite honestly this week went real well.” regarding school reopening in Georgia and the photos of Paulding County Schools.
The Governor states things are okay, however; schools in some Georgia counties had to be closed after the first week of opening. We aren’t thinking about the impact the virus can have on others because the virus reflects a deeper illness of America, racism. Some white parents in one Georgia county, Paulding, are even encouraging other white parents not to get their children tested. In a Facebook group for parents in Paulding, one white mother posted a message telling Paulding county that parents don’t need to test their children or report the results if they don’t have their children tested for COVID-19.
Georgia leaders continue to fail our communities and children with blanket statements that reinforce dangerous outcomes. For example, “We’re encouraging people — we did that again today — to wear your mask,” Kemp said. “I’m confident that superintendents have the tools, the resources and the masks that we’ve given them, as far as the state’s concerned, to be able to handle that at the local level.”
I believe we aren’t applying enough pressure on the Governor, his team, the state superintendents, and local school boards. We must utilize our phone systems, email, and technology to leverage awareness and advocacy for change.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.